Edwin Shifrin, 93, seldom discussed his time at war and his memory is fading, but the Missouri man received a prisoner-of-war medal in February after son Dan Shifrin dug through old news reports and his father's military records and pieced together what happened. Assigned to the Army's 30th Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 117th Infantry Regiment, Company C, Shifrin landed on France's Normandy beach in June 1944, a week after the D-Day invasion, and then fought the Germans in battles at St. Lo and Mortain. The Germans captured Shifrin on Aug. 7 and he ended up in the Stalag III-C prison camp, about 90 miles east of Berlin. Telegrams to US family members notified them he was missing in action.
Shifrin was on the camp's "escape committee," which devised a plan for prisoners to hide during roll call, causing a futile search for escapees. That allowed the prisoners to slip away unnoticed days later, when the head count had been lowered. Shifrin made his getaway with other prisoners in mid-January 1945, just weeks before the Russians liberated the camp. Dan Shifrin tells the AP that "the rest of their journey is pretty hazy," but what's known is they hitchhiked on Allied supply trucks and purloined rides on horses and bikes on their way to Italy. By that April, Shifrin was back on US soil. After getting his law degree, he became a St. Louis attorney and worked well into his 80s. "We knew he'd been in the war, that he had been captured, and that he escaped. That's about it. He didn't talk about it," his son says. "My guess is he figured it was just part of his life—many went through it, many didn't return. Many of those who did return didn't return in one piece." (Read more World War II stories.)