US paratrooper Joseph Beyrle served with the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Prior to the start of the Normandy invasions, Beyrle jumped twice into occupied France to coordinate, provide arms, and money to several French resistance units. He then jumped into France on D-Day, destroyed a enemy gun emplacement, was captured, escaped, and captured again. He was beaten nearly to death, his uniform and dog tags were taken from him. A German soldier attempted to infiltrate US lines dressed in Beyrle’s uniform and was killed. The US War Department believed Beyrle had been killed in combat and notified his parents. His mother refused to believe her son was dead and continued to ignore the calls from the family to accept his death.
Beyrle was taken into captivity at a German-controlled POW camp. He attempted to escape and was shot and wounded. He survived on minimum food and medical attention. Beyrle would be held in seven different POW camps and escaped again; this time the Gestapo was ready to shoot him, claiming he was a spy. He escaped again and found his way to a Soviet armored brigade which was near the POW camp. Beyrle having knowledge of engines and mechanical background assisted the Soviet tank unit which was equipped with American made M4 Shermans. He served with an armor unit commanded by a Soviet female officer and acted as a scout for the Russians against German positions. He was wounded again when German dive bombers attacked the Russian armor column.
He was taken to a Soviet hospital where he met Soviet Marshall Zhukov who was curious on how this American paratrooper ended up in a Soviet hospital. Zhukov was so impressed with Beryle’s story he provided safe passage back to the US Embassy in Moscow.
Due to the U.S. War Department believing Beyrle had been killed back in June 1944, the U.S. government kept him under guard for several days until his dental records confirmed he was indeed Beyrle. Beyrle served more combat time with the Soviets than the Americans and received both US and Soviet citations.
Beyrle returned home and married his sweetheart by the same priest who two years earlier had held his funeral when his family believed he was dead.
Here is Sgt. Joseph Beyrle’s Prisoner of War picture after he was captured again by the Germans.