- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

WATERTOWN, S.D. (AP) - A Watertown man has gifted family members and friends with copies of a journal his father wrote in as a prisoner of war during World War II.

With the help of the Codington County Historical Society, Terry Peschl was able to copy, reproduce and distribute the wartime journal among siblings, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and family friends. Duplicating the journal allows him to share this piece of family history without the risk of damaging of losing the heirloom, he said.

“Christmas is a time that’s all about family,” Peschl said. “And this year, I’m sharing Dad’s gift with the rest of mine.”

The log book distributed by the War Prisoners Aid details the months his father, Fred, spent imprisoned in a German-run camp in Pomerania.

The soldier and several other Allied troops were captured by German soldiers in June 1944, shortly after D-Day, and taken to a prisoner-of-war camp near the Baltic Sea. The prisoners were able to send brief letters to loved ones back in the U.S., but they weren’t able to complain or disclose information about their location. Many of the letters sent to the prisoners were confiscated.

“Mom wrote to him every day,” said Terry Peschl. “But after he got home, she found out he only received a half dozen or so of the letters.”

The journal was Fred Peschl’s way of creating a connection with the infant son he had not yet met, the Public Opinion in Watertown reported. The soldier taped a photograph of Terry and a letter he had written to his son on the first page.

To keep the journal out of German hands, he passed it back and forth with other American soldiers. Each of them contributed artwork, a poem, passage or prayer.

The camp was liberated in April 1945, nearly a year after Fred Peschl became a POW. He returned home two months later and finally met his son, Terry, who was 18 months old.

“Dad wouldn’t talk about the war for years after he got back,” Terry said. “He would once in a while tell little bits of it here and there, but it wasn’t really until he got much older that he finally would tell the whole story.”

Terry Peschl said the journal has been his most prized possession for his entire life.

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Information from: Watertown Public Opinion, https://www.thepublicopinion.com

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