Our October newsletter featured a story that received a lot of interest. Written by Angela Duane, “Finding an Ex-POW who saved my Uncle during WW II” described the author’s experience in tracking down Murele Ipsen (CHS c/o ’43).
Murele helped save John Duane (Angela’s uncle) when they fled a POW camp at the end of World War II. Both men were imprisoned at Stalag 2, which was located near Neubrandenburg, about 75 miles north of Berlin, and about 300 miles from the Western Front.
With the war over, the German guards abandoned the prison camp. Then, it was up to the former prisoners to make their way to the Western Front and the Allied forces [at that point, the Allied forces were a bit east of the Rhine River]. Murele Ipsen played a major role in helping Angela’s uncle be a part of that journey, as John was badly injured. Murele assisted John as he (John) reportedly collapsed while trying to leave the camp.
Thankfully, John, Murele, and company had some luck along the way. As they walked westward, somewhere, somehow, this group of Americans commandeered a horse-drawn wagon—and the injured in their caravan could now ride to safety. Also en route, Murele Ipsen found a camera and film in a bombed-out camera shop. He managed to capture several photos, including the two shown above—a rare glimpse into the dangerous days immediately following the war. There was little law and order if any; a limited supply of food— and local citizens were probably hesitant to part with what they had (and, most likely, suspicious of American troops). There was also the possibility of crossing paths with German troops, who, like the Americans, were headed home—and desperate for food and transportation (not to mention, some being on the run to avoid prosecution for war crimes). [In today’s Seattle Times, Feb. 20th, there was a story about an ex-prison camp guard being deported back to Germany.]
John Duane did eventually get home to Seattle, where he just “showed up on the porch” one day to a mother who had been hoping and praying for months after receiving notice that he was MIA (missing in action). A few months later, Murele called to check in on John but ended up speaking to his mother, letting her know that he’d been in a POW camp with her son. Years later, Angela was digging through old letters and found one from her grandma to Uncle John, telling him “a Murele Ipsen had called and that he’d helped carry John out of there” (meaning out of the stalag so John could join the others in traveling to the Western Front).
Angela was stunned, as there’d been little said about John’s time as a POW, and she was determined to find out more about the man who helped bring her uncle home. Uncle John eventually became Angela’s godfather, watching over her as she grew up. Angela also believes her uncle saved her life in that, because of him, she was able to pay for college. Without Murele Ipsen saving her Uncle John, none of that would have happened.
As it turned out, Angela (after a lot of online research) found Murele Ipsen, but he had suffered a stroke in 2019 and was no longer able to really communicate. Then, only a few weeks later, he died [Murele’s obituary is in this issue of the newsletter on page 8].
Woulda, shoulda, coulda . . . if only Angela would have started her search a couple of years earlier! –Angela is a writer and might have given us another great story on the aftermath of World War II. The adventure shared by Murele, John, and their comrades really does have all the makings of a book and/or movie!