Veteran at Batavia VA who survived German POW camp feted with 107th birthday party
Friends, family, and admirers gathered at the Batavia VA on Wednesday to join Sydney Cole, a World War II hero and former German POW, in celebration of his 107th birthday.
Cole served in the U.S. Army Air Corps among his honors for his military service he received the Air Medal, a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and a POW Medal.
Cole was a forward aerial observer for the 776th Field Artillery Battalion when his aircraft was hit by enemy fire and disabled. In an attempt to bail out from the plane, his co-pilot became entangled with his headset. Cole helped his co-pilot parachute to safety but by the time Cole could then jump from the plane himself, he was already behind enemy lines. He was fired on by German troops and sustained multiple gunshot wounds.
When Cole landed he remembered that his dog tags indicated his religion on them. Knowing that he would be sent to a concentration camp and likely killed if the Germans found out he was Jewish he threw his tags as far into the woods as possible.
As a prisoner, Capt. Cole commanded 150 enlisted prisoners. Despite his ill-treated wounds and diminished body weight of only 95 pounds, Cole was instrumental in maintaining high levels of discipline and morale among the enlisted men and served as an inspiration and an example of American military conduct while in enemy custody.
He was assigned to a POW camp run by the Hitler Youth where many of the prisoners were killed. He was interrogated, beaten, and locked in a cellar of rotten potatoes. He was fed soup made of grass and potatoes and wasn’t allowed to shower or shave.
For more on Cole's story, click here.
Photos by Alecia Kaus/Video News Service