Communities across western Massachusetts and the country marked National POW/MIA Recognition Day Friday. The day is observed on the third Friday of September every year.
Several communities, including Ludlow and Chicopee set up a POW/MIA table in honor of the day. Everything about the table is symbolic. It is a reminder that the fate of more than 83,000 Americans is still unknown since World War II.
A ceremony was held at the Soldier's Home in Holyoke. One of the men attending was 94-year-old John Casey. He was held prisoner in Germany when his B-17 bomber was shot down on Jan. 1, 1945. He said the crew of seven was ordered to bail out at 36,000 feet. Casey said he passed out from lack of oxygen. At 3,000 feet, he was conscious enough to pull the rip cord on his parachute. Out of seven men, only three survived.
He was taken captive by German soldiers and moved through several camps. During his ordeal, he said he could hear Allied bombers flying overhead and dropping bombs nearby. In April, 1945 Casey said he could hear the sound of guns and the boom of artillery as Allied forces moved closer. He said the German soldiers ran off and left the prisoners to themselves. It was a few days before American troops were able to free the prisoners and ship them back to the United States.
Casey said on his return to the United States it took him some time to reacclimate back into society.
He celebrated his 95th birthday Sept. 22.
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