MN Former POW Reflects on Own Experience in Captivity

Updated: 06/06/2014 7:31 AM
Created: 06/05/2014 9:53 PM
By: Naomi Pescovitz

The release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has the nation talking about the difficulties of being a prisoner of war. For those with the rare experience, it is difficult to share painful memories of their time in captivity.

Ninety-year-old Jack Ringgenberg of Mankato was a teenager when he was drafted and volunteered to serve as a paratrooper in World War II. Though time has passed, his memories have not dimmed.

"We got one meal a day," Ringgenberg said of his time as a prisoner of war.

During a 1944 battle in Anzio, Italy, German soldiers surrounded his group.

"All of a sudden, of the 18 of us that were there, 12 were dead and six of us were still alive," Ringgenberg said.

Ringgenberg and the other survivors were captured and sent to Germany. They were moved between seven prisoner camps under strict watch.

"You behave, you live. You get smart, we'll kill you," Ringgenberg said of his captors.

Ringgenberg spent 18 months in captivity.

"I weighed 150 pounds and when I was freed I was down to 90," Ringgenberg said.

While Ringgenberg was a prisoner, his family sent him gifts and letters. None of them were ever delivered. Ringgenberg did not learn of his older brother's death until he returned home.

"He went down with his plane and they never found his body," Ringgenberg said.

When the war ended, Ringgenberg was freed and came home to Minnesota. He grows frustrated hearing about Bergdahl and his reported walk off base in Afghanistan.

"A lot of young men got killed trying to help him, and I feel sorry for them and their parents," Ringgenberg said. "When you are part of the Army, you don't do that. You don't just give yourself up or walk in there and say, 'Here I am' and 'Throw me in jail.'"

Ringgenberg and his wife now have four children and eight grandchildren. Every six weeks he gets together with other former POWs from Minnesota.

Minneapolis/St. Paul

Broken Clouds
63° | 43°
  • Feels like: 41° F
  • Wind: N 13mph
  • Humidity: 74%