Caring for horses helped POW live through war
SALEM – He and other prisoners of war were forced to march close to 1,100 miles. For almost three years, Staff Sgt. Paul Grover was a German POW.
Although it’s been more than 65 years since he was released, the World War II Army veteran remembers details as though it was last week. He was held in solitary confinement in a space “about so high and so wide,” the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center resident said, gesturing about 4 feet off the ground. “My knees were bent. they put me in the box for 10 days and only let me out for 10 minutes a day. Why? Because I wouldn’t salute a German officer.”
Not all the memories are bad.
“I used to tend horses close to to the Polish border,” he recalled. “I hated to leave them. Each teamster had four horses and each probably weighed about a ton apiece. I went in and said goodbye to each one.”
It was caring for the horses that helped him get through his captivity.
Grover had gone into the Army when he was 18. “I was in Africa for six months, close to the Equator. I was so young then,” Grover said.
The Cave Spring resident is 83 now, and living with the after-effects of harsh treatment as a POW and ravages of life, including a need for an oxygen tank to help him breathe.
After he was released from service, he worked for C.F. Church Manufacturing in Brattleboro, Vt. “I made toilet seats,” he said, quipping, “The best seat in the house.”
The Salem VA is his home now, since Audrey, his wife of five years, died. They lived in her house in the Cave Spring area, he said. Grover and his first wife were married for 22 years. They had two children, Stephen Grover of Allentown, Pa., and daughter Paula, named after her father. They also had three grandchildren.
“I’ve been here about a year,” Grover said, looking around his sunny corner room. “I like the room but it’s the pretty girls that makes it.” He’s a favorite among nurses, staff and volunteers.
In August, he was the guest of honor at the Welcome Home america’s Heroes auto show sponsored by the Star City Cruisers. Grover picked his favorite car, a spiffy green 1912 Ford, and awarded a tall trophy.
Grover raised dogs. German shepherds were his favorites, he said. “I named one Lindy after Lindenberg,” the famous pilot from the early 1900s.