Colley, Robert L.
Colley, Robert L.
Robert L. Colley
Robert Colley was born in Petoskey, Michigan. He was drafted in November 1943, and went to Camp Blanding, just outside Jacksonville, Florida, to do his basic training. After completing basic training, he was granted 2 weeks leave. His next stop was just outside Boston to another camp. From there, Robert was shipped to England to replace troops who had participated in D-Day. He landed 9 days after D-Day, and was assigned to an armored division. While in Normandy, they were fighting in hedge rows, which were hedges used to help hold the soil. The division couldn’t make much headway because of the hedge rows, and it was only after about six weeks of fighting that they finally broke out of the hedgerows and made their way to Paris. Robert helped liberate Paris four months after his unit landed on European soil. He was captured in Aachen, Germany, when his unit was under the command of a new colonel. They fought their way into a valley, and when they got down there, a German tank was pointed down at them. Out of 139 men, 39 were captured, the rest were wounded or killed during the battle. Robert was taken to Camp 7A, and then transferred to Camp 12A. Eventually, he was brought into East Germany, where they were treated fairly well, although they never really got enough to eat. Most of his captors were soldiers who had been wounded on the western front, so now they served as guards. While at the camp, if they worked on a nearby farm, they were given more to eat, as a reward for working, by the farm owner. Robert worked as a harvester on a sugar beet farm at one point. During the winter of that year, he worked on the railroads, pounding stones underneath the ties to level the track. He could tell that the war was getting more intense, and that the Russians were making headway. From their location, POWs could see the supply trains, people, survivors from the Eastern Front increasing in number every day. There were many wounded coming in as well. A few months later, the POWs heard tanks and artillery getting more pronounced. The next morning, the Russians were outside their camp, sitting on their tanks. The POWs were liberated. Robert’s time as a POW had lasted for 8 months. Many Germans fled their farms as a result of the Russian advance, so he and his fellow POWs took a tractor, and headed for the western front. It took about a week to reach the western front. The POWs got to a river and Russian soldiers helped them cross, to get to the American side. There, the former POWs were directed to a camp, to sign in and give their serial number. They were then taken to Belgium and put on a boat back to the States. Afterwards, they were given a 60-day leave. Robert went down to Miami, and spent about a month there, before being sent to New York. He stayed for about three months in a camp, until an order came down to discharge any POWs, and Robert was discharged. He attended the University of Michigan under the GI bill, and graduated in 1949. Robert specialized in physical education, and he went on to become a stock trader in Ann Arbor. He married in 1950 and retired in 2002. He has two daughters.
Dates of Service
Drafted; United States Army; Company E, 36th Armored Infantry Division; World War, 1939-1945; Second World War - European Theater; Staff Sergeant; Prisoner of War
Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
Second World War - European Theater