Chief Master Seargeant William “Tip” Tippins is a veteran of the U.S. Army and a former POW during WWII.
In February, 1944, while Tippins was serving in the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, a mortar shell landed in Tippins foxhole while fighting in Italy. When he woke up, a German soldier was standing beside him and told him that “for you the war is over.” Tippins tried standing up in fear that this meant the soldier was going to kill him. He realized upon trying to stand up that there was a near 3-inch cut in his abdomen with some of his intestines sticking out. The German soldier, hailing from St. Louis Missouri was visiting family. During that trip he had joined the German army. He gave Tippins an option to either die on the spot or to walk himself to the nearest aid station.
Tippens made the obvious choice to walk to the aid station. The soldier provided him with a canteen full of water to keep his wound clean and an escort that would shoot Tippins if he was unable to walk to the aid station himself. With grit and determination, Tippins made it to the station where he was treated for his wounds.
He then was transferred to a hospital in Germany due to his injuries. He attempted to escape but was found in a barn three days later and returned back to the Germans. Tippins then started to have difficulty keeping his strength up due to his wounds and the lack of nutrition in German bread.
He was transferred again to a different field hospital where he met a female hospital attendant. Despite the fact that he could not speak German and she could not speak English, they still became good friends in the short amount of time they spent with each other. He nicknamed her “Pinky” because of her rosy cheeks. Risking her own life to save his, she provided white bread, instead of the normal bread, to him to keep up his strength and keep him alive.
He was transferred to Luckenwald POW camp, where he would try again to escape, but to no avail. The camp was soon liberated by the Russians, but Tippins was told that he would not be allowed to return until about eight months later since the Russians were paid for every POW they would return. Sick of being locked up, Tippins found a pair of wire cutters and escaped. He traveled nearly 70 miles up to the Mulde River, mostly at night to avoid detection, to finally re-connect with the Americans just two days before the Germans officially surrendered.
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Upon returning home, Tippins wanted to rejoin the U.S. Army, but was not allowed to return to the country that he was kept as a POW. Because of a new program being put into place, called the Army Air Corps, now known as the Air Force, Tippins was able to join and allowed to return to Germany under that program. He returned as an investigator for the Office of Special Investigation.
At the time, while working with the German police, Tippins came across a young woman that looked familiar. He walked up behind her and said the words “Pinky?” She instantly recognized Tippins and they embraced one another. Seven months later, they got married and stayed married up until her death in 2003.
Tippins served in the United States Air Force for 20 more years and achieved the rank of Chief Master Sergeant.
Hat’s off to all of the POW’s that fought hard and were able to return home and to all those that could not.
What do you think of William “Tip” Tippins resolution to survive the German POW camps during WWII? What do you make of this incredible story of him re-uniting with his future wife? Let us know in the comments below!