Rudmann, Washburn honored for bravery in WWII

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2007

PINE GROVE — Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Sam Snead are golfing legends, but not heroes.

William Rudmann and Bill Washburn are not legendary golfers, but they are heroes.

The Ironton Country Club took note of their heroism on Saturday as they honored the former World War II prisoners of war at the third annual Member/Guest Tournament.

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Washburn, 82, plays golf as many as five days a week while Rudmann, 84, hits the course two or three times. What they do with their time now is a dramatic contrast from the 1940s as young men caught by the Germans during World War II.

Washburn entered the war in 1943 and was captured Feb. 2, 1945, while flying only his second mission with the Air Force. At the time he wasn’t sure where he landed after he bailed out of his plane, but he spent the next two nights in a snowstorm hidden under his parachute to prevent from being discovered.

However, he was captured in Yugoslavia by Germans and spent three months as a prisoner.

“When you are in a situation like that, you feel it’s got to be the end,”

Washburn said. “They kept bringing people in from every country fighting the Germans.”

Near the end of his capture, the German soldiers took the 20-some prisoners to a bridge that was supposed to be bombed by the British. As fate would have, a storm prevented the British attack.

“They forced us to stay on the bridge. All you could hear was a lot of praying,” said Washburn.

Rudmann also entered the war in 1943 only to be captured on June 12, 1944, at Normandy, France. He was part of the D-Day invasion by the allied troops but was dropped about 15 miles behind the beaches and taken prisoner a few days later.

He spent seven months as a prisoner until being liberated May 14,1945.

“I was mostly hungry and scared,” Rudmann said.

The most danger the prisoners faced was due to their unsuspecting allies and fellow servicemen.

“We were shot at by American fight plans while we were traveling along the road or when they were bombing a train,” said Rudmann.

Rudmann spent the last six months of his capture working on a farm “shoveling manure.”

After Washburn was freed, he was put in a hospital for four months. Upon his release, he was able to reunite with his wife, the former June Henthorne.

Being young turned out to be the best therapy for June who was working for the Navy in Washington, D.C.

“I was young and really didn’t know what was going on. I was fortunate the good Lord sent him home to me and we have had 58 years of a good life,” said June who is awaiting the couple’s anniversary Aug. 15.

Rudmann was married, too. His wife, the former Margie Wilson, was left to care for their six-months old daughter, Rita.

“When I got home I didn’t even know who she was,” said Rudmann.

Margie died 21 years ago and Rudmann called her “one beautiful woman.”

One thing that helped the United States was its ability to gain air superiority the final year of the war.

Despite their freedom and more than 60 years of recovery time, both are reluctant to speak of their time in a POW camp.

“War is just terrible,” said Rudmann.