"Captured!" A World War II Memoir

Before shipping out to European battlefields in the late summer of 1944, a 23 year old Clevelander and Cathedral Latin graduate named Hugh O’Neill had paid a visit to his mother and extended family who lived in a large 4-plex on East Blvd near University Circle. By September 1944 he was training near Cherbourg and waiting for his 3rd Army infantry unit under the command of General George S. Patton to start their march across France. O’Neill subsequently fought, and had survived many consequential battles such as the attack on Metz, the Battle of the Bulge, and the siege of Bastogne.

While on a counter-reconnaissance mission along the German Siegfried line in January 1945, Sgt. O’Neill and the men with him took shelter from the cold winter night inside what they thought was an abandoned Nazi bunker. It turned out to be a ruse. The Germans returned and attacked the bunker so savagely that 20 Americans lay dead within it. Sgt. O’Neill, himself wounded, was dragged unconscious from the bunker, but alive! This is where his story begins.

The details of O’Neill’s ordeal at the hands of the Germans were unknown and untold until a personal and unpublished manuscript he’d written his POW experience in the early 50’s was discovered after his death in 2001. Now, for the first time, his story has been preserved in a new book titled: “CapturedA World War II Memoir.” This same story has also found a permanent home in the Library of Congress-Veterans History Project.

What makes O’Neill’s POW story stand apart from other WWII POW stories is the nature of his captivity. Rather than being summarily executed or placed in a POW camp (which were overflowing by then), O’Neill and hundreds of other Allied prisoners were forced on a 4-month long “death” march across the roads of southern Germany without proper clothing, food, or shelter. Meanwhile, Germany's armies, its infrastructure, and its civilians were being destroyed all around them. 

The result is an utterly unique backstory from World War II, told well in O’Neill’s own skilled prose. In peacetime, O’Neill was a poet and worked for 30 years as a reporter and editor for several West Coast and Hawaiian newspapers. As an added feature, some of the story’s most compelling moments have been illuminated with over 25+ illustrations by Cleveland artist, Gary Dumm. The book has been edited and formatted for print by O’Neill’s own nephew, Lakewood writer, Scott MacGregor.

 “CapturedA World War II Memoir” is available NOW as a hardcover or an Ebook through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. We highly recommend that you purchase or order “Captured!” from your local independent booksellers! Let's help keep these folks in business! 

Read More on Historical
Volume 20, Issue 4, Posted 1:44 PM, 02.21.2024