After 67 years, another honor for World War II POW

Harry E. Havens with several of his World War II medals and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith.
Harry E. Havens with several of his World War II medals and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith. (Harry E. Havens)
Posted: April 11, 2012

The letter, sent 67 years ago, came as a great relief to his mother and other family members.

They had awaited news of Technical Sgt. Harry E. Havens after receiving a message from the secretary of war informing them that he was missing in action in Germany.

Weeks passed, and then came the correspondence, written in Havens' own hand.

"Just a few lines to say I am fine and I hope that this letter finds all of you the same," wrote the lifelong Bordentown resident April 29, 1945. "I suppose that you have been wondering where I have been.

"Well, I was a prisoner of war and have been liberated," he wrote. ". . . I am all right."

Havens was highly decorated for his service during the European campaign in World War II. He received the Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross, along with other honors.

But he didn't receive a medal recognizing his POW status until Tuesday, during a ceremony in the Hamilton Township office of Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.).

"I just did my duty," said Havens, 88, who later worked on farms and loaded trucks. "I was young. They say I was a hero, but I don't know about that."

His latest medal was long overdue and much deserved, Smith told Havens.

"You are a hero, Mr. Havens, and we thank you for your actions, especially your time as a prisoner of war," he said.

"Mr. Havens was only 22 years old when he did these amazing things to earn the Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross," Smith said. "And today he's finally honored for the time he spent as a prisoner."

Havens, a member of Company G of the Seventh Infantry Regiment, Third Infantry, received the Silver Star for his gallantry after guiding four injured comrades to an aid station near La Voire, France, in 1944, and evacuating another as shells burst around him.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross after taking the lead in a ferocious battle near Houssen, France, in 1945.

Havens helped take an enemy-held house, braving heavy fire, then charged into a German trench. Fifteen enemy soldiers were killed, 10 were wounded, and 30 captured.

But in March 1945, his luck seemed to run out.

Havens was captured by the enemy and, with others, was marched miles across the German countryside. Along the way, Havens kept a diary describing the life of POWs. They often ate potatoes and bread, he said, and slept in muddy fields in the rain as they moved through several towns.

In April 1945 entries, Havens wrote: "Stayed in field. GI shot for disobeying orders. . . . Heard unconfirmed reports of [Franklin D.] Roosevelt's death."

April 27 was a joyous day.

"Liberated at 4:15 in the morning," he wrote. "A VERY HAPPY DAY. . . . Taking it easy. First GI meal since captured. Breakfast oatmeal, bacon, eggs, white bread, coffee, milk, cows butter."

Havens left the service Oct. 20, 1945, as a master sergeant and has been active with veterans groups in the Bordentown area.

His fellow World War II veterans deserve credit for their service, too, said Havens, adding that he looks forward to the return of U.S. service members from Afghanistan.

"I spent two years on the front lines," he said Tuesday. "That's a long time to be on the front lines. God was looking out for me."

Contact staff writer Edward Colimore at 856-779-3833 or


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