97-year-old Dickinson County WWII veteran shares experience of surviving German prison camp in 1945

John Moddie served on the front lines during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 and was captured by German forces.
John Moddie (left) stands with his youngest son, looking at old photographs
John Moddie (left) stands with his youngest son, looking at old photographs(WLUC)
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 5:33 PM CST
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IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WLUC) - 78 years ago, this December, the Battle of the Bulge was a pivotal turning point in World War II on the German front.

John Moddie was a Corporal in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was drafted at the age of 18 and operated a 105mm Howitzer gun. In December 1944, he was on the front lines of one of the coldest battles of the war, the Battle of the Bulge.

“Germans made a big push. We were only one division, and the Germans had more. They went right through us,” Moddie said.

Moddie was one of the thousands of American soldiers captured in the first few days. While the Allies prevailed in the month-long battle, Moddie was already in a German prison camp.

“We didn’t get much to eat. I lost a lot of weight, the food was no good,” Moddie said.

Moddie said the first thing the Germans did was take any warm clothing the soldiers had.

“We lived in a barracks with no beds, we laid on the floor. There was no heat in the building, no light, and full of lice,” Modie explained.

Moddie was a POW for four and a half months. As a prisoner, he would daydream of his mother’s meatloaf with raisins. When he was freed by Allied forces in May 1945, he weighed barely 85 pounds.

“We knew they were coming because we could hear the guns going off. All of a sudden, one day the gates were opened, and the guards were gone,” Moddie said.

Shortly after the war, he received a letter from the wife of a soldier who was at the same camp he was asking about her husband.

“He got sick, and I heard no more from him,” Moddie paused, then continued, getting emotional. “When I got home, I got a letter from his wife. She said he died and wanted to know what happened. I don’t know what happened. We got liberated, they took him out, and I don’t know what he had, but he died.”

After the war, the Niagara, Wisconsin native returned to the U.P. and built a home in Quinnesec. Eventually he settled down and had three children. He said he is thankful he survived the camp.

“There were a lot of guys dying there from lack of food or diseases,” Moddie said.

Moddie was only 20 years old when he was captured, and he said his youth helped keep him alive. He currently lives in the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center. Two of his children are nearby.

Moddie’s children said he didn’t open up about his experience until about eight years ago. He went on the U.P. Honor Flight, and his children said it has been therapeutic for him. Thank you for your service, John Moddie.