Olan Rice has a story to tell, a story that few on earth can tell.
"I'm looking right down the barrel of a nine-millimeter rifle", Rice says-- as part of his time as a POW during World War II in the spring of 1945.
Rice was an Army Air Corps tail gunner during his three-year military service. He flew 26 missions, but his plane was shot down over Linz, Austria during the 26th mission. Rice clearly recalls the entire experience, from bailing out of the plane, struggling with his parachute, and the harrowing sight while drifting to the ground.
"There was a squad of ground troopers, and I saw 'em when I was up in the chute, and as the chute drifted they moved.", Rice recalls. "They were 30-35 yards from me when I hit the ground, and I'm looking right down the barrel of a nine-millimeter rifle. Do you know how big that thing is? When the guy on the other end of it isn't wearing the same color uniform you are, it looks about THAT big!"
Rice was marched to a POW camp and spent about three months there before being liberated by American forces. He says he wasn't treated badly at the camp and weighed 200 pounds when he entered the camp.
"Somebody said, "Aww—those Germans were cruel to y'all". But that wasn't the case.", Rice says. "I lost about 50-pounds, but it wasn't that we were on starvation rations – they simply didn't have anything at that stage to feed you.
"When the Texas Fourth Division liberated us from POW camp I weighed 150-pounds. Believe it or not, the first trousers I drew were 28 (inches) in the waistband—I was gone with the wind."
His family kept most of the letters Olan wrote and received, letters and notes from the military concerning his missing-in-action and presumed dead statuses, and newspaper articles about his being freed. They also have his military service awards.
"I've got a purple heart, I've got a distinguished flying cross, and above all a good conduct medal."
72-years later, Rice gets around well and is a big hit at his assisted living facility in Belton. He's also grateful that he and his fellow veterans can still tell their stories about their military service.
"I would like to think that all of us are grateful that we're all United States citizens", Rice says. "And, glad that we had the opportunity to stand up in defense of our country, and if the same situation existed again I suspect I'd do the same thing over again."
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