John Dwyer’s story begins with the tree and the bridge in his hometown of London, Ontario. With the advent of World War II, he enlists in the RCAF and serves as a bombardier until German fire downs his aircraft. The rest of the war is spent as a prisoner of war in various stalaglufts (prison camps for airmen) in Germany.
The Russian army approaches and his captors begin to evacuate the airmen from the stalaglufts to the Western front. In one of the coldest winters on record, thousands of airmen are force-marched hundreds of miles without adequate food, clothing or shelter.
John Dwyer, called “Jeep” because of his relatively good health in these appalling conditions, shares his recollections of what is now called the Long March or Death March, and then the surprising revelation that the war is over.
Still helping his fellow man, after his discharge John Dwyer worked for the Department of Veteran Affairs. He still lives in London, and often visits the tree and the bridge to put things in perspective.
The book was inspired by the Dominion Institute’s urging “Canadians to share stories that define who we are and what we have accomplished as a nation.”
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