Local POW speaks about experience and Bergdahl exchange
As controversy over the recent release of five suspected terrorists for one American POW continues, we talk with a Chattanooga man who knows first hand what its like to be a prisoner of war.
Tuesday, June 3rd 2014, 12:48 pm EDT
Erhardt Barnes, 97, is one of a dozen or so POWs in Chattanooga. Scattered throughout his home office are articles, pictures and news clippings from what he says is a war experience that changed his life forever.
"I was a different person when I returned," explains Barnes.
Barnes was on his second to last mission flying raids over Berlin, Germany when his B 7 Bomber was hit by enemy fire. "I could look out the window and see those shells bursting out there," says Barnes.
The pilot attempted to get to Sweden, a neutral country. "We didn't make it," Barnes says.
At 17,000 feet and hundreds of miles from their destination the crew had to jump. During the 30 minute descent to the ground reality hit.
"I realized the situation had changed 100 percent," says Barnes.
Barnes was captured and spent the next seven months in German custody, a time he describes as the worst experience of his life. Seventy years later, in a different war, a POW's return to America is causing a firestorm of backlash. Bowe Bergdahl was released from the Taliban after five years and at the cost of five suspected terrorists being released from Guantanamo Bay.
Now many are questioning the government's actions, but not Barnes. "They have not materially changed the dangerous situation we're in because there's only five of them. Outside those five there's probably thousands of others just like them so it was the proper thing to do," Barnes explains.