December 9, 2006:
With his hand on the rip cord, Lieuetnant Reamer Sewell Jr. inhaled deeply and dove headfirst out of the 125 mph B-26 Martin Marauder.
Tumbling thousands of feet down through the open air, Sewell watched his plane crash and explode before he plummeted into the forest, breaking his ankle and almost knocking himself unconscious.
Within minutes, members of Adolf Hitler’s 119th SS Panzer “Ghost” Division had captured Sewell and led him off to a World War II prison camp.
Details of Sewell’s imprisonment on October 12, 1944, at the hands of German officers and the subsequent months that followed are collected in his personal diary, which was reproduced for several close friends following Sewell’s death October 20, 2006, at age 85 at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Dorothy Metzger, a former classmate of Sewell’s, obtained a copy of the reproduced diary Tuesday as the 1939 Allegany High School graduate and former prisoner of war was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
The LaVale resident said she befriended Sewell, who was called Buzz by his friends, through her husband, the late Galen Metzger. Even though she was a year behind Sewell at Allegany, Metzger said he seemed to relate more to her class than his own.
Over the years, Sewell, who was born in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, but grew up on Gephart Drive, often visited the Metzgers on his way to his grandchildren’s home in Ohio.
“He was a really happy-go-lucky person,” Metzger said as she flipped through old pictures of Sewell and her husband Thursday afternoon. “He was a happy person. He had a happy life.”
Sewell attended the University of Maryland after high school graduation, pledging the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in January 1942, obtaining the rank of First Lieutenant.
His imprisonment took place during his 15th mission, which earned him a Silver Star for a successful bombing over a heavily guarded tank assembly and repair depot near Saarbucken, Germany.
Besides dated entries, Sewell’s diary includes song lyrics, a long list of food Metzger said he probably wrote when he was hungry, friends’ addresses, a camp diagram and lists of American Red Cross food parcels compared to German rations.
“I’m very pleased to have a copy of his diary because it shows even though food was scarce as a prisoner of war, he was treated humanely,” she said, adding he hid scraps of paper from the Germans in his socks.
The following are excerpts from Sewell’s imprisonment:
October 24 1944, Tuesday
II. Sweated out air raid alarm in Heidelberg under the Railway Station.
III. Arrived in the Frankfort Railroad Station about midnight. The city sure is a picture of utter devastation.
December 25, 1944, Monday
I. Big X-mas bash on food. The X-mas parcels were a dream! Turkey, plum pudding, and such. Lights on till 2 a.m.
January 28, 1945, Sunday
III. The temperature is around zero, 4 inches of snow on the ground and still snowing. Mighty poor marching weather.
3 March 1945
The worst has come! We ran out of Red Cross parcels today, and don’t have any idea when they may be resumed. Living on … rations will sure leave us hungry!
13 April 1945
…Joe Lewis introduced me to two more boys from Cumberland today (South camp). Jay Coberley and Charlie Bowden, who went thru training with Jack Sharrett.
Sewell and other prisoners were liberated by General George Patton on April 29, 1945. In Sewell’s last entry, two days later, he writes of the peculiarity of seeing snow in May and the thrill of having Patton visit the area.
Following his release, Sewell worked as an Eastern Airlines ticket agent for 24 years before retiring in 1979. He is survived by his wife, the former Ruth Marie Dubbert of Severna Park; three children, Anne Wirth Sewell of Crownsville; Thomas Chambers Sewell of Strongsville, Ohio; and Douglas Edward Sewell of Severna Park; and two granddaughters.
Although Sewell had lived in Severna Park since 1960, Metzger said she wanted to share his story with his old friends from Cumberland, which he always considered his home.
“I’m sure people here remember Buzz Sewell and his mother and father and will be interested to know he received these honors. It’s a great honor to be buried in Arlington,” she said. “He was a character. He really was a character.”
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard