Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Glenn Whitaker, 84, held in prison camps as POW during WWII

By Rebecca Goodman
Enquirer staff writer

PIERCE TWP. - Under the United States military code of conduct, all soldiers are obligated to attempt to escape after being captured by the enemy.

Held prisoner by Germany during World War II for more than two years, Glenn Whitaker made several attempts to escape.

And even though he was hungry himself, he shared his food with a "kid" who had been a Golden Gloves boxer back home, said his son, Glenn V. Whitaker of Terrace Park.

He was liberated by the Russian army and returned to Greater Cincinnati in 1947.

Mr. Whitaker, a retired truck driver for the Kroger Co., died of pneumonia Sunday at University Hospital. The Pierce Township resident was 84.

"My father was not a man of wealth or social prominence," said his son. "But he was a true American hero who did his job and helped win the war and the peace."

Born on April 21, 1920, in Somerset, Ky., he lived in Greater Cincinnati most of his life.

He served with the Tank Corps in North Africa and was captured during one of the earliest battles against Rommel's army.

"He was transported from North Africa up through Italy by cattle car and was interned in several different German prison camps," his son said. "He was starved at the end of the war and nearly died of malnutrition."

He went to work driving a truck after the war.

"He and my mother, Doris, worked hard to put their only child through college and law school," his son said. "He had a vision for his family which kept him working and striving when others might have quit."

Mr. Whitaker had a "wonderful singing voice and in the 1950s was in demand to sing at various amateur events," his son said.

He was a choir member and soloist at Norwood Christian, Kenwood Christian and Anderson Hills Christian churches.

Mr. Whitaker didn't speak much about his participation in WWII. He joined a former POW association about 10 years ago and that's when his son learned that he shared his food while starving in prison camp.

"My father always talked about this kid who was in one of the camps who happened to be a Golden Gloves boxer and who was a very tough fighter in the boxing matches they staged to pass the time," his son said.

The "kid" located Mr. Whitaker through the POW association. He "wrote to my father to thank him for saving his life by sharing food with him when he was sick and weak. He wrote that he knew that my father was lying when he said that he wasn't hungry and offered the man his food. My father never told that story. It was one that I heard through the other man's letter."

In addition to his son, survivors include Doris, his wife of 63 years; a brother, Joel Whitaker; and two grandchildren.

A memorial service is 3 p.m. Wednesday at Anderson Hills Christian Church, 8119 Clough Pike, Anderson Township.

Memorials: Clermont Senior Services Inc., P.O. Box 118, Batavia, OH 45103.

E-mail rgoodman@enquirer.com

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