Cpl. Morning Starr Moses Weed, Fort Washakie

2010-10-10T00:00:00Z 2010-10-11T08:09:36Z Cpl. Morning Starr Moses Weed, Fort WashakieBy CHRISTINE PETERSON - Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

On Easter night, Morning Starr Moses Weed knew he should pray.

He imagined the Eastern Shoshone people, preparing to spend the night in teepees. He thought of the mountains in the Wind River Range, still covered in snow. The prairies that lead up to them. His family, consumed with worry, praying fervently for his safe return.

Trapped in one of Germany’s worst POW camps, starving and covered in lice, Starr Weed wanted to connect with his family and his people. He found his friend, the only other Native American prisoner. He told the Cheyenne Indian, Willie Medicine Chips, that they would pray through the night, just as their families would be praying at home.

The two prayed together in their filthy room, Weed in his native Shoshone, Medicine Chips in his language. They sang and told stories. Other soldiers gathered.

In the morning they would leave their room, as their families would walk out of their teepees, hoping for a miracle.

Born and raised on the Wind River Indian Reservation, Weed enlisted in the Army in 1942.

He landed in Europe in October 1944 with the 423rd Infantry. His unit joined the 106th Infantry Division in Rhineland. By mid-December, he and the rest of the 423rd were out of ammunition, fuel, medical supplies and food, and in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge.

"The only thing in plenty supply were wounded and dead," he wrote in his personal account of the war.

Germans surrounded the American troops, shelling them from all sides.

"It was now just a slaughter."

The 106th Infantry ultimately lost more than 8,000 men during the first few days of battle. As fighting ended and new troops arrived, Weed and others put their combat packs back on.

Commanders told them to march through the woods, the darkness and swamps. They stopped on a hill and were ordered to dig foxholes before daylight. Weed dug, worried if he didn't go deep enough the Germans would find him in the morning.

"Some of the boys didn't dig holes because it was hard digging and they were too tired," he wrote.

By morning, the tell-tale whistles of German artillery shells began.

He listened as exploding shells hit soldiers and Germans screamed and shot. Stranded in his foxhole with no ammunition or way to fight back, Weed stayed down.

When the shooting stopped, and the chaos settled, he stood to look at the wreckage. Everyone but the dead and wounded were gone. His buddy lay in front of him, wounded and barely moving.

"I was trying to say my prayers. I had no prayer to say, my mind was stunned blank."

His buddy tried giving Weed his gun, but Weed told him to keep it, to use it as a cane if he could move. Then Weed left, searching for his lost unit.

The U.S. Army listed Weed as missing in action on that day. His mother received a consoling letter, explaining her son was gone.

Without food, he ate herbs he brought with him from the reservation.

By evening, he met soldiers digging foxholes at the top of a hill. They told him they were surrounded by Germans. He dug a foxhole and waited.

They were trapped. The soldiers surrendered and Weed went from "missing in action" to "prisoner of war."

The Germans sent him to Stalag IX-B, a POW camp in Bad Orb, Germany, later ranked one of the worst POW camps in Europe. Prisoners received only one ladle of soup per day. Each of the more than 4,000 American captives had one set of clothes, took turns sleeping on lice-infested straw mats and shared one hole in the ground for a bathroom.

One early morning, German guards took Weed and several others outside, told them to line up and pointed machine guns at them. Someone had killed a German guard in the kitchen. Who was it? The guards demanded.

Two chaplains asked for 24 hours to find out. But no one knew what happened. The soldiers knew they would die.

"We felt bad. Some boys had wives and children," Weed said.

Suddenly, they received their daily ladle of soup. The murderers had been caught.

By April, conditions in the camp became unbearable.

And so he prayed through the night.

As the sun rose in Germany, on the day after Easter, Weed thought of his family. He and Medicine Chips walked outside and looked around their prisoner camp. They stared at the hill above the walls and saw their miracle: A tank with a white star, headed for the gate.

Americans knocked down the walls within minutes, ending Weed's 106 days as a prisoner of war.

Weed returned to the Wind River Reservation, honorably discharged from the military as a decorated soldier.

He served for more than 30 years on the Shoshone Business Council and helped bring buildings and houses to the Wind River Reservation for his people. He raised a family, broke horses and ran cattle.

He told stories about his ancestry and his time in war. He wrote down the stories he didn’t like telling -- going seven days without food or water, watching two soldiers die trying to escape the camp, sleeping for a month in a German winter without a blanket.

But his Easter prayers, and liberation day, those stories he's happy to tell.

Cpl. Morning Starr Moses Weed

Age: 91

Unit: 423rd Infantry

War front: Germany, Battle of the Bulge

Family: Married, 17 children, 24 grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren

His words: About being a POW: “We had to make spoons out of wood and eat out of our helmets. That’s the way we lived.”

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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