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Published: Monday, 3/28/2005

WW II vet recalled hardships as POW

Jack Willis MacKenzie, an Army paratrooper in World War II who landed behind enemy lines during the D-Day invasion and was captured by German troops, died of a staph infection Friday in Lake Park Care Center, Sylvania. He was 81.

A longtime resident of Samaria, Mich., Mr. MacKenzie grew up in Toledo and joined the Army in 1943, the year he graduated from Woodward High School, said his wife, Anna.

On June 6, 1944, Mr. Mackenzie parachuted into France as part of the massive Allied invasion of western Europe, but strong winds blew his plane more than 100 miles off course, said his daughter, Martha Mac-Kenzie. After landing behind enemy lines, he hooked up with a small group of fellow GIs but was soon caught by German soldiers.

"They hid in a ditch and, all of a sudden, the Germans were there with guns," Martha MacKenzie said.

A short time after his capture, Mr. MacKenzie escaped but was caught again after four days on the run and shipped to a prison camp in Germany. He remained there for the next 11 months, until the Germans surrendered in May, 1945.

Weakened by the harsh conditions of his captivity, Mr. MacKenzie spent three months after the war in a military hospital in Cleveland, his wife said.

Another daughter, Susan Mustard, said her father spoke of spending a bleak Thanksgiving in captivity, eating rancid cabbage soup and moldy bread. That affected him deeply. "He kept a freezer full of food, because he had starved," she said.

Mrs. Mustard said Mr. MacKenzie had been upset to watch U.S. troops fighting and dying in the Iraq war that began two years ago. "He said he served in World War II to make the world free, and he hoped that after that, nobody would have to fight anymore," she said.

Mr. MacKenzie played football at Woodward on the 1942 squad that shocked championship-bound Waite 6-0 in a celebrated upset. "He was always proud of that," his wife said.

After finishing high school and his wartime service, Mr. Mac

Kenzie worked as a railroad fireman. He met Anna Swin through a railroad co-worker and they married Sept. 18, 1948.

Later, Mr. MacKenzie worked at Sealtest Dairy, Doehler-Jarvis, and the General Motors Hydra-matic transmission plant, now known as GM Powertrain. He retired in 1986 after 15 years with GM.

Surviving are his wife, Anna; son, Jack; daughters, Martha MacKenzie, Susan Mustard, and Kathleen Erdmann; sister, Dorothy Cornwell; eight grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Beford Funeral Chapel, Temperance, followed by a military funeral at 1 p.m.

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