Leroy Williamson, 93, has seen relations between the United States and Russia during good times and bad, and has some advice for the countries: "We have to get along," he told ABC News. "We don't need a patriotic war or a World War III."
The Texan was in Russia this week to share his appreciation for the Soviet soldiers who liberated his Nazi prisoner-of-war camp on May 1, 1945. He met with a Russian general for lunch, visited with veterans, and placed a wreath at Moscow's memorial to the Great Patriotic War, as World War II is known in the country. He had planned on meeting with a surviving member of the infantry division that liberated his camp, but the man fell ill; instead, Williamson presented a Purple Heart to a soldier who fought alongside U.S. troops during the war. "It's been wonderful,” Williamson said. "I am so pleased with the attitude of the people here."
Only recently has Williamson started talking about his experience in the POW camp. He was shot down in April 1944 during a bombing mission over Germany, and after being interrogated was sent to a camp on the Baltic Sea. When the Russian soldiers arrived, they brought meat — Williamson's first taste in more than a year — and donuts. "They not only liberated us from prison camp, they did so many other good things for us," he said.
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Once the Cold War started, Williamson had to fly supply runs during the Berlin Airlift. Soviet jets would scramble and "stay with us a few minutes," but Williamson remained cordial despite the tension. "I'd give a salute back and that was it," he said. Listen to Williamson describe his trip in the video below. --Catherine Garcia
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