Former medic pens WWII memoir
Russellville received a special visit March 3 from Mike Freeland, the co-founder of the Franklin County Watermelon Festival and author of "From Blood River to Berlin," a first-hand account of Freeland's service during World War II.
Freeland, 84, now resides in Hopkinsville, Ky., with his wife of 60 years, Ellen, but he owned the WKAX radio station in Russellville during the 1980s and teamed up with local businessman Bobby Bolton to start the Watermelon Festival in 1981.
Freeland, an adjunct professor at Austin Peay University in Clarksville, Tenn., and a leadership course instructor at Fort Campbell, Ky., was in town to promote his book and speak to the Seekers of the Past, a Franklin County historical society.
"I want to talk about World War II as it relates to the challenges we're dealing with today," said Freeland, who finished the memoir a year ago, more than 60 years after serving in Europe. "This is my first time back in Russellville with my book.
"It's a different kind of book because it's written from the perspective of a combat medic from the front lines … I don't know of any other (World War II memoir) written by a combat medic."
He said there is an increasing urgency for World War II veterans to record their history.
"About 1,200 to 1,500 World War II veterans are dying each day," he said. "With each veteran's death, the war's oral history is dying. So my mission is to get their stories told because World War II was a different kind of war."
During World War II, Freeland, who was drafted into the U.S. Army in March 1943 and served until 1946, fought as a combat medic and paratrooper with the famed 82nd Airborne. He was assigned to the U.S.S. Liberty, London and Berlin, and he participated in the Battle of the Bulge, which was fought from Dec. 16, 1944 to Jan. 25, 1945, in Belgium and resulted in the death, injury or capture of more than 75,000 U.S. soldiers.
The title of Freeland's book refers to his birthplace, which is less than 100 miles from his birthplace in western Tennessee, and his experiences with the 82nd as Allied forces advanced into Germany.
"I was in London when the bombs were being dropped (by the Germans)," said Freeland, who returned with his fellow veterans in 2005 to visit the Netherlands. "I was at the Battle of the Bulge, which is the best-known battle of the war because we lost so many men.
"And I was with the 82nd when we liberated a Nazi death camp and occupied Berlin."
The book will be on display at the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and available for purchase at Bolton Furniture in Russellville. Each copy costs $24.95 and is signed by Freeland. For more information, visit www.bloodrivertoberlin.com.