Eugene Erwin “Gene” Halmos Jr.


Eugene Erwin “Gene” Halmos Jr.

Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Death 3 Jul 2005 (aged 88)
Poolesville, Montgomery County, Maryland, USA
Burial Beallsville, Montgomery County, Maryland, USA
Plot Row B, Lot 44 Lower, Site 4
Memorial ID 13322832 View Source

- Eugene Erwin Halmos, Sr. [1877-1959]
- Rose Ellen (Gyory) Halmos [1888-1963]

Married Elizabeth Ann (Cummings) Halmos on February 14, 1938 in Salt Lake City, UT.

• Reporter for Standard News Association
• News editor of "Engineering News-Record" in Flushing, NY
• Mayor of Poolesville, MD. - 1961-1976

Military Record
US Air Corp - 2nd LT, WWII
• Enlisted - Jan. 1944
• Deployed to Europe - May 1944
• Prisoner of War (POW) - June 1944 - May 1945, Germany

Author of "The Wrong Side of the Fence: A United States Army Air Corps POW in World War II"

Former Poolesville Mayor Writes of Other Life
Frederick News-Post - November 15, 1996

When Eugene Halmos went to war as a young man more than 50 years ago, it never occurred to him that be might be taken prisoner. It occurred to him that he might be killed, in an abstract sort of way. It occurred to him that he was in danger. But to be taken prisoner was unfathomable. That's exactly what happened to Halmos and his nine fellow crew members aboard a B-24 bomber. On a mission in June 1944, a couple of weeks after the D-Day invasion, the entire crew was captured in Holland after they bailed out of their wrecked plane. The plane was returning to England after a bombing run over Germany. Halmos has published a diary of that experience. "The Wrong Side of the Fence: A United States Army Air Corps POW in World War II". His eleven months as a German prisoner were probably the slowest eleven months of his life. His final entry read, "Only in memory will I ever again eat or drink or cook in a tin can; only in memory live in a filthy, flea-ridden barracks, marching in leaking shoes and carrying a heavy pack in 24-degree below zero weather, or be held behind barbed wire." "It was something to [---]," he said of the detailed diary he kept of his 11 months in captivity.

Halmos had already been a journalist, working in North Platte, Neb., Salt Lake City, Utah, and New York City before enlisting in the Army Air Corps and being trained as a navigator. "What you remember is what was [---]," Halmos said in an interview at his Poolesville home. He remembers the radio he and fellow prisoners kept in pieces, assembling it only when they could listen to BBC reports, then taking it apart so the Germans couldn't locate it. "We learned to do things like the Indians," he said. "We learned to smoke meats to make them keep. We had maps which we made ourselves. We knew where all the railroads went and the roads went." They also learned to wash everything they were given to eat, which was no easy task since there wasn't much water. But the food was grown in an area where human waste was dried and used as fertilizer.

Halmos came to Poolesviile years after the war, in 1959. Two years later, he ran for mayor, and won, and remained mayor for 15 years, until 1976.

Now retired, Halmos, 80, still does some freelance writing for engineering and construction publications. He decided to find a publisher for his diary so that younger generations wouldn't forget what happened to their forebears during World War II. The book is being published by White Mane Publishers of Shippensburg, Pa. It appeared the military forgot, at least for a while, what some POWs, including Halmos, went through. His medals -- a Purple Heart and other military honors -- were awarded to him a few years ago, nearly a half-century after the war ended. The day he was captured is a clear memory. The men were taught what to do in case the plane was shot down. "That's one thing you never think you'll [---]," he said. "But all of a sudden, the airplane was coming apart." He had to jump. He didn't relish the idea, but, he said, "you can do a lot of things if you're scared." He landed in a Dutch field, but it wasn't long before German troops occupying the area sent him and his crew mates off to a prison camp in Germany. Pictures he found later of smiling prisoners in his camp showed a German influence. "The Germans wanted to show happy people," he said. "I never saw anybody look like that." Still, they were treated pretty well, he said. They got a bit of food, mostly Red Cross rations, and some bread. Some of the Americans knew a few German words, and would tease their German guards by speaking nonsensical German, gesturing wildly and using lots of emphasis. The Germans reacted by looking puzzled. "I don't think they ever figured out we were poking fun at them." Halmos said. "But they weren't stupid, by any means." The German guards were equally as puzzled over the whereabouts of the radio. "They were forever looking." he said. "But they were looking for a complete set. It was easy enough to hide. We would listen to the BBC, and then we would take it apart." Halmos served on the escape committee, which gave him something else to do, although he never tried to escape. Many did and would make it a short way before being returned. "It was during his 11 months as a prisoner of war, Eugene Halmos was issued [an] identification card by his German captors. "Only in memory will I ever again eat or drink or cook in a tin can; only in memory live in a filthy, flea-ridden barracks, marching in leaking shoes and carrying a heavy pack in 24 degrees below zero weather, be held behind barbed wire fences." From the final entry of Eugene Halmos' POW diary kind of a he said. "You escaped and got caught, and they threw you in solitary for a short time." This went on until the war nearly ended, when the desperate Germans decided to make a lesson out of all those who had escaped. "One day, they picked out the guys who escaped, and they shot every one of them." he said. "That stopped the escapes." But before then, the Allied soldiers in the camp, which included British, Dutch, French, and American soldiers, had tunneled their way almost to the camp's fence. "Some stupid German drove a wagon over it and he fell into the tunnel," Halmos said. Besides making a radio, Halmos stayed busy making his own cooking equipment. He made a pan and a coffee pot out of tin cans. Baths were rare, and were of dubious value. "As you got dirtier, you got this crust over you, and that kept you from getting lice," he said. "So you had to decide whether you wanted to smell bad or get lice." When the Allies liberated his camp, they burned every article of clothing the prisoners wore. He was liberated in May, a few weeks after V-E day. Patten's Third Army came into the camp with a Sherman tank, barreling right through the electric fence and sending off a shower of sparks. He came home, and was reunited with his wife, Ann. He expected to ship out for Japan in a [---]. Mr. Halmos has published a diary of his experience as a World War II prisoner of war in few months, but the war ended, and he returned to New York to work. He then came to Washington, and settled in Poolesville, where he continued his writing career. After 15 years as the town's mayor, Halmos had had enough. "I had gotten the last report about somebody's dog on somebody else's property," he said. He's proud of his accomplishments. During his tenure, the town put in a water and sewer system, and got a zoning ordinance on the books. The town's total assessed value grew from $15 million to [---] million in that time. His wife died 12 years ago, and he fills much of his time writing. In addition to his freelance work, he has written three unpublished mystery novels. He intends to market them, now that he's had one book published. "I got an agent." he said. A native of Colorado, he likes living in Poolesville, and intends to stay there the rest of his life. The war left its mark on his life, physically and mentally. "I went from dashing to distinguished in a few short years," he said with a chuckle.

Hilton Funeral Home

Halmos, Eugene E., Jr., of Poolesville, MD, on July 3, 2005.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Ann.

Mr. Halmos was a journalist and one time mayor of Poolesville, MD.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, July 15 at 2 pm at the Poolesville Presbyterian Church, 17800 Elgin Rd., Poolesville, MD 20837. Inurnment will follow at Monocacy Cemetery, Beallsville, MD.

Gene requested that any contributions made in his memory go to the Poolesville Presbyterian Church.

Arrangements by Hilton Funeral Home, Barnesville, MD

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