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American POWs meet in Kansas City

Saturday, September 20, 2008 | 8:16 p.m. CDT

KANSAS CITY - About 140 men who were prisoners of war met in Kansas City this weekend to share their stories and some camaraderie.

Many of the veterans at the 61st national convention of the American Ex-Prisoners of War served during World War II, including some who were in German POW camps and others who survived the Bataan Death March - the 1942 march of thousands of American and Filipino prisoners by the Japanese.

Others attending the convention, which ends Sunday, were POWs in the Korean or Vietnam wars.

Despite their special bond, the veterans didn't come to Kansas City just to share war stories, said Paul Dillon of Maryland Heights.

"These guys will not let you call them heroes," said Dillon, who attended with his father, Red Dillon, a ball-turret gunner on a B-17 bomber that was shot down over Europe during World War II. "These are ordinary people who showed the greatest valor by simply enduring under extraordinary circumstances."

On Friday, the veterans crowded the Sheraton Kansas City Sports Complex Hotel, filled a hospitality room and boarded a bus to the National World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial.

The veterans came mostly for camaraderie and fellowship, said Ed Slater of Independence, a Korean War POW and a member of the organization's Heart of America chapter.

The convention coincided with National POW/MIA Recognition Day on Friday. Attendees observed the occasion with a ceremony Thursday.

Although a prominent former prisoner of war, Sen. John McCain, is running for president, that has not lifted the profile of the American Ex-Prisoners of War or its members, said John Clark of Columbia, an Air Force veteran who in 1972 was with McCain in the "Hanoi Hilton" POW camp in North Vietnam.

"These guys' stories are compelling on their own merits," he said.

Paul Dillon added: "I wish everybody could meet these guys. Being here is like walking into a history book. What these guys did is the stuff other people make movies about."

 

 


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