Joseph Beyrle – The only American who fought both in American and Soviet Service in WW2.
Joseph Beyrle- Soviet documents Joseph Beyrle “Williamovich” (August 25, 1923, Muskegon, Michigan, USA – December 12, 2004, Toccoa, GA, USA) – American serviceman, considered one of the only participants in the Second World war, that fought against the Germans in both the American and Soviet armies. Father of the former (2008-2012) US Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle.
Joseph Byerly was born in Muskegon, Michigan, where he graduated from high school in 1942. He could have received a scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, but instead volunteered for the army.
Beyrle was assigned to the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Screaming Eagles, in a radio communications and demolition unit.
At that time, the division was stationed in the English city of Ramsbury and was preparing for the opening of the Second Front. After nine months of training, in May and April 1944, Byerle participated in two combat operations to deliver gold to the Resistance Movement in France.
On June 6, 1944, on the day of the opening of the Second Front, the C-47 aircraft, in which Beyrle was, came under fire over the coast of Normandy. After jumping out of the plane over the Comte du Mont, Sergeant Beyrle lost contact with other paratroopers, but was still able to blow up an electrical substation. He blew up several more objects before being captured by the Germans a few days later.
Over the next seven months, Beyrle was held in seven different German POW prisons. He escaped twice, but was caught both times. Byerly and his fellow prisoners hoped to reach the location of the Soviet army, which was advancing towards their positions. After an unsuccessful second escape (The Second Escape in in Poland, he and other escaped prisoners of war mistakenly boarded a train going to Berlin), he ended up in the Gestapo. After interrogation and torture he was handed over to the German Wehrmacht.
Beyrle was transferred to a concentration camp for prisoners of war in Alt Drevice, a suburb of the Polish town of Kostrzyn nad Odro. In early January 1945, he fled once again, this time successfully, going in the direction of the sounds of the cannonade of the First Belorussian Front. After a couple of weeks, he was able to reach the front line, and after crossing it, find a Soviet tank brigade. Coming out to meet the Russians with raised hands, he repeated with an accent: “I am an American comrade! I am an American comrade! ” Beyrle persuaded the command of the tank battalion (perhaps it was A.G. Samusenko) to allow him to stay and fight with them. Thus began his service in the Soviet tank battalion, which lasted a month. His skills as a demolitionist and machine gunner came in handy – the battalion had an American Sherman tank.
Joseph Beyrle German POW CardThe battalion in which Beyrle fought liberated the very concentration camp from which he fled at the end of January. In early February, he was seriously wounded (hit by the bombing of Ju.87 dive bombers), He was sent to a Soviet hospital in Ladsberg (now the Polish city of Gorzow Wielkopolski). Marshal Georgy Zhukov came to the hospital and, having learned about the American paratrooper, wanted to meet him. Byerle asked the marshal to help him get home. By order of Zhukov, Beyrle was given an official letter, which he presented when checking documents on the way to Moscow, since all his documents remained with the Germans. In February 1945, he made it to the American embassy in Moscow.
At the embassy, Beyrle learned that the US Department of War had declared him dead on June 10, 1944. A memorial service was served at a church in his hometown of Muskegon, and an obituary was published in a local newspaper. Prior to his identity being fingerprinted, Byerle was held under Marine guard at the Metropol Hotel.
Byerly returned to Michigan on April 21, 1945, and two weeks later celebrated his victory in Chicago. The next year, he married Joanna Halovel. Ironically, the wedding took place in the same church and by the same priest who had served the funeral service for it two years earlier. After the war, Beyrle joined the company ” Brunswick Corporation », where he worked for 28 years and where he retired as chief of the department of delivery.
In 1994, for his unique service during the war, Byerle was awarded commemorative medals at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Front. The event took place at the White House in Washington. The awards were presented by US President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
In 2004, during his visit to Russia, Joseph Beyrle received a personalized machine gun from the hands of Mikhail Kalashnikov.
Joseph Beyrle Awards
Medal “Bronze Star” for bravery (1953),
Medal “Purple Heart” with four oak branches,
Medal for the American Campaign,
Medal “For the Europe-Africa-Middle East Campaign” with two stars and an arrow,
Medal for Impeccable Service,
Combat Marine Badge,
World War II Victory Medal,
Military cross with a palm branch (France),
Medal of the Liberated France (France),
Commemorative medal of the 50th anniversary of the landing in Normandy (France),
Soviet and Russian
Medal of Honor”
Jubilee Medal “50 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945.” (Russia)
Beyrle also owned several Soviet awards, received unofficially as gifts from Soviet soldiers and officers, including the Order of the Red Banner.