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THE AGONY GRAPEVINE
By George F. Starrett

Source: The CUB, Vol 3, No. 1 August 1946

(Editor's note: One of the most stirring, and heart rending, episodes of the Division's history. was the way in which the folks back home reacted to the German radio announcement New Year's Eve that the 106 had been wiped out. D. W. Frampton of Pittsburgh was the activating force of the "Agony Grapevine." G. F. Starrett, father of one of the 106 prisoners and also active with Mr. Frampton, here tells the story. Hence‑forth this column will be the message center for those next of kin who hope to find some information of their lost loved ones, for members who wish to locate lost friends, for the Association in attempting to locate veterans of the Division whose mailing address has been lost. It will be open to all veterans of the Division and their next of kin whether members or not.)

     A few days after the Germans made their initial breakthrough in the Ardennes, American newspapers printed a German DNB news release, alleging that among others, the 106th Infantry Division had been annihilated, leaving the impression that some 400 survivors were wandering around loose, and would be shortly taken care of. For security reasons, the War Department maintained a strict silence, and it was early in January that Secretary of War Stimson made a curt announcement that the Division had suffered 416 dead, 1246 wounded and 7,001 missing in action. He did say that most of the 7001 missing were presumed to be prisoners. A few days later the telegrams of notification began arriving, (mostly between January 10th and 12th) and we at home then knew definitely that all rumors were fact and that the Division had suffered heavily. A little over a month after the action, on January 21st, the Associated Press came through with a dispatch of the story that is history.

     It had been a rather bleak Christmas and a darker New Year's for next of kin at home, who humanlike had hoped that the rumors seeping through were just rumors, not fact. When the truth came out, and we had to face the issue, there was every confidence that our men would be found, if we could but find the way. Telephones began to ring, photographs were brought to light in an attempt to identify some son or husband's buddy, and locate his wife, or family. Families visited each other, to spread cheer and to keep hope and faith high. Soon some order came out of the chaos. A letter reached New York from California, reporting the idea of a Pittsburgh family, who were turning over the names of missing to short wave listening posts. This family turned out to be Mr. & Mrs. D. B. Frampton, who were promptly deluged with a volume of mail as the publicity spread. It was not long before the Framptons became the focal point of information. Their idea was rewarded with a number of boys from the 106th being reported as Prisoners of War on the German propaganda radio, and families promptly notified. As time progressed, the Framptons issued a circular letter regularly, counseling families as to proper procedure, and publishing bits of cheerful information that was heartening to all. In the end, they had a mailing list of over 600 names, and to Mr. & Mrs. Frampton, we, who were involved, owe a debt of gratitude. Out in Cleveland, Ohio, a somewhat similar situation developed in the home of Dr. and Mrs. C. R. Woods. Through a mutual friend, they learned that some officer's wife in Chicago had received a letter from her husband stating he was pretty sure most of the boys were prisoner.. That started the grapevine in Cleveland and Mrs. Woods was soon receiving telephone calls and letters from a group that shortly numbered 50 people. Families that heretofore were total strangers because {became} fast friends, and information was interchanged. In New York and other cities and towns, wherever 106th men hailed from, similar groups organized and exchanged information in a similar manner. The faith and courage exhibited by relatives will be remembered for a long, long time.

     Eventually word came through of our men in the prison camps, then liberation and return home. Today, over a year later, it all appears to have been part of a wild nightmare, and something better forgotten, though we shall always remember the encouragement and faith of friends.