• Staff Sgt. Hymen A. Hitow

    Staff Sgt. Hymen A. Hitow

    We are pleased to have and display the Staff Sgt. Hymen A. Hitow 8th Army Air Force POW grouping in our museum, a fitting tribute to a proud veteran who was able to survive both being shot down and the ordeal of being held as a POW in Germany for 15 long months.
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Hymen A. Hitow of Bay City, Mich., entered active duty as a member of the U.S. Army Air Force on Dec. 18, 1941. He later went on to Army Air Corp combat crew training and became an armorer/gunner on a B-17 bomber. He was a member of the 8th Air Force's 351st Bombardment Group based in England.

Prisoner of War

On Jan. 11, 1944, Hitow's B-17 bomber was shot down over Germany, and he became a prisoner of war held at Luftwaffe Stalag 17B. He was held as a prisoner in this brutal POW camp for 15 months, until May 3, 1945, when he was liberated by the allies. Hitow presented an interesting case as a POW in Germany due to the fact he was Jewish. 

Saving His Hand

Michigan Traveling Military Museum Director Mel Smith was fortunate to meet Hitow’s widow, Sylvia, when he purchased Hitow’s relics. During this meeting, she shared some interesting facts that her late husband had shared with her about his time as a POW in Germany. She related that he had been wounded in the hand by shrapnel when his plane was hit and went down. The German doctors who were assigned to give medical treatment to POWs originally wanted to amputate his hand, which Hitow vehemently opposed, so they performed surgery and were able to remove the shrapnel without removing his hand. The German doctors at the time were short of all medicines and had to perform the surgery without proper anesthetic, which led to extreme pain. 

Beatings and Hunger

Throughout his captivity, Hitow was very concerned about his safety because he was a Jew. Sylvia told MTMM that most of the time, he was treated just like every other POW, with the exception of being interrogated by a female Luftwaffe officer who physically beat him. Like most of this camp's prisoners, Hitow constantly battled hunger and had lost a great deal of weight by the time he was liberated.  

Returning Home

After his release as a POW, Hitow returned to Michigan, got married, settled down in Saginaw, and raised a family. He became a member of the Caterpillar Club, which is an informal association of people who have successfully used a parachute to bail out of disabled plane. His time as a POW had a profound effect on him in many ways. Widow Sylvia says that throughout their marriage, he made sure every shelf in his pantry was well-stocked with food. He told her he would never go hungry again as he did as a POW.  

Our Collection

The Michigan Traveling Military Museum is very happy that Sylvia Hitow was kind enough to sell us much of Hymen A. Hitow’s military collection, including his medals, insignia and patches, original POW dog tag, military watch, Caterpillar Club pin and membership card, and paperwork relating to his service and time as a prisoner of war. We are pleased to own and display the Hitow 8th Army Air Force POW grouping in our museum. It is a fitting tribute to a proud 8th Air Force veteran who was able to survive both being shot down and the ordeal of being held as a POW in Germany for 15 long months.