Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 25, 2014

Remembering war then and now

EDITOR'S NOTE: First of a two-part series about local military veterans and their reflections on war and life. Part two will appear in Monday's Record-Eagle.

TRAVERSE CITY -- George Powell has a lot of people to remember on Memorial Day.

At 98, he's the last survivor among his parents' 13 children. Powell and six of his brothers enlisted in World War II. Everett, Max and Adrian joined the U.S. Air Force and Arthur, Earl, George and Fred joined the U.S. Navy.

"It was the most difficult for my mother having seven of us in the service at the same time," Powell said.

The brothers made it through the war alive, but Powell often thinks about his brother Everett's close call.

He was flying a P-47 Thunderbolt when his plane was shot down over Belgium. Everett survived the crash, and Belgium citizens helped him sneak toward the English Channel, the way Powell remembers it.

"They were passing him along at night, and the last person they turned him over to was a German spy. So he was taken prisoner of war," Powell said. "He had a pretty rough time. He normally weighed about 175 or 180 pounds, and he went down to 110 pounds because they had nothing to eat for a long, long time."

Powell's mother, Addie Powell, had a heart attack when she heard the news. She recovered, but she just wasn't herself until all her boys were home safe.

"There wasn't much to do in the little town I came from, but we made a few things to do. We did a little celebrating," Powell said about returning home from the war.

Powell now lives in Traverse City, but the family was raised on a farm near Hillview, Ill. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., honored the Powell family's military service on the senate floor May 12.

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