Wes Wesselhoeft

Left: Adolf "Wes" Wesselhoeft sporting a sailor outfit as a young boy in Chicago; Right: As a retired US. Lt. Col. with his guide dog, Nealy.

RUSTON, La. -- Born in the U.S.A. But with the name Adolf.

He prefers to be called Wes. When you learn his story, it's no wonder why.

"Wes" Wesselhoeft had a unique life journey. Determined to live the American dream -- and fight for America -- even though America held him and his family prisoner, and sent them back to his parents' native germany during World War II.

He was a happy little 6 year old boy, born in Chicago. Loved airplanes, and drew pictures of them. Dreamed of flying.

But there are also ugly images from childhood etched in his memory.

"At night they came with armed guard and escorted us to a train and loaded us on the train, and the train took us down to Texas," Wes recalls. "Once we got to the gate and we got in and I saw the towers and the guards and the armed guards everywhere I knew we were encamped."

Wes' parents fled economic struggle in Germany, which would plunge into totalitarianism under that other Adolf.

But they were not yet U.S. citizens. And so the family was sent to Crystal City Internment Camp with other German born immigrants, as well as Japanese and Italians.

"We were declared enemy aliens," Wes says.

And they were later traded for wounded American POW's, put on a ship and sent to Germany.

"Sure enough, right when we got there, Hamberg was under siege by bombardment, day and night. The Americans bombed during the day. And the British bombed at night," Wes remembers. "We learned when the sirens went off we had so much time to move and get out of the way of the approaching planes."

The Allied attacks on Hamburg killed more than 40,000 civilians, and left Germany's second largest city in ruins.

Surviving post-war Germany was just as difficult. When he wasn't picking up bullets and shell casings from the old battlefields, Wes was finishing school. And because he was born in America -- a U.S. citizen -- he could come back.

Had had to buy a ticket for that ship ride home to America in 1958.

Wes says he harbored no bitterness toward the U.S.

"It left an impression on me. Just the American way of life. It had stayed with me," he says. "The American idea of free enterprise and a lot less government control. You could achieve whatever you set your mind to."

And first thing Wes did? Headed to the U.S. Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Times Square, and insisted on joining the Air Force. The Air Force that had bombed him and his family.

"I got on the train and went to Lackland Air Force Base," said, smiling at the memory of another train ride to south Texas.

He was disappointed the Air Force had enough pilots. So he trained to become a navigator. And later, he became an electronic warfare officer, flying two tours during the Vietnam War on B-52's, including one that's on display at Barksdale Air Force Base.

"Thank the Lord for all the planes that I flew on. We made it back," he says.

But Wes would sacrifice. He can hardly point out his many medals. Wes is blind from exposure to Agent Orange. He guesses it happend when he traveled by ground to various outposts in Vietnam.

But he has no regrets.

"In war, things can happen," he says. "Fighting for the American way, and the idea that America had, I hoped would encourage other countries to be like America."

Wes served 22 years in the Air Force, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

He tells his story in the book, "Wesselhoeft: Traded to the enemy," available on Amazon.


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