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    REMEMBRANCE DAY: Remembering the enemy who saved his life

    Every Remembrance Day, when veterans salute their fallen comrades, Clem Pearce of Weston, Ontario, pays respect also to a fallen enemy.

    Near the end of the Second World War, Pearce, a teenage pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force, was a prisoner-of-war in Camp Stalag 111A Luckenwalde, south of Berlin. On April 22, 1945, he was liberated by the First Ukrainian Army, and set out to forage for eggs and bread, using Red Cross cigarettes for currency.

    “I was in the middle of a farmer’s field when suddenly a low-flying Focke Luftwaffe fighter plane appeared,” Pearce wrote more than half a century later. “The pilot looked down at the field, obviously searching for something. He spotted me and wheeled around for another look.

    “As he banked over me, I thought he was going to machine gun me, and there was no place to hide. I was conspicuous in my RCAF blue uniform; I was just outside a prison that all the Luftwaffe pilots knew about and, to him, I was a ‘terror-fleiger’ who had helped level his beloved homeland.

    “I did the only thing that was left to me. I waved to him. To my astonishment, he threw me a half salute, half wave. It was the last thing he ever did.

    “A tremendous blast of anti-aircraft fire erupted from a group of trees beside the farmer’s house, and he blew up in front of my eyes.

    “A great shout rang out and a group of Ukrainian girls, who had been manning a concealed anti-aircraft battery, ran toward the flaming wreckage.

    “Every Armistice Day, as I pay my respects to my fallen comrades at the City Hall Cenotaph, I include the unknown Luftwaffe pilot who had spared me while he was not.”

    From a letter in The Toronto Star, July 12, 1997.

    TAGS: Remembrance Day,War,Second World War,Enemy,Prisoner of War,Royal Canadian Air Force

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