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For old soldiers at monthly Concord meeting, a recall of duty

WWII vets gather at a Denny's to share stories about their service. They call themselves the Third Thursday Lunch Bunch, and the decades haven't dimmed their memories.

May 28, 2012|By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times

In early February 1945, Tharratt said, the guards at Stalag Luft IV informed him and other inmates that they were leaving for a three-day march. The destination was not revealed. Tharratt had an overcoat and a blanket, and wrapped his belongings in a towel.

They marched on country roads for 600 miles, he said, sleeping in fields, labor camps and warehouses with their boots drying under their armpits. Days passed without any food. Tharratt wanted to give up at times, but his buddies kept him moving. Many men got sick and could no longer march. They disappeared. Tharratt does not know what became of them.

He walked for 86 days until American GIs approached and liberated the prisoners, the war nearly over.

Tharratt returned to his family in Reseda, graduated from UC Davis, married and worked in the cement industry. He now lives in a retirement community in Walnut Creek.

Nightmares have plagued him since the war, he said, and even now he "tears up the bed" once in a while.

The Distinguished Flying Cross was an immense honor, but the lunch bunch it spawned has become a lifeline.

"We were asked to do a job," Tharratt said. "And I think we did it."

maura.dolan@latimes.com

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