Jack Schuder has survived the military courts of friends and enemies, a date with a firing squad, a battle in which his unit had 92 percent casualties, a death march, five POW escape attempts, sawdust bread, not enough food, too much food, and cigarettes.

May 3 is special to him because that was the day in 1945 that he was freed as a World War II prisoner of war. "I don't work on May 3," he said. "For nobody. And nobody has ever failed to give me a holiday."

Schuder, 77, lives near Riverside with his wife, Vernon. Friday he plans to fish or enjoy one of the vices he got in the military that are not exactly the best example for America's youth. The story of his courage and patriotism, however, is worth telling.

He went into the Army in 1941, from Concho County, near Paint Rock, just east of San Angelo. If there hadn't been a Jack Schuder or someone like him Hollywood would have invented him.

He weighed over 200 pounds and had done some boxing, so they made him an MP. In England a second lieutenant ordered him to arrest a soldier who had a shirt pocket unbuttoned. That led to a fight with the officer, the brig, and the threat of his first court martial.

About that time the U. S. military was forming its first special unit patterned after the British Commandos. In the U. S. forces they were "Rangers." Schuder was allowed to "volunteer" and the court martial was forgotten.

He was in the original Darby's Rangers, was in the raid on Dieppe, France, fought in North Africa and Sicily and was captured between Anzio and Rome when his Ranger unit took its objective and the main force didn't come up soon enough to help out.

Not long before he was captured he had faced a second court martial for fighting with another second lieutenant in Naples, this time over a woman, but Colonel Darby fixed that ticket when he heard Schuder's side of the story.

Schuder was among 3,000 POWs marched across Europe to prevent their liberation by the advancing Allies. Only 250 made it to Germany. There they were forced to repair railroad tracks and do other body-breaking labor with little rest and little or no food. Schuder said he was fed bread baked using sawdust to increase its volume.

Like Hollywood, if there hadn't been a Jack Schuder or someone like him the U. S. military would have invented him. In 1955 the U. S. armed forces adopted a Code of Conduct, which says: "If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape."

Schuder crawled under the barbed wire and escaped five times, although he never got to friendly lines. He hid in brush piles and ditches, but was recaptured and thoroughly beaten each time. Occupying his captors that way was the best he could do for his country's war effort, he said.

Near the end of his captivity he was on a work crew building an electricity relay station, packing concrete with a stick. He just sort of happened to drop a few mechanical parts--cogs and pulleys that the Germans were planning to use in the facility--into the concrete. They caught him and didn't think it was too funny.

He was sent to Berlin and finally court martialed. He was sentenced to die by firing squad on May 25, 1945, but American troops arrived on the 3rd. By this time his heavyweight frame had dwindled to 95 pounds. That first day 21 of the prisoners who had been released died of overeating, but they got a stomach pump to Schuder in time.

He came back to Texas where he worked in the West Texas oil fields, and has lived in Riverside since 1970. He and Mrs. Schuder were married on Christmas Eve in 1965.

He smokes too much, but said he almost died when he tried to quit. He's smoked Camels since he was 15. He doesn't recommend that anyone start, but thinks it's forgivable considering what he's been through.

His old injuries from bayonets, grenades and rifle butt beatings have given him a 100 percent disability. He has twice set off airport security devices with the shrapnel in his face, shoulder and upper arm.

Each Thursday night he teaches Ranger tactics--as much as he's allowed--to about 30 Sam Houston State University ROTC cadets who call themselves Schuder's Rangers. He's given the unit $20,000 over the years, including a recent gift of $5,000, and throws them a barbecue every semester. This spring it's Saturday, conveniently close to May 3. Last fall, he said, he cooked pork, and "they ate a whole hog."


For more information, contact Frank Krystyniak at 409-294-1833, 409-295-8541 (home), or e-mail

May 1, 1996