KDLT Home KDLT on Facebook KDLT on Twitter Get the KDLT iPhone App Get the KDLT Android App

Yankton Pastor Recounts Days As POW



Bookmark and Share

He is part of a vanishing breed. Oliver Omanson is a veteran of World War II. At 96 years old, he's sharing his experience as a soldier, prisoner of war and longtime Yankton pastor in a book. It is called "Prisoner of War Number 21860".  A young Oliver on the cover tilted cap and a smile, today at 96 the cap is gone but smile is still there. It was1942, when Oliver was drafted and left South Dakota for the first time.

"Six weeks after they hit Pearl Harbor, I was in the Army, they drew my name," said Amonson.

Oliver was trained as a heavy machine gunner and ended up fighting the Germans, first in North Africa and then in General George Patton’s invasions of Sicily and Italy. Oliver and his squad survived battles in Sicily, but during the invasion of Italy, after walking all night, the young corporal and his men were caught in a German counter attack.

"We really thought we were going after them, they set a trap, and here we were on foot and so on and they had 400 tanks, and they were just waiting to suck us all in," said Omanson.

In his book Oliver describes his capture by German soldiers in Italy as one of the toughest days of his life.

"He shoved the barrel. He was ready to blow my guts out, and while he stood there with this gun on this side, he reached over to my shirt pocket, I had a Gideon bible that I had been carrying, and he kind of lifted it up, he took it out, he did like this, then he handed to me and I put it back. He said, you know this war is an awful thing isn't it?”

But not all of his captors would be so nice, during 19 months in German prisons like Stalag 7 there were several times Oliver was convinced he would be shot, especially when dealing with Hitler's black uniformed SS troops. Oliver spent most of his time in a labor camp, locked in a barn at night on the estate of a German baron who ironically once attended SDSU in Brookings. Always with his small Gideon bible, Oliver survived the extreme hunger, abuse and a forced march that ended on April 13th 1945 with the approach of American Sherman tanks like this one. Like many POW's Oliver was sent home for a short rest, here he is arriving at the airport in Sioux Falls. Still in the army, his next assignment was unexpected. Amonson ended up guarding German prisoners.

"Yes, right we had 500 of them over at Fairmont, Minnesota, during the corn picking times,  it was quite ironic, I thought it was quite a turnaround", said Amonson.

Despite his abuse by Nazi guards, Oliver treated his prisoners with respect and kindness.
After the war, Oliver's faith eventually called him to minister to others. He became a pastor, spending most of his life in Yankton, his war experience always with him, always shaping his interaction with others.
Oliver now lives with his son and daughter in law in Sioux Falls. He wrote the book for family, but has gone back for reprints three times because so many people are fascinated by his story.

"Prisoner Of War Number 21860” is available at Crossroads Books in Sioux Falls and at the Carpenter Shop in Yankton.
< Prev Story Back To Top Next Story >
     

Teen Arrested After Early Morning Crime Spree

A teenager is facing a number of charges after allegedly stealing ...

Supreme Court: DNA Evidence Lacks For New Trial

The South Dakota Supreme Court has affirmed a judge's decision ...

Thanksgiving Dinner: Eating Safely  story with video

The journey from the frozen foods section to the table fraught with food poisoning ...

Hospital, SD Settle Over Improper Medicaid Claims  Nov. 26

Man Found Sleeping In SF School Classroom  Nov. 26

Police: 16 Guns Stolen From Sioux Falls Home  Nov. 26

US Agency Threatens To Act Against Air Bag Maker  Nov. 26

State Supreme Court Rejects Taliaferro Appeal  Nov. 26

Bold Shoplifters Hit Best Buy Store In Rapid City  Nov. 26

Minnesota Tops Turkey Production In US  Nov. 26

8 People Indicted In Sioux City Officer Shooting  Nov. 26

Pierre Chooses Aerodynamics Inc. For Air Service  Nov. 26

4 SD Communities To See Municipal Tax Changes  Nov. 26

Nearly 2 Dozen Alco Stores Closing In The Dakotas  Nov. 26

Deadwood October Gambling Revenue Up Over 2013  Nov. 26

Top 5 Winter Getaways  story with video  Nov. 26

The Daily Scoop: 11-26-2014  story with video  Nov. 26

SD Man Gets 30 Years In Daughter's Death  Nov. 25

SD Cheerleaders In NYC Thanksgiving Parade  story with video  Nov. 25

5 Big Construction Projects In SF In 2015  story with video  Nov. 25

KDLT News Archive
     

SD Cheerleaders In NYC Thanksgiving Parade  story with video

Two small town South Dakota girls are taking a ...

Man Found Sleeping In SF School Classroom

Police are investigating a burglary at a Sioux Falls ...

SD Man Gets 30 Years In Daughter's Death

A South Dakota man convicted of killing his 2-year-old ...

No Injuries In Early Morning House Fire In SF  Nov. 25

Teen Arrested After Early Morning Crime Spree  Nov. 26

Both Sides Want Judge To Rule On Gay Marriage  Nov. 25

Police: 16 Guns Stolen From Sioux Falls Home  Nov. 26

Ferguson: Daylight Reveals Damage  story with video  Nov. 25

KDLT News Archive
     

Fuquan likes playing on young Skyforce  story with video

The Skyforce have a very young and talented team led by top draft pick Fuquan ...

Tigers ice cold in loss to Briar Cliff  story with video

MITCHELL, S. D. – The Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team ...

Voss, Tigers stay unbeaten with rally against Briar Cliff  story with video

Jalen Voss poured in 20 points as all 5 Tiger starters were in ...

Jacks glad to have Sumner back  story with video  Nov. 25

SMSU glad to make first Elite 8  story with video  Nov. 25

Balanced attack leads SDSU past Sam Houston  story with video  Nov. 24

Allen leads Dakota State over Cougars at USF  story with video  Nov. 24

Chadron State men no match for Jacks at Frost  story with video  Nov. 24

KDLT Sports Stories
     
Back To Top