Oh No! It’s “Jumpin’ Joe”
War sometimes creates weird and wacky circumstances. The following account is about a soldier who became a hero of two nations. It’s the kind of stuff that should be made into a blockbuster movie hit.
The photo above is a mugshot of paratrooper Sergeant “Jumpin’ Joe” Beryle, but it’s not what you think. It was taken at Sta lag 3, a German World War II prisoner-of-war camp south of Berlin. After taking one look at this face, and the photographer should have turned around and run away. Here’s how the story goes.
Instead of taking the scholarship to the University of Notre Dame in 1942 Joseph Beyrle decided to enlist in the Army as a paratrooper with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne’s “Screaming Eagles” division.
He quickly earned him the nickname, “Jumpin’ Joe” because he often took the place of fellow paratroopers and did their jumps for them.
Before D-Day, Beryle volunteered to make two jumps on missions into Occupied France. On June 6th, 1944, he was part of the 101st Airborne dropping from the skies behind enemy lines. He got separated from his unit, but still managed to blow up a power station before getting captured.
Joe got sassy with an interrogator, as he writes in his autobiography:
“Sometime during the questioning I called a German officer a “SOB” and woke up several days later in a hospital with a big headache and a bashed head…”.
In November, he and three others escaped and hopped a train to Berlin. It took a week for the Gestapo to find them:
“In the next 7 to 10 days we found out everything we had heard about the Gestapo was true…”
When he recovered, Jumping Joe escaped again. He encountered a Soviet tank unit, and joined up with these guys to liberate his POW camp.
Beryle recovered his mugshot from the Commandant’s office, but he doesn’t mention what happened to that photographer.
Good time to quit? Not yet.
Beryle rode on a Russian tank as a machine gunner in some seriously hot battles until his tank was blown up by a dive bomber. He went to a field hospital, then on to Moscow where he contacted the US Embassy.
But Joseph Beryle was listed as “Killed in Action” a year earlier. But things finally got sorted out, as Beryle’s autobiography states:
“My funeral Mass was held at St. Joseph’s Church in Muskegon by Father Stratz on September 17, 1944. My wife and I were married in the same church on September 14, 1946, by Father Stratz.”