91-year-old WWII vet recalls experience as a prisoner of war

      Paul Hollan Jr.

      By Nikki Gaskins

      NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) Friday is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Across the nation, people are taking a moment to pause and remember our nation's bravest heroes, captured at the hands of the enemy many still unaccounted for.

      Joint Base Charleston honored 17 former POW's with a very special luncheon, many of whom, including Paul Hollan Jr., with some pretty interesting stories to tell.

      "We're glad to be accepted," said Hollan, a WWII veteran who served in the United States Air Force.

      More than a half a century later, he still recalls when Germans fired at his plane, killing four of his fellow airmen onboard.

      "I was flying on a mission and all of a sudden--boom!" said the frail Mount Pleasant resident.

      Even at 91 years old, Hollan remembers clearly trying to escape his real life nightmare.

      "The side of the airplane opened up and I went out -- and luckily I had my parachute," he said.

      Hollan landed in snow where he says the Germans eventually found him.

      "The Germans came over and said, 'Get up' and 'Go' and pounded me with a rifle butt," recalled Hollan. "And I told them where to go and how to get there, but they didn't understand me."

      For six months the then-21-year-old became a prisoner of war.

      "They kept me in a hospital for a month. They turned me out and sent me to another camp," he said. "They didn't feed us very good. I lost a lot of weight, but we survived."

      And today his is proud to share his personal story of hope and bravery.

      "I was strong-willed, and I was determined that I was going to make it," said Hollan.

      He says his greatest achievement was receiving the Purple Heart after the war.{}