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Only Man to Fight for U.S. and Russian Armies to be Honored

17. November 2009 by James 0 Comments

Soon a man who played a major role in World War II fighting for both the United States and Russia will be honored with an exhibition dedicated to his fascinating story.


A Real Hero

Joe Beyrle, father of the current U.S. ambassador to Russia John Beyrle, is the only man in history that fought against the Nazis in both the American and Soviet armed forces. Beyrle was part of the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Forced to jump early due to his C-47 taking heavy fire, Sgt. Beyrle lost contact with his fellow paratroopers upon landing but succeeded in blowing up a power station. He performed other sabotage missions before being captured by German soldiers a few days later. Taken to a Nazi POW camp, he made two unsuccessful escape attempts, but the third time was the charm.


American Comrade

Once free, Beyrle found a Russian tank division. He only knew two words in Russian, "Amerikanskii tovarishch" or "American comrade". Despite the language barrier he fought with the Russians and proved his medal in a number of battles. His new unit liberated the camp where he had been a prisoner.

In February 1945, after being wounded in battle, he was sent to a Soviet army hospital in Poland. Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov, learned of his incredible story and gave him letters of passage to the U.S. embassy in Moscow, so he could rejoin the U.S. Armed Forces.

When he arrived at the embassy and identified himself, officials at first did not believe him. His dog tags had been found on a dead German soldier. He was presumed to be killed in action. Back home in Muskegon, Michigan, his parents even had a funeral Mass for him.



In April 1945 Sgt. Beyrle returned home to Michigan. In 1946, he was married in the same church and by the same priest who two years earlier had celebrated his funeral Mass.  In 1994 Joe Beyrle received medals from President  Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin at a Rose Garden ceremony at the While House honoring the 50th anniversary of D-Day.

During a visit to his old paratroop training ground in Toccoa, Ga., Beyrle died in his sleep in December 2004. He was 81. He was buried with honors in at Arlington National Cemetery in April, 2005.


Important Story

Joe Beyrle’s story is needed more now than ever according to exhibition director Greg Guroff. Recent surveys in the found that many U.S. citizens under the age of 40 believed the U.S. and Russia fought each other in World War II. Likewise in Russia, many do not believe that 16 million Americans fought in World War II . His story symbolizes cooperation between the two nations.

"This is an attempt not to forget what happened then," Guroff told RIA Novosti . "Veterans are dying off. The Cold War has left a sad mark on our perceptions of each other."

The "A hero of two nations" exhibition will open on February 18, 2010 in St. Petersburg. In May, it will move to Moscow, and then onto Kursk and Novorossiisk. The exhibit will then open in the United States.