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Two comrades emerge from the fog of war

(ran PW edition of PT)

Charley Flanagan and Stan Borgstrom became best friends training and fighting side by side for six months during World War II.

The two were separated in July 1944, when Borgstrom was hit in the left arm and right leg by enemy gunfire and was taken to a hospital, where he spent the next two years.

Two months later, Flanagan was captured by German soldiers and was imprisoned for 7{ until the war in Europe ended.

For the past 50 years, each thought the other had died in the war. But a chance occurrence last November has brought the two soldiers together again.

Flanagan, now 70 and living in Homosassa, last year ordered a subscription to a newspaper published by an association of former members of the Army's 35th Division, in which both served. The newspaper routinely publishes the names and addresses of new subscribers.

Borgstrom, already a subscriber, recognized his buddy's name.

"I couldn't believe it. I was dumbstruck," said Borgstrom, 69. "I figured I'd give it a try. I sent him a postcard asking him if he was my old best friend, "Irish.' "

Flanagan said he was flabbergasted to get the letter.

"I returned his letter and he wrote me back and sent a picture of him sitting in a boat fishing and I said, "That's Stan.' "

"When you consider all the big battles we went through and all the casualties we had in that war, it's not hard to see why we thought the other was dead," Borgstrom said.

The two men said they had so much catching up to do that it would require too much paper and too much writing. So, they began dictating onto cassette tapes and mailing the tapes to each other.

Flanagan brought his pal up to date on his life. A retired housekeeping supervisor for Seven Rivers Community Hospital, Flanagan is a member of the Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Ex-Prisoners of War.

They talked at length about the events of the last half century. Finally, they realized that even talking on tape wouldn't do. They had to meet face to face.

Borgstrom, a retired mechanic, and one of his five children drove from Wisconsin to Homosassa to see the man he fought beside from Normandy's Omaha Beach on D-day to St. Lo, France.

On Wednesday, the two finally reconnected amid tears and hugs.

They talked about the old days, their families and other buddies from Company E of the 134th Infantry Regiment. They talked about life, about fishing. For four straight hours, they did nothing but talk.

The visit was a chance for Flanagan to visit some painful memories he's pushed away for most of his adult life.

"Charley hasn't talked much about his experience in the war camp with anybody, but because it was me, he has opened up a lot more than he would to anybody else," Borgstrom said.

Flanagan and his wife, Miriam, played tour guide for three days, showing Borgstrom the sights of Citrus County. Borgstrom said his wife didn't make the trip this time.

The men plan to stay in close touch and visit each other regularly. For both, the reunion has brought a breath of fresh air into their lives.

"I don't know how to put into words the feeling you get when you see someone you were so close to after you hadn't seen them for 50 years," Borgstrom said.