His son, John Beyrle, who is U.S. Deputy Ambassador to Russia, has told the Russian weekly AiF that Mr. Beyrle was among the first paratroopers to land in Normandy, France, as part of the 101st Airborne Division's 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The Germans captured him shortly after he landed. He escaped from a POW camp in Poland and joined a Soviet tank unit headed for Berlin. He fought alongside the Soviets for three weeks or so, and they called him "Joe." After the war, he tried to reestablish contact with anyone of his former comrades-in-arms, but to no avail. Neither was he able to find out the number of the tank unit in which he had served. The only thing he knew for certain was that this unit had been part of the Sixth Guards Regiment, fighting on the First Belarus Front.
Mr Beyrle never made it to Berlin. He got wounded in the leg along the way, and had to be hospitalized. Luckily, the wound was not too serious, and doctors decided he could do without amputation. While he was staying in the hospital, Marshal Georgy Zhukov came over for a visit. After the American recounted his Odyssey, the Soviet marshal furnished him with papers so that he could get to Moscow without being detained by security forces on his way.
Officials at the U.S. Embassy met their fellow countryman with circumspection. According to information provided for them by the Pentagon, he was officially registered as killed in action on June 10, 1944. Yet, against all odds, he made it back to New York on May 8, 1945. And in his home town, in the state of Michigan, it took folks some time to believe his return wasn't just a happy dream.
Mr. Beyrle lived to an advanced age. He died last December.
Even in the murkiest years of the Cold War era, the man thought of the Soviet Union with warm feelings only. He said he would never forget the kindness and compassion with which people down there had treated him.