Posted by William Nunnelley on 2011-04-14

While serving with the American Red Cross during World War II, Andrew Gerow Hodges of Birmingham made 15 solo crossings into German-held territory in northwest France,  singlehandedly negotiating the release of 149 Allied prisoners of war in a POW exchange.  It was the only such instance in the entire war.

            Years later, Hobart Grooms of Birmingham discovered the amazing story while serving on the Samford University board of trustees with Hodges.  After going through Hodges’ cache of documents and photos, he began putting together an award-winning documentary film about the episode entitled “For One English Officer.”  This led to the publication last year of a popular French military history of the story, Les Incroyable Echanges, by Luc Braeuer.

            Three of Hodges’ granddaughters—Jane-Latham, Eleanor and Elizabeth Hodges—recently retraced his footsteps through the Lorient and Saint-Nazaire sections of France under the guidance of author Braeuer.  They were received by local officials and met several witnesses to the exchanges. Several area newspapers covered the visits and recounted the historic events.        

            Earlier this month at Samford’s Rotunda Club, Hodges family members and others gathered for a luncheon paying tribute to Hodges, a 1942 Samford graduate who died in 2005, and the Red Cross.  At the author’s request, Grooms presented copies of the book to Linda Baker, chief strategy officer for the Red Cross Mid-Alabama Region; Jeff Stone, Red Cross board member; Hodges’ widow, Mary Louise (see photo); and Samford president Andrew Westmoreland.  Copies of the book were forwarded to the Red Cross national headquarters and The International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland.

            “The prisoners never knew who was responsible for their freedom,” Grooms said.  The film documentary made many aware of the full story, he added, and “now, thanks to Luc’s splendidly-researched book, the story lives on.”

 

 
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.