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Mistaken Identity: The Story of Cpl. Gilbert J. Beamesderfer

One of the more unusual experiences of a native Pennsylvania Dutch speaker reported in the popular media is that of Corporal Gilbert J. Beamesderfer (1918–1991), from Ephrata, Lancaster County, PA. A U.S. soldier wounded in combat in France during World War II, Beamesderfer tried out his Pennsylvania Dutch with a captured German. Other Americans who overheard this conversation assumed that Beamesderfer was a German spy, and he was held as a prisoner of war for a month until he was finally able to convince his superiors that he was in fact an American.

Beamesderfer’s story was recounted in Yank: The Army Weekly on August 10, 1945. A version from the November 1946 issue of True Comics is given below.