Greetings to Stalag Luft III friends and families. We hope you had a wonderful Veterans Day/Remembrance Day, appreciating all our veterans who served with such sacrifice. This short video, we think, speaks for all of us and how we feel about our WWII veterans from all countries: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNF28p6wkOs
Stalag Luft III Advisors and Reunions
Before updating you on a number of things, we have a request. For years after the “final official” Stalag Luft III reunion, it was the hope of the POWs that we, the next generation, keep the reunions going. With the help of many dedicated people, this has been done over the past several years. However, we have arrived, as many of the bomb/fighter groups recently have, at a transitional state with decisions to be made about future reunions. Many of these groups with dwindling numbers have joined together. Several groups, including the 8th Air Force, 2nd Schweinfurt Memorial group, and 100th Bomb Group, have raised the question of having Stalag Luft III reunion attendees join them. If you have thoughts on a possible reunion collaboration with any of these groups, please send an email. Would also like to hear from anyone wishing to serve in an advisory capacity as well in helping to organize future reunions. When lots of good people join together, good things happen, and the input from many can help guide the Stalag Luft III group through a transitional stage in the years to come.
Relatedly, Val Burgess recently sent out an email to some people soliciting input for a 2014 reunion. Her two options were to join either the 8th Air Force reunion in Nashville in October 2014 or possibly the 100 BG reunion activities in 2015, but these options may not involve any breakout sessions or special time set aside for Stalag Luft III unique presentations/discussions, etc. In a recent conversation with Val, we indicated that there are probably other options, including a possible “SLIII only” event at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs or elsewhere. As many of you know, the Air Force Academy has the most extensive collection of Stalag Luft III materials, primarily due to the leadership and generosity of General A.P. Clark. The Clark Collection, and other collections like those donated by the family of Gen. Delmar Spivey offer a unique insight into the SLIII experience. One suggestion has been to use the Academy, which previously hosted a reunion in the 1990s, and the Academy library support staff as a resource for an event, focused heavily on learning more about SLIII through presentations, new documentaries, etc.—-with less emphasis on touring and visiting outside locations, particularly since our remaining POWs will be less likely to do so.
A further consideration in joining with another group needs to be some assurance that the other organization, which would invite SLIII, have a general session agenda of interest to SLIII attendees.
So, two things need to be considered as people express their views:
First, the specific agenda to be set by the 8th Air Force/100BG needs to be clearly understood well in advance. Some have expressed concerns that recent 8th Air Force reunion agendas have been pretty thin in terms of substantive presentations. We do not believe the 8th Air Force has an agenda yet. Upcoming information will be posted on their website in May. http://www.8thafhs.org/reunion/
And the specific 100BG agenda has yet to be seen as well. Generally, the 100th BG have reunions every two years although they have a mini-reunion event planned in just several weeks in Palm Springs, California, according to Val. http://www.100thbg.com/
Second, let us know how essential you feel that there be some “SLIII focus” if we attended the reunions lead by one of these others groups. Do you feel just getting together is the prime motivation, or do you feel that a strong SLIII component (through breakout/evening sessions, where presentations can be made, new documentaries shown and discussed, etc) needs to be present in order for you to attend? If so, any suggestions as to presentations, etc. are welcome.
In sum, we would encourage you to respond to these requests for input, and also offer other location options, perhaps like the Colorado Springs suggestion. Please address the two considerations mentioned above. You can respond to Marilyn or Val if you received her email, or perhaps best to copy both as we will continue our coordination with her. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Also, it has come to our attention that some of our past newsletters, sent in bulk from Mike’s assistant may have ended up in spam filters. Now that Marilyn sends them out directly, we have fixed that problem and only became aware of it when she started sending them out directly. If anyone has not received the first six or so we originally sent out after the reunion in Dayton in 2012, we would be glad to resend them to you. Just let Marilyn know.
News from Poland – Keeping up with Marek and Mirek (M&M)
The biggest international air show in Poland, organized by the Polish Air Force, occurred in Radom last August, and Museum Director, Marek Lazarz, and guide and researcher, Mirek Walczak, were in attendance. About 80,000 visitors attended on the first day and over 100,000 attended on the second day. Marek, and Mirek drove over 300 miles to set up a tent to promote the museum and provide needed publicity.
At the air show, Mirek and Marek confer (above – last picture) with two members of the Polish Air Force History Group, who were instrumental in identifying a photo we found that sat for years unidentified in a Canadian Archive. The poignant story of the Polish officer, shown below, is told in our soon-to-be published book that will benefit the museum.
In addition to the air show, Marek and Mirek attended the St. Michael’s Fair, which is the biggest event in Zagan with parades, concerts, etc. They had the museum’s promotional stand at the gate of Zagan’s Castle to gain additional publicity for the museum.
Recently, Marek did some “cleaning” in South Compound. Foresters gave him permission to cut all the trees from the fire pool. Over one half of the fire pool was filled with a mixture of soil and trash, and eventually many trees grew in it. The bottom of the fire pool is intact, and efforts are underway to finish cleaning it out. He also travelled to Stettin to meet with the Promotional Dept. there to discuss future cooperation between Żagan and Stettin to create a tourist route between the two cities. Stettin played an important role during the Wooden Horse escape. POWs Codner and Williams escaped via Stettin to Denmark and then to Sweden. After the Great Escape, two Norwegians, Jens Muller and Per Bergsland, escaped to Sweden via Stettin.
For those of you who have gone back to Zagan and had the pleasure of having a delicious meal at Keplers Restaurant, we recently found that during the war there was another restaurant that sat next to where Keplers is located today. It was named the White Lion Restaurant. This is the restaurant where Henry Soderberg, Swedish YMCA representative, who came to the aid of the Stalag Luft III POWs, frequently ate and met with German officers from the camp. It is no longer there, but a post card below shows what it used to look like. Soderberg, an excellent voice of diplomacy, spent much time here working on the POWs’ behalf.
At the end of the war, many of the buildings in Sagan, later renamed Zagan, were destroyed. Many old German buildings were dismantled and bricks were transported to Warsaw to rebuild the city, which had been destroyed by not only the Germans but the Russians. Stalag VIIIC, adjacent to West Compound, had brick barracks, and those bricks were also taken to Warsaw. We would love to hear your comments if you have returned to the old camp and city. Tell us how you felt and what you saw on your visit. We’d like to print your comments in the next newsletter.
Speaking of returning to Zagan, there will be a memorial for the 70th anniversary of the Great Escape next March at the camp. Marek is meeting with the RAF and the British Embassy and from what he has said, there will be a wonderful day planned to mark the solemn occasion. Many of you have emailed and expressed interest in attending, and as soon as we get the details, we will send them out via the newsletter. Flights go into Wroclaw (formerly Breslau) or Berlin.
Praise for the Remodeling
From historian, Michal Holy, an appreciative comment and picture of the latest changes at the museum (partially funded by the generosity of American donations we sent earlier this year to the museum):
”Thanks to financial support and with lots of work for everyone involved with the Museum in Zagan, the interior of the Museum has been transformed into a more modern facility. Great job!”
The RAF and friends have been working with Marek to complete the replica goonbox that stood nearest to Tunnel Harry. This is the one the escapers would have had to pass by before running into the woods. It took Phil Westwood, Andy Hunter, Johnnie Tait, David Dunn, and Zagan’s liaison officer, Monika Parker, five days to complete the progress shown below. The structure had to be moved two meters from the exact spot due to electric power lines.
Several months ago, someone donated this WW2 Royal Canadian AF jacket to the museum in Zagan. One of the buttons was a bit different than others. Upon closer examination, Marek found that there was an escape compass inside the button!
Seven Slots Left on Memorial Flag
Several people have inquired asking if it was too late to contribute to the fund-raising project we did for the museum that resulted in the flag memorial now hung in the museum. Our previous newsletter showed this memorial plaque. Seven spots are left for names of POWs to be remembered on the American flag and then it will be complete. Donations are $100 to have a Stalag Luft III POW’s name engraved on the plaque. For anyone interested, please contact Marilyn by December 15th.
Battle of Britain Movie
For anyone who has not seen this classic wartime movie, a part of it addresses the role of Polish fliers who flew with the RAF. They were fearless and aggressive predators in the air, frequently known for breaking the rules, later reprimanded, and then awarded medals. The clip below from the movie illustrates the point.
Thanks to Marek for the Polish translation of some of the Polish lines:
“Look out! Jerrys down there! Where?! 11:00 o’clock! I’m going for them! Me too! Watch your back! Got him!”
Thanks to Barb Edy for sending this aerial view of the glass factory in Bad Muskau where many Allied POWs on the Forced March sought shelter in the winter of 1945. Most of it is gone, but the smokestack remains, and its shadow can be clearly seen.
Artist, Marilyn Johansen, daughter of Eugene F. Phillips, South Compound, who many of you may have met at the Dayton reunion, recently finished a painting of her father to be displayed at the Wounded Warrior Art Show in Palm Beach Florida. It is a daughter’s beautiful tribute to her father.
Spotlight on POWs
Ed Carter Edwards
We have heard from several POWs who wanted to share items in this newsletter. Enjoy their contributions below:
Three years ago when RCAF’s Ed Carter Edwards visited Weimar to visit Buchenwald where he had been held during the war before transfer to Stalag Luft III. He stood on a hotel balcony where Hitler once spoke. He was given permission to stand there, as normally no one is allowed to use the balcony. Through the magic of trick photography, the scene is created with one noticeable addition.
Ed Carter Edwards – “It is my original hat and tunic but somehow the tunic has shrunk from being in the closet so my friend,and I squeezed the top buttons together, and he made this photo.”
Click below to read an article found by Ross Greene and written by POW Joe Consolmagno of South Compound.
A Note from ex-SLIII POW Don Casey:
”A much neglected subject is “SPAM”. I was telling one of my sons the other night about what a delicacy it still is for me. I had some for breakfast just a short time ago. I keep a can of Spam available at all times just in case I need to eat some. As prisoners we called it a “bash” when we were able to splurge and enjoy the spam for a meal.
One of my favorite stories to tell is of the time I was getting my shoes shined one day. An elderly gentleman noticed me and remarked that the cordovan shoes I was wearing were symbolic of killing a horse for his hide. I immediately replied directly to him that I loved horses and ate them to stay alive (meaning in prison camp.) He stormed off and disappeared none the wiser.
At Luft 3 we would eat with relish the fresh horse-meat which was prepared like hamburger. Everything else was out of cans.
Another “Kriegie” dish was “Kohlrabi” which we ate fried, boiled or baked. It’s a vegetable with little flavor but nourishing. Other than that, we had no fresh vegetables to eat. Most of the stuff we had was picked late and not as tasty. The main food was the “Schwartzbrodt” or black bread. The German soldiers always carried a chunk of it and would pull it out of their packs and cut off a piece. It was sour tasting and contained something like 15% sawdust but good. The sawdust was called: “Wood flower,” and the German people ate it just the same.
People ask me if I was ever tortured. At first I said: “No”. But I have to say that starvation is one of the severest forms of torture there is. We POWs in Germany were being tortured in the last weeks of the war and there is no doubt of that. Following liberation on 4/29/45 at Moosburg, Stalag VII-A, after several weeks on supportive rations like creamed foods I weighed only 140 pounds.
Just reporting, but one of the things I am doing is volunteering one afternoon a week at the “Pritzker Military Library” in Chicago. In that process I do speaking engagements and will be talking to a group of FBI agents on November 8th about the POW experience. I also have spoken to high school students and find them very interested in my story.
I have also written a book entitled: “TO FIGHT FOR MY COUNTRY, SIR” which is available through AMAZON books. A representative of a professional publisher says it all when he says: “If you don’t write it down, it never happened.” Words to live by.
It’s not too late for you veterans that still have your wits about you to sit down with a tape recorder and tell your friends and families how things really were during your war. They really need to know the story and you’re the only one who can tell it before it’s too late.”
Memories abound for POW Joe Gosselin in Massachusetts when he recently became reacquainted with the bombardiers’ compartment of a B-17. Joe, with the 95thBomb Group, was shot down March 6, 1944, over Berlin after an attack by ME 109s. Until the shooting started, he had the best seat in the house. Thanks to Butch Lombardi for the images. See the second link for Joe’s full story and more pictures of his recent flight. Thanks to Butch Lombardi – www.eastbayimages.com http://www.nephotographyguild.com/2013/10/longest-mission for use of the images.
Request – Purple Hearts
If you are aware of any veterans, who were held at the camp, incurred severe frostbite or other wounds while held captive, and was not awarded the Purple Heart medal, please have them contact me to begin the process.
MSgt Robert E. Johnson, USAF, Retired Robersabel@aol.com
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36eLp9XGNjs – Award winning short video with a surprise ending
From POW daughter, Marianne Leary – http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/19/american-world-war-ii-pow-prized-gold-ring-comes-home-after-70-year-journey/#ixzz2cS37Ql8x
For anyone who wondered about the view from the B-24 ball turret: http://theaviationist.com/2013/08/13/b-24-video/#.UoKn820o7Z5
Marilyn has just returned from England where she researched at the British Archives shown below on the left, a truly massive facility, and the Imperial War Museum shown on the right. Researchers could spend considerable time in both. For anyone requiring a good researcher at the British Archive, Mike and I highly recommend Alan Bowgen, an expert we hired to assist us in navigating our way through reams of documents. Alan specializes in Stalag Luft III/POWs, and we engaged his services in our effort to collect SLIII material and photos. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org We are just finishing up our photo book of SLIII with almost 800 photos (plus some personal narratives), and it should go to the publisher next month. In the meantime, we have begun research for another book to follow on Col. von Lindeiner, the SLIII Kommandant at the time of the Great Escape. Alan has already helped us with material in the UK relating to Col. von Lindeiner, and Mike has engaged another researcher in Freiberg, Germany, at the archive there to assist searching for German records relating to Col. von Lindeiner. Mike just received the German researcher’s first report and some documents already have been discovered. As many of you might know, von Lindeiner was court martialed by the Germans for his alleged dereliction of duty in allowing the Great Escape. Ironically, he was also held by the British for two years following the war, without ever being tried, while their investigation focused on his involvement in the murder of the 50 escapees on Hitler’s orders. Some interesting never before published materials are coming to light based on our research.
Ambassador John Dolibois, interrogator of the Nazi hierarchy before the Nürnberg War Crimes Trials, who attended the Dayton reunion, will turn 95 on December 4th. Happy Birthday, Ambassador!
Congratulations to Canadian, Ted Barris, author of seventeen books, on the release of his latest book, The Great Escape – A Canadian Story. This excellent book details the often over-looked participation of Canadian airmen in the Great Escape. Ted’s impeccable research brings to light many fascinating stories from the Canadians’ experiences. His recent interview is provided in the link below:
To mark this past Veterans Day, a tribute to all vets. Many have probably seen his story online, but for those who have not, it bears repeating:
Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a Military History teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock, Arkansas , did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks in her classroom. When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.
“Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?” She replied, “You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.”
They thought, “Well, maybe it’s our grades.” “No,” she said.
“Maybe it’s our behavior.”
She told them, “No, it’s not even your behavior.”
And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom. Kids called their parents to tell them what was happening and by early afternoon television news crews had started gathering at the school to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.
The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the desk-less classroom, Martha Cothren said, “Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he or she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.”
At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it. Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniform, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they walked over and stood alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place, those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.
Martha said, “You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have. Now, it’s up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don’t ever forget it.”
This is a true story. And this teacher was awarded Veterans of Foreign Wars Teacher of the Year for the State of Arkansas in 2006. She is the daughter of a WWII POW.
Marilyn Walton Mike Eberhardt
Daughter of POW Thomas F. Jeffers Son of POW Charles M. Eberhardt