Hello, Families and Friends of Stalag Luft III,
As many of us dig out from snow, we’d like to provide all of you with some updates and some interesting links.
Reunion News – Save the Date
After polling all our SLIII friends and families by many, including Mike, Marilyn, and Val Burgess, we tabulated the results. The consensus was that the majority of people would like to keep the SLIII reunions independent as long as possible, and the location most preferred was the Air Force Academy for 2014. All of us thank all of you who responded, and it was gratifying to see so much interest generated on behalf of our POWs. Post results, many past reunion participants discussed this and decided that the choice was a good one, and we felt comfortable in proceeding. Marilyn and Mike will serve as co-chairs with the help of many others. We welcome input from those wishing to attend or who would like to suggest ideas. We will use the Armed Forces Reunion planners to assist with the planning of what we hope will be a memorable reunion with a visit to the Air Force Academy to view the extensive Albert P. Clark Stalag Luft III Collection and to visit a few sites on the campus. In this year of the 70th anniversary of the Great Escape, we plan to have some interesting presentations, panel discussions, as well as videos and authors bringing their books. Other than the Air Force Academy excursion, all other events will be held at the hotel, as many have stated that they felt it was getting harder for our older guests to go on distant or extended excursions.
Crown Plaza Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs will be the hotel, and we have worked with them to keep rates down to $99.76 per night, and that includes tax. This rate applies to all rooms whether single, double, triple or quad. The hotel will also provide a free hot breakfast buffet each day we are there. They are very anxious to have us. www.hotelelegante.com. The hotel also provides free shuttle service to and from the airport. There is free parking for over 700 cars at the hotel also. The dates chosen were August 26-29, with return home on the 30th (no activities that day.) At this point, we ask that you save the date, but do not make hotel or flight reservations yet until registration forms are sent to you in the next few weeks. More details to follow.
News from Marek
We’d like to start with the latest that is going on at Stalag Luft III. Museum Director, Marek, has been very busy. He has cut some trees around the South Compound wash room, as seen below, and he also had trees cut that had started to grow in the debris in the South Compound fire pool! According to Marek, the bottom of the fire pool still seems to be intact. In pictures below, the fire pool is on the left and wash room on the right.
For our West Compound POWs, Marek sends this recent picture after trees were cut on the sports field that West Compound used. Sure to bring back memories for many:
Flag Memorial at Museum
As soon as we announced that there were seven spots left for POW names on the flag memorial at the museum in Zagan, they were quickly snapped up, and additional families also requested that their POW be honored. Between the donations for those seven spots and additional money sent, we will be wiring Marek $900.00 so that he can continue renovating the museum. For those who expressed interest in honoring their fathers after the seven spots were taken, Marek will create a new project so that you can do so. We will provide information on that as soon as we know more. Thanks to all!
More Praise for Marek
Glenn Gerhardt, son of a Stalag Luft III POW, Lt. Joseph Thomas Gerhardt, who recently visited the camp emailed Marilyn:
… I thought I would just stand on the ground where Dad stood, have a silent moment of prayer and be on my way back to Vierenheim (A mere 6.5 hour drive away from Zagan) But then we met Marek! He immediately made my son and I feel like VIP’s. He dedicated about 3.5 hrs to us, showing us the museum, explaining things and took us on a walking guided tour of the south compound, where I believe my dad was (building 138 I have some reason to believe). Meeting Marek was such a blessing, I feel like whatever I can do to aid his work I will surely try within my limited means.
70th Anniversary of the Great Escape Ceremony
For those attending the ceremony at the camp in Zagan next month, a few bits of information. The airport at Wroclaw is 160 km from Zagan, which is a two-hour drive. For those flying into Berlin, there is a good highway that goes straight to Zagan, and that trip is 180 km. Most people will stay at the Willa Park hotel, and the price of a double room is $50, or 170 Polish zloty. Marek will arrange a shuttle bus from that hotel to the camp. The main ceremony/military service will be on Monday the 24th of March near tunnel Harry at 12:00.There will also be a reenactment on Sunday, the 23rd of March at the museum (also at 12:00).The Mayor of Zagan wants to arrange a military picnic in town on Saturday 22nd, but at this time there are no details.
Bud Clafin’s Passing
With regret we pass along news of the death of Stalag Luft III POW Bud Clafin, who passed away September 24, 2013, at the age of 92. He had served with the 385th Bomb Group. The entire Stalag Luft III community sends condolences to Bud’s family. Thanks to Val Burgess for passing along word of this patriot’s death.
The Tunnel King
Thanks to John Lanza for information on a fairly new book about Canadian POW Wally Floody, who was an integral part of the construction and digging of Tunnel Harry. This is a book for juveniles that entertains as well as educates about the Great Escape.
John also provided a fascinating and unique tribute to the Doolittle Raiders, several of whom were Stalag Luft III POWs:
From Mary at the Air Force Academy
Dr. Mary Ruwell, Archivist at the Air Force Academy, has agreed to sent information on new acquisitions for the Stalag Luft III Collection and send news of interest to our readers. Recently, Mary sent the following link where the newer version of the Stalag Luft III newspaper, the Kriegie Klarion, published by the original Former Prisoners of War Stalag Luft III, who ran the reunions up through the 50th, can be viewed. You can find the issue from winter 1996 at http://afac.sdp.sirsi.net/client/search/asset/1028701. Thanks, Mary.
One of Our Buchenwald Boys
Don Shearer has sent this recent picture. Held in both Buchenwald and Stalag Luft III, Don was one of the POWs who was featured in the film, Lost Airmen of Buchenwald. He proudly wears his Stalag Luft III patch and wanted to show it off. Thanks, Don!
Suggested Readings and Books
Over the years many good books have been written about Stalag Luft III. Before the next reunion, we’d particularly like to suggest a few books of interest, which are relevant to that reunion. A new book just out is Canadian author, Ted Barris’s book, The Great Escape—The Canadian Story, for which we have already provided a video link in a previous newsletter. A second would be Raymond Toliver’s, The Interrogator, the biography of Hans Scharff, who interrogated allied fighter pilots. A delightful read is Tuskegee Airman Alex Jefferson’s book, Red Tail Captured—Red Tail Free, and Wolfgang Samuel’s book, German Boy, the story of a German boy growing up in Sagan, is also well worth the reading.
From time to time we will mention some other classic, historically-researched, books of interest. One of those books follows:
Mike would like to suggest, Five Chimneys, by Olga Lengyel, and makes the following comment on it:
“While Stalag Luft III was a different kind of camp than Auschwitz, a book entitled, “Five Chimneys” written by Olga Lengyel, who survived Auschwitz, is a must read for anyone who wants to fully appreciate what the Nazis sought to accomplish and, even more poignantly, what horrific moral dilemmas were confronted by the Auschwitz prisoners themselves. Do not think of Auschwitz only as a holocaust that resulted in the terrible executions of many Jews—–a large percentage of those exterminated there were not Jewish, and included some captured American civilians. You will read this book and ask many questions of yourself, but you also ask, “to whom can I recommend this book?’ Part of that answer is, “my children.”
We welcome book suggestions from our readers as well.
Familiar Name at the Pentagon
Barry Schoen, researcher on Belaria Compound, had a meeting at the Pentagon recently and went down a corridor featuring the Tuskegee Airmen Honor Wall, finding a painting signed by several Tuskegee Airmen including none other than Stalag Luft III POW and friend from so many reunions, Alex Jefferson. Thanks for sending, Barry.
For years, many of us have been fortunate enough to know researcher, Ed Renière, who grew up in Nazi-occupied Belgium. Ed is arguably the best researcher with a knack for finding the impossible. He does this to thank veterans and their descendants for the allies’ sacrifices while saving his country. There is no end to the incredible material that he has found for so many, so it seems a good time to thank humble and helpful Ed for what he has done for all of us. In addition, Ed sends items of interest he knows we will appreciate. Below is Ed’s story growing up in Brussels.
Ed’s website is www.evasioncomete.org
Most recently, Ed has sent the following on successful Great Escaper, Bram von der Stok, who evaded in Belgium. It is roughly translated.
Ed also provided a document he wrote on Escape and Evasion. He continues to look for those downed allied airmen, who were helped in Belgium by the resistance through what was called the Comète Line. The phenomenal work and dedication of the Belgians helped many downed airmen return home. The evaders were often led by young women up and over the Pyrenees Mountains. As a consequence, many Belgians suffered greatly for their assistance and paid the price with their lives or were sent to concentration camps.
In our last mailing, there was the article on teacher Martha Cothren’s splendid gesture to teach school children why they live in freedom today due to the sacrifices of our veterans. Ed was able to find the obituary of Martha’s father, who obviously had such a tremendous impact on her life:
He was Sgt. Archie Cothren – 92nd BG / 407th BS whose aircraft was shot at during the October 9, 1942, mission to Lille. In the link below, Cothren tells in the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEYKUBFjuZE that he was pushed out by the Ball Turret Gunner, Sgt. Oscar R. Billings, and that the badly damaged plane managed to reach the UK.
An example of Ed’s meticulous research is below, cross referencing airmen helped by the Comète Line, some of whom later became Stalag Luft III POWs, including Phil Lamason (also held at Buchenwald, one of the airmen featured in Lost Airmen of Buchenwald documentary, Bram van der Stok, successful Great Escaper, and Roy Langlois, another successful Great Escaper, and #60 out of the tunnel.
RAAF / RCAF, etc
There was a broken link to the award-winning short film we posted in the last newsletter. It seemed to disappear within days of when we found it online. Try this link instead:
It is high definition, so it takes longer to load. For these HD videos, hit pause once it starts until the gray line moves clear across at the bottom. Then hit play again. Be sure to watch full screen.
In addition, James Castle, researcher in England, who is seeking information on the Great Escapers, had his email address listed incorrectly: His email address isJamescastle@btinternet.com
James is compiling information on the escape numbers of the Great Escapers.
Did You Know?
On average 6600 American service men died per MONTH, during WW2 (about 220 a day).
276,000 aircraft manufactured in the US.
43,000 planes lost overseas, including 23,000 in combat.
14,000 lost in the continental U.S.
The staggering cost of aircraft in 1945 dollars
B-17 $204,370. P-40 $44,892.
B-24 $215,516. P-47 $85,578.
B-25 $142,194. P-51 $51,572.
B-26 $192,426. C-47 $88,574.
B-29 $605,360. PT-17 $15,052.
P-38 $97,147. AT-6 $22,952.
From Germany’s invasion of Poland Sept. 1, 1939, until Japan’s surrender on Sept. 2, 1945 = 2,433 days.
America lost an average of 170 planes a day.
A B-17 carried 2,500 gallons of high octane fuel and carried a crew of 10 airmen.
9.7 billion gallons of gasoline consumed.
108 million hours flown.
460 thousand million rounds of aircraft ammo fired overseas.
7.9 million bombs dropped overseas.
2.3 million combat flights.
299,230 aircraft used.
808,471 aircraft engines used.
This and That
- From Steve Kramer, son of a Stalag Luft III POW, comes a link to an Elton John song paying tribute to our WWII veterans. It is well worth hearing, and we thank Steve for it.
- Found on amazon.com
- Leaving you with a smile, from Dr. Tamara Haygood, a reputed exchange between pilots and air traffic controllers that went around the internet a few years ago. For those who did not see it:
The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are renowned as a short-tempered lot. They not only expect one to know one’s gate parking location, but how to get there without any assistance from them. So it was with some amusement that we (a Pan Am 747) listened to the following exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a British Airways 747, call sign Speedbird 206.
Speedbird 206: ” Frankfurt, Speedbird 206! Clear of active runway.”
Ground: “Speedbird 206. Taxi to gate Alpha One-Seven.”
The BA 747 pulled onto the main taxiway and slowed to a stop.
Ground: “Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?”
Speedbird 206: “Stand by, Ground, I’m looking up our gate location now.”
Ground (with quite arrogant impatience):
“Speedbird 206, have you not been to Frankfurt before?”
Speedbird 206 (coolly): “Yes, twice in 1944, but it was dark, — and I
One Last Thing – Making Connections
Mike posted a message on a military forum in 2009 when he was trying to find information on his father’s crew. Five years later, Karl Duggin contacted him, not about the crew but to ask information about his high school music teacher who had been a POW at Stalag Luft III. The prisoners name was Oran Highley who was in South Compound. His name can be clearly seen on the top of the Messiah program, as it turns out that Highley conducted the now famous Messiah presentation at Christmas in the camp. He was a diminutive man nicknamed Spanky. He had been a high school music teacher before the war and returned to the same job and school after the war where he taught until he retired. Mike put Karl in touch with Marilyn, and she checked the names of a list of roommates Oran had at Stalag Luft III. Turns out one of them was Jay Coberly, who attended the reunion in Dayton in 2012. Karl called him to learn more about Oran. Karl also found the book of another man on the crew, Louis Means, who wrote, The Quality of Mercy. The page below mentions Oran. The picture shows Oran in the middle, and on the left is pilot Frank Clemons, nephew of writer, Mark Twain. Clemons was killed in action on May 15, 1943 when his plane went down bombing the sub pens at Wilhelmshaven, Germany.
credit to Louis Means/Karl Duggin
Send us any connections like this that you have made in your research!
Pray for spring!!!!
Marilyn Walton Mike Eberhardt
Daughter of POW Thomas F. Jeffers Son of POW Charles M. Eberhardt