Hello, Families and Friends of Stalag Luft III,
We are so pleased to have so many new recipients of this newsletter. Welcome!
Reunion – August 26-30, 2014 – Colorado Springs, CO – Air Force Academy
Registration forms and agenda have been sent out by now to all recipients of this newsletter. If for some reason you did not receive them, please email either Mike or Marilyn, and we will resend to you. Registration has already been brisk, so we encourage you to register as soon as possible if you wish to attend. There are direct flights into Colorado Springs, (Alaska, American, Allegiant, Delta, & United airlines) and for those who fly into Denver, there is a shuttle that takes passengers from the Denver airport to the hotel. It runs every two hours, and it takes about 2 hours 10 minutes between the hotel and the airport due to other stops in between. The price one way is $50, or $88 for a couple. Groups of three or more might get a bigger discount. For those flying into Colorado Springs, there is a free shuttle only minutes from the hotel.
We will have a great variety of speakers, researchers, authors, and videos as we pay tribute to our Stalag Luft III POWs. A highlight will be a visit to the Air Force Academy nearby to visit the A.P. Clark Stalag Luft III Collections, and we end it all with a gala dinner full of entertainment, socializing, and surprises. If you have never attended before, join the Stalag Luft III community and spend a few days with us.
News from Marek
There was recently a Liberation of Zagan Ceremony on Feb. 18th. At that time, Marek was recognized as a honored curator of historical places to be remembered by the Polish people. He was recognized by the Polish Veterans Association. Picture is below.
New display at the museum can be seen below. Marek would very much like to have some fighter and bomb group patches to display the logos at the museum. Anyone coming to the reunion who has an extra patch could easily give one to Marek there.
The month of March found Marek extremely busy after months of planning and coordinating the 70th Memorial ceremonies and events to pay tribute to the men of the Great Escape. On March 23rd, there was a reenactment show for the public on the grounds of the camp The main event that took place at Tunnel Harry on the 24th of March and was organized with huge support of British Embassy in Warsaw with Defence Attaché Group Captain RAF David Houghton who played key role making arrangements. On March 24th a vintage steam train, named “Harry” left from Poznan and arrived in Zagan. After a short stop at Zagan’s station, the train drove straight to the camp. All passengers went straight to the ceremony at Tunnel Harry.
One of the most poignant of the events was the memorial march by the RAF from Tunnel Harry to the cemetery in Poznan where the ashes of most of the men, who were murdered by the Gestapo, now reside. Fifty members of the RAF each carried a picture of a murder victim. According to Marek, the mission designation was GE50 March (Great Escape 50 March), and the mix of NCOs and officers started out on March 25th. It took four days to reach Poznan by March 29th. They marched approximately 43 kilometers daily in cold and rain and spent the first two nights in local schools and the last night in a fire station in a small village. At each stop, the marchers were given a warm reception. Before departing, they conducted short parades in front of the children and citizens where they had stayed. Charles Clarke and Andy Wiseman, two RAF POWs, who annually returned for the events, stayed with the troops. In Poznan, the marchers held a small ceremony at the cemetery, and each marcher laid the picture he or she carried on the graves.
On March 25th, Marek had to leave for Szczecin (formerly Stettin) to represent Zagan during the preview showing of “The Great Escape to the North.” An official premiere will be held in November. The following link in Polish gives a short preview of the movie in which Marek has a key role. When released, the movie will be in English with Polish subtitles. From Stettin, Marek went straight back to the marchers and joined the troops along the road to finish the march with them.
Activities continued, and on March 27th the “Great Escape Knowledge Competition” took place which was organized in replica Hut 104. Teams of three from many local schools competed testing their knowledge regarding the Great Escape. Also included were some physical tasks such as a “carrying the sand” relay race. Activities concluded on March 29th with a cross country run as a tribute to The Great Escape. It was 7.5 kilometers around Stalag VIIIC and started and finished at the museum. Over 300 runners participated, within three categories, men, women and children. Polish television and newspapers covered all events, giving tremendous publicity to the museum and the work Marek does there. Both he and his assistant, Mirek, will once more attend the Stalag Luft III Reunion in Colorado Springs where attendees can hear more about the events.
Marek and POW Andy Wiseman Re-enactors
The Wooden Horse Escape POW Andy Wiseman sneaks in as a reenactor
Re-enactor von Lindeiner arresed by Gestapo
Guests A/C Clarke cutting barbed wire
Gun Salute Wreath Laying
Marek on left in Stettin
Polish School Children in #104 Race
Links to memorial in Zagan: Thank you to Keith Ogilvie, son of POW escape survivor, F/Lt Alfred Keith Ogilvie
Happy 90th Birthday, Ed!
POW Ed Dement poses next to an ice sculpture of a B-24, made to celebrate his recent 90th birthday.
Incredibly Proud Grandfather
Micah Larson, grandson of Stalag Luft III POW, Ed Bender, recently achieved the rank of Eagle Scout on March 1st. At his side was another Eagle Scout, his grandfather, Ed, who presented Micah with his own merit badge sash from the 1920s-30s. The announcer who introduced them said the following:
Micah’s grandfather was a Boy Scout in the 1920s and early 1930s and he learned the same Scout oath that our Troop 15 scouts learn and recite today. He took that oath seriously, serving his country as a B-17 pilot during World War II and suffering as a prisoner of war in a German POW camp for over a year. At age 95, retired Lt. Colonel Edward Bender joins us today as a living example of the character that Scouting has reinforced in young men throughout its history. Mr. Bender, would you please stand to present your merit badge sash to your grandson, Eagle Scout Micah Larson?
There weren’t too many dry eyes in the place, and Ed Bender they received a standing ovation. Thanks to Ed’s daughter, Miriam Larson for sharing this wonderful story.
Old Bold Pilots
A recent newspaper article featured an interesting group in southern California. One member of this group is Chris Scharff, son of Master Interrogator of Germany, Hans Scharff. Pilots and families from several generations belong to the group, including several Luftwaffe pilots. The gathering enjoys a camaraderie unique to pilots
Nazi Bunkers in Denmark
Three Nazi bunkers on a beach have been uncovered by violent storms off the Danish coast, providing a store of material for history buffs and military archaeologists. The bunkers were found in practically the same condition as they were on the day the last Nazi soldiers left them, down to the tobacco in one trooper’s pipe and a half-finished bottle of schnapps. This bunker was entombed under the sand dunes until a violent storm swept away the sands.
The bunkers had not been touched since the war. The bunkers were three of 7,000 built by the Germans as part of Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’ from Norway to the south of France .
But while the vast majority were almost immediately looted or destroyed, these three were entombed under the sand dunes of a remote beach near the town of Houvig since 1945.
They were uncovered only because recent storms sent giant waves cascading over them, sweeping away the sand and exposing glimpses of the cement and iron structures.
Kim Clausen, curator of the Ringkoebing-Skjern museum views a heater retrieved from the bunker.
Stamps of the German Eagle of Adolf Hitler and the Swastika were also retrieved.
The bunkers were located by two nine-year-old boys on holiday with their parents, who then informed the authorities. Archaeologists were able to carefully force a way in, and were astounded at what they found.
“What’s so fantastic is that we found them completely furnished with beds, chairs, tables, communication systems and the personal effects of the soldiers who lived inside,” says Jens Andersen, the curator of the Hanstholm museum.
The discovery of the fully-furnished bunkers was ‘unique in Europe ,’ said Bent Anthonisen, a Danish expert on European bunkers.
And a third expert, Tommy Cassoe, enthused: It was like entering the heart of a pyramid with mummies all around. What I saw blew me away: it was as if the German soldiers had left only yesterday. The team working with Cassoe emptied the structures within a few days of boots, undergarments, socks, military stripes, mustard and aquavit bottles, books, inkpots, stamps featuring Hitler, medicines, soda bottles, keys, hammers and other objects. All of the objects from the shelters have been taken to the conservation centre at Oelgod museum, some 20 miles from the beach to be examined.
The centre’s German curator, Gert Nebrich, judged the find “very interesting because it is so rare. We don’t expect contemporary objects like these to be so well preserved.
Maybe it’s because they were kept for 60 years in the cold and dark like in a big vacuum,” he said, carefully showing four stamps featuring Hitler’s image and the German eagle, found in one bunker. The Germans left the bunkers in May 1945 after the Nazi surrender.
Historical records show that Gerhard Saalfed was a 17-year-old soldier with the German army when he arrived at the bunker in January 1945.
Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945, but it wasn’t until two days later that he and his fellow soldiers left their remote station.
They shut the steel doors of the bunker behind them on their remote beach and went to the nearest town ten miles away to surrender.”The remote location of the bunkers and the drifting sands that covered them saved them from being ransacked,” said Cassoe.
End of an Era -1944? No, it’s the year 2010
Early Saturday morning in a rainy Seattle – 0300 hrs local time. The location: Boeing’s historic Plant II – about to be torn down after three quarters of a century producing thousands of the most significant and historic airplanes ever built. In preparation for demolition, three airplanes that have been undergoing Museum of Flight restoration in the factory’s assembly bays will have to be moved. Just as in days past, with lights and images reflecting off the wet pavement, the last three airplanes are rolled out. The giant hangar doors are raised, the tugs and tow bars are hooked up, and with lights flashing, they are moved out of the factory and onto the historic ramp. Where so many have gone before. Then across East Marginal Way and out onto Boeing Field.
They are the last airplanes to roll out of these doors. Ever.. First out isn’t even a Boeing airplane – but rather a Lockheed Super G Constellation that flew for Trans-Canada Air Lines. The Connie is destined for the Air Park , next to Air Force One, after a Plant II stay of 1 year and three days.
Next is a Boeing B-17 – especially heart-tugging as she is the last B-17 to roll out of these doors. Boeing built 6981 B-17s in this factory during WW II, at a peak rate of 16 per day. I guess you could say they built 6981 and rolled out 6982 – including this last ship – 65 years after her last sister.
A poignant moment in time. Finally, a Boeing B-29 rolls under the raised hangar doors and out into the dark and wet night. The very last airplane that will ever roll from this factory.
This Boeing B-29 is the “last of the last.” The now empty factory bays sit silently awaiting their fate.
Everyone present knew they were witnessing history unfolding in front of their eyes. More than a few tears ran down more than a few cheeks, to mingle with the soft Seattle drops of rain. The ramp that these three historic airplanes roll across, and the building they leave is one of the most historic aviation sites in the world.
Here, in April 1944, are the 16 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers produced in this building – that day, and every day!
Did You Know:
- Stalag Luft III POW, David Westheimer, who later went on to become a famous novelist and screenwriter, and author of Von Ryan’s Express, was in the process of writing a script for a move about POW Ewell McCright, who transcribed the secret ledgers of South Compound and were later transcribed by Arnold Wright, when David had a stroke and died.
- After the war Stalag Luft III POW, Frank Ronzio, went to Hollywood and became an actor. If you ever saw Clint Eastwood in Escape from Alcatraz, Frank played the part of the convict with the pet mouse which he fed while speaking with Eastwood in the chow hall.
- Another Luft III kriegie who became a movie star was 2/Lt Edward W. Kemjmerer, pilot of a P-51 of the 9th Air Force shot down June 17,
1944. He was confined to the north compound. He played bass the Luft III band. After the war, he changed his name to Kemmer and was the Commander of the Space Patrol on TV from 1950-1955. He appeared on many TV programs and in motion pictures.
- RAF POW, John Casson, who was the son of British actor LewisCassonand actress Sybil Thorndyke, post-war, played the part of a Salvation Army preacher in the movie, On the Beach.
- B-17 pilot, and expert trumpet player, Henry Wallace Kinnan, became a pioneer in the professional approach to TV Weathercasting, became active in the American Meteorological Society as a spokesman for TV/Radio weathercasting as a career field for meteorologists, and was appointed as a charter member of the AMS Board for Weathercasting in 1960, and helped establish the criteria for the now-familiar AMS Seal Of Approval for weather presentations. He was awarded AMS Seal #3 (over 1000 now in force) and subsequently served on the AMS Board for Industrial Meteorology and a number of committees of the Society. He was named a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society in 1988. * Was transferred to Cleveland by NBC in 1965 to fill a need for a professional weathercaster on their station there and served until retirement in 1978. During this period was active as a meteorological consultant to the Cleveland Board of Education, the FAA Regional Airways Center at Oberlin, Ohio, and as guest lecturer on aviation meteorology at Kent State University and Ashland College. In addition, continued playing trumpet on a part-time basis with one of the leading big-bands in the area. After years of television weather broadcasting in a variety of locales, Wally was called out of retirement as a TV weathercaster by the management of WTSP-TV, the ABC station in Tampa- St Petersburg, Florida in 1978, again to fill a need for an experienced professional meteorologist at that time. On-air duties were ended by 1981 but continued as an active consultant to the station until final retirement in 1987. After serving in a number of offices for the Society throughout his career, Wally was honored on his retirement by being named a FELLOW of the AMERICAN METEOROLOGICAL SOCIETY in 1987. During his years as a prisoner at Stalag Luft III, Wally was a source of entertainment and lifter of spirits in the camp as he participated in the musical productions there. Thank you to his son, Lt. Gen. Tim Kinnan for providing this information. See pictures below:
Wally with trumpet
Did you know Gen. George Patton had a fair weather prayer request Divine intervention to provide fair weather for crucial battles?
Finally enjoying some spring weather,
Marilyn Walton Mike Eberhardt
Daughter of POW Thomas F. Jeffers Son of POW Charles M. Eberhardt