Dear Family and Friends of Stalag Luft III,
Before getting to updates, stories, and items of interest, we would like to remind those who wish to attend the Stalag Luft III reunion to register early for the reunion, as rooms are filling up very quickly. Our group will be there during the Air Force Academy’s Parent’s Weekend also, and although we have blocked many rooms at the Elegante, where all the activities will take place, once they are taken, the overflow will have to stay at other hotels, and from what we are being told, those other hotels are almost, if not full now. So it is advised to get hotel and air reservations soon. For those flying into Denver, there is a cheaper shuttle service than Super Shuttle, the one that Armed Forces Reunions listed on the registration forms. The alternate is: http://www.coloradoshuttle.com/ which has a better rate. Better yet, fly into Colorado Springs, and there is a free shuttle from the airport there to the hotel. These are the airlines that fly into Colorado Springs (COS): Delta, American, Alaska, United, and Air Canada. There are also flights from Denver to Colorado Springs.
After attending the Stalag Luft III Reunion in Cincinnati several years ago and enjoying the company of our POWs, we have just gotten word that Guy Gruters, an Air Force Academy graduate, who was held as a POW in North Vietnam for five-and-a-half years, will once more join us and has volunteered to speak to our group. Hope to see everyone there!
We are thankful for the great responses to the newsletters and the willingness of so many to share their individual stories. Many of you have sent items to be included in the newsletter, and those will be found below.
First, we start with some very sad news.
Rest in Peace Mr. Ambassador
On May 2, 2014, in s suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, Ambassador John E. Dolibois, age 95, President Reagan’s appointee as the Ambassador of Luxembourg, died at his home. Many will remember the ambassador from the Stalag Luft III Dayton reunion in 2012 telling stories of the days he interrogated all the top Nazis in preparation for the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. He had been a close friend of Marilyn’s for over a decade, and after the reunion, he said he loved all the people he met there and did not want to go home. Typical of John’s humor, he said that when he got back to his apartment in a retirement community he would again have to go to all the organ recitals that people gave, “Oh, my liver, oh my heart, oh my gall bladder.” He was a man who truly had a twinkle in his eye and impish sense of humor. After the reunion, he emailed with so many he met there and called them “his people.” To visit John at his place meant accepting the gracious offer of Luxembourg wine just before he brought out his fascinating World War II memorabilia. Then he started telling stories… and what stories they were! His part in saving the Austrian Lipizzaner horses from the Russians at the end of the war was always a favorite. An actor played his part in a later Disney movie about the horses. He would casually pass over an original picture of Hermann Göring the day before he committed suicide as if it was a routine photo that everyone had. The last visit with him found John sorting through his possessions deciding what to leave to his family and what to donate to Miami University, where they will be naming a room after him. Up until the end, he was still giving his lectures and continued to draw big crowds. Below are some pictures of the ambassador. Two were taken right after the war when Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, the Obersalzburg retreat above the town of Berchtesgaden, showed recent heavy bomb damage. John was one of the first to see the bombed out shell.
The ambassador with Jim Jones and Jere Jean Yeager, son and daughter of Doolittle Raider, Davy Jones, at the Stalag Luft III Reunion in Dayton – 2012
With the family of RAF POW Wemyss Wylton Todd, Virginia and Alan Eades and Peter Hynes
The ambassador at the Stalag Luft III Reunion with Patriot Guard in Dayton. POW Tuskegee Airman, Alex Jefferson, in the background.
With Tyler Butterworth, son of RAF POW Peter Butterworth – Dayton 2012
Funeral Service – May 2014
John’s legacy is now saved forever through interviews that were recorded over the years. His book, Pattern of Circles, is highly recommended.
Walton/Eberhardt Book is Released
We are pleased to announce the publication of our new book. For the past half year, we have been working on this book, From Interrogation to Liberation, A Photographic Journey, Stalag Luft III, the Road to Freedom. The book is quite large, and also quite heavy, (4 lbs., 5 oz!) as it contains over 700 pictures and is over 700 pages long. The many stories, include those of POWs Alex Jefferson, Irv Baum, and the late Lt. Gen. Albert P. Clark. We have also included heretofore untold stories of the German personnel in the camp, stories of the RAF POWs, and touching stories of the Poles flying with the RAF to name only a few. One particularly favorite story is about a dog taken on a mission that later finds itself to be a Stalag Luft III POW canine. Many stories in the book are humorous, and many are quite poignant. We were blessed that so many families and so many international archives opened their doors to us, sending us pictures for the book, many of which not seen before, that allowed us to tell related stories. All of the proceeds of this book will go to benefit institutions that preserve the prisoners’ memories, especially the POW Camps Museum in Zagan that pays honor to all of our loved ones who were held there. The book can be found on amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, and amazon.ca for Canadian buyers. We will also be selling autographed, discounted, copies at the next reunion in Colorado Springs.
Please take note regarding our experience with the printer that transferred a flawed product to Amazon in the U.S. In the initial printing of the book, there were some production problems, the largest being that as many as 24 pages were left blank. That delayed the sale of our book, which we halted several weeks ago, until the publisher could fix the problem and resubmit the book to Amazon.com. But Amazon did not pull that original copy as directed by the publisher. The problem has now been resolved, but should anyone receive a book with 24 blank white pages, please let us know, and we can advise on how to get it replaced. It is standard procedure for all printed books to have a few white pages to mark new chapters, as the new edition will, but the older one would be readily identifiable with far more! We have received assurances from the publisher and Amazon.com that this will not happen, as these are digitally printed on demand when ordered, but we just wanted to alert anyone purchasing the book, even though the chance of this happening is nearly zero. While waiting for the Amazon problems to be fixed, Mike & Marilyn ordered copies to sell at the discounted price of $33.00, which includes shipping in the U.S. This supply is limited, but we can send out on a first come first serve basis until they are gone. Just email either of us, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
News from Marek
Checking in with Museum Director, Marek Lazarz, brings the following. Many will remember the KLIM (milk spelled backwards) that came in Red Cross parcels. A creative artist in England has used current-day KLIM powder to create a tribute to the 50 POWs murdered by the Gestapo after the Great Escape.
The portraits were painted with heated KLIM milk (mixed with water) and were made by a young artist from UK, Jon (Jonathan) England, and were displayed at the Zagan Palace during the recent commemoration that took place honoring the 50 POWs killed after the Great Escape. Above, Marek, on the left, poses with Keepa Hipango from New Zealand, who is a relative of John Pohe, one of the 50 murdered. After the ceremony, the portraits were later moved to the museum. The artist lives in Somerset, England.
Permanent Display at the Museum
Below, the artist speaks for himself:
Whatever Happened to KLIM??
It seems that KLIM is still available, marketed mostly to women in the Middle East to prevent osteoporosis.
Letter of Praise for Marek from Recent Visitor, Andra Welde:
Thank you so much for touring our family through your museum and through the surrounding grounds. We left your tour with a real sense of how George Welde lived while he was there. You were able to give us a setting for all of the stories that we have heard over the last 70 years. We can’t thank you enough for how much time you spent with us and for all of the information you shared with us. You are so well suited for this job.
Also, please send us information for how we can donate to your museum. We were all very moved by what you have created there. It is so important that that area be protected and that the history of what happened there be preserved. You have done a fantastic job in curating so many artifacts, stories and history for the museum. We would like to help with that cause.
Thank you again Marek. You helped fill in the pieces of a major part of our family’s history.
From the Air Force Academy
Mary Ruwell, Archivist at the A.F. Academy sends the following regarding the reunion visit there:
I am delighted that the Stalag Luft III reunion is being held in Colorado Springs this August. We are planning Thursday, August 28, as your day at the Academy. We will have a day in the library (as well as lunch and a visit to the Chapel), introducing you to our holdings created by former POWs of Stalag Luft III, which are considered the most extensive holdings about American airmen Kriegies in the world. If you are interested in doing additional research, we can help you on Monday or Tuesday. But I would appreciate your letting us know when you are planning on coming and what specifically you wish to see. Unfortunately, Friday is the beginning of Parents Weekend here; there are no classes and we are usually inundated with cadets. We are closed on weekends and Monday is Labor Day, so we will be closed on September 1 as well. If you have not seen the McDermott Library website recently, we have lots of Stalag Luft III documents posted athttp://afac.sdp.sirsi.net — click on Special Collections on left, then find Stalag Luft III on the left.
Mary Elizabeth Ruwell, PhD
Academy Archivist and Chief, Special Collections
2354 Fairchild Drive, Suite 6A52
USAF Academy, CO 80840-6214
Stalag Luft III POWs Attend Buchenwald Memorial
German researcher, Bernd Schmidt, POW Chat Bowen, POW Dick Bedford, POW Don Schearer, and POW Ed Carter Edwards. The former POWs flew to Germany to attend the ceremony in April for a memorial arranged by film maker, Mike Dorsey, who documented their story in The Lost Airmen of Buchenwald. Thanks to Bonnie Bedford-White for the touching photo. Mike Dorsey will speak at the reunion and share more of this story. Some of our POWs who we held at Buchenwald will be in attendance also.
From POW Joe Consolmagno
“My son the brother — Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, will deliver the Commencement Address and receive an honorary degree at Georgetown College on Saturday May 17.” Brother Guy is astronomer to the Pope, and he has written two books on astronomy.
POW Tex Ash Has Died
Jennifer Schwartz passed along the death of a well-known POW at Stalag Luft III, William “Tex” Ash, an American who flew with the RAF. Having spent time interviewing him, she reflected on her time with him:
“William ‘Tex’ Ash was an extraordinary gentleman whose enormous fortitude and talents were exceeded only by his humility and generosity. He was the kind of man who always chiseled warmer and sweeter hearts into those who were gifted with his presence.”
Tex Ash can be seen over the shoulder of Kommandant von Lindeiner, when he was one of many troublesome POWs purged from the camp. (black arrow)
Speaking of Von Lindeiner
A new book by Mike & Marilyn is nearing the printing stage. More info will appear in the next newsletter. Once more, all proceeds from that book will benefit the Stalag Luft III Museum in Zagan and the American Ex-Prisoners of War Organization.
RAF POW Bobby Laumans Has Passed Away
Barb Edy, in Canada, daughter of POW Don Edy, has sent notice of the death of POW Bobby Laumans, a good friend of her father’s. Bobby was a well known character in Stalag Luft III North Compound, a very talented musician playing in the orchestra and bands that formed in camp. He was also a good artist, helping with set design and costumes, and, of course, he became a forger for the Great Escape. Two of his closest friends, his roommates, Picard and Christensen, were shot in the escape. But mostly Bobby was very well known for his incredible female roles in North camp’s theatre productions, wowing the kriegies as a ‘torch light singer’ and ‘chanteuse.’ Bobby not only had great energy for life, he was also kind, and if there was a opportunity to lift the men’s spirits, Bobby saw it and grabbed it. When the marching band stepped out on the playing field during Sport Day, Bobby led the way in a Drum Majorette uniform (fashioned in camp of course). After the war, Bobby was an accomplished Sabena pilot and chief test pilot when the 747s came along.
Chance to Bid on a Flight on a Lancaster
Thanks to Barb, too, for spotting this opportunity being offered for the person on your gift list that has everything!
Historic flight on a Lancaster up for bids:
While the bid for the Lancaster can be a bit pricey, our readers are reminded that the Collings Foundation tours the United States each year with a B-17 and a B-24 offering the opportunity to ride in them at fairly reasonable prices. When the Foundation was in Dallas a couple years ago, Mike took the opportunity and flew in the bombardier’s seat of a B-17 as part of trying to capture his father’s experience in WWII. “Flying in the nose of a B-17 is like hanging out over the world with an almost 360 degree view of everything to be seen—including attacking German fighters in WWII. Must have been pretty nerve-wracking, particularly on those long 8-12 hour flights. My father’s diary speaks of bullet holes through the plexiglass nose where he sat and flak explosions just outside. Definitely worth the ride if anyone gets a chance.” The Collings Foundation tour schedule can be found on their website, http://www.collingsfoundation.org/menu.htm where they post their annual Wings of Freedom tour locations.
Marilyn has flown in the B-24, as well, and can attest to the thrill of such an experience!
Saxophones and Dog Tags
The listing is Behind the Wire notes that POW Ira Salz in South Compound was Protestant, but according to his son, Steven Salz, that was not the case. He tells a most interesting story about his musician father below:
“My father is Jewish. He had the foresight when he bailed out to snap his dog tags in two and get rid of the ‘H’ for Hebrew. Apparently, the German hatred of Jewish POWs was well known in 1944. He told me he was still bending the tags back and forth while being guarded by the Hungarians. One of them saw he was doing something but not really knowing what. The Hungarian soldier came over to my father and cracked him across the back with the butt of his rifle. When that soldier walked away, my father continued until the dog tag broke. He told the first people to interrogate him, he was Protestant. My father said no one ever questioned him about the broken dog tags.”
Steven continues with a second story:
“The second story occurred about three years ago. I was explaining to my Father and Mother about Google and how it worked. They never owned a computer but had heard much about Google. I pulled up the web site and asked my father to pick any subject. He chose Stalag Luft III, which I then Googled. He looked at the pictures of the camp and recognized some of the buildings but did not recognize any people. At the bottom of the Google page was a reference to the ‘Luft Bansters”. I asked him what that referred to, and he said when he first got to the camp, the Germans allowed the prisoners to have a band. The Red Cross (I think) supplied the instruments. (My father has been a musician his whole life. He played in a band in the Catskill Mountains when he was a teenager and that is where he met my mom). He told me the Germans named them the Luft Bansters which sounded like Luft Gangsters. (The Germans thought it was funny.) Anyhow, I clicked on the link for the Luft Bansters and several photos came up. In the photo I have attached, my father is front and center playing the Saxophone (second from the right, looking out at the conductor. That was a pretty exciting moment to see my father in the prisoner of war camp. I have since learned that the leader of the band was an airman named William ‘Dusty’ Runner. He stayed in the Air Force as a flight trainer after the war and was killed in a car crash on the Air Base in Texas in 1946. I received that information from a relative of his.”
“Dusty” Runner conducting – South Compound POW Ira Salz – center
Connections – Flak and Friends
Some years ago when Marilyn was researching, she found Ernie, one of the members of the flak battalion that shot her father’s B-24 from the sky north of Kiel, Germany. He helped her with German translations for years afterward. When, Mike Woodworth, son of POW Charles Woodworth, mentioned that his father was also shot down over Kiel, Ernie’s name was passed along. Many years later, Mike Woodworth completed the connection:
“Several years ago, when planning a trip to Europe to visit sites relevant to my father’s service during the war, one of the places that we wanted to visit was Kiel on the Baltic coast of Northern Germany. The purpose of going to Kiel was to see where my father’s plane, the Madame Betterfly, was shot down after being hit by flak, and where my father was captured after bailing out of the mortally wounded bomber. While planning this portion of the trip, Marilyn Walton put me in touch with a gentleman by the name of Ernie Hasenclever. Ernie was a 16-year-old schoolboy in Kiel in March of 1943 when he and his classmates were drafted to help man the German anti-aircraft positions defending the city and the German naval facilities located there. Ernie served in that capacity until February of 1944, living at site and keeping up with his schoolwork when not manning his position during one of many air raids against the city and its military installations. He was there on May 19, 1943, the day flak brought down my father’s plane.
A few years after the end of the war, Ernie immigrated to Canada and now lives in British Columbia. For the past few years, he and his wife have escaped the Canadian winters by driving down to Yuma, Arizona and to Southern California.
After our trip, I continued to exchange e-mails with Ernie, and he expressed an interest in meeting when they were driving to or from their winter escape. In March of this year month we were finally able to arrange for them to stop on their way north to Canada, and asked them to come to the house for dinner. They accepted the invitation, and we had a very enjoyable time getting to know Ernie and his wife, Gil. Ernie told us about his experiences during the war, and after dinner he and I spent some time on the Internet, Ernie showing me several websites he had found that contained information about the air defenses in Kiel. It was a very interesting evening, especially being able to have a conversation with a man who had some small part in the defense of Kiel when my was shot down in 1943. They may have been on opposite sides during a very brutal and tragic war, but I think that under different circumstances, Ernie and my father could have been friends.”
Ernie left, and Mike Woodworth, right
Also from Mike Woodworth, a recent posting online showing Gen. Patton at Stalag VIIA in Moosburg, Germany. Two Stalag Luft III POWs wearing caps are on the left, identified as Dick Coffee and Claudius Belk. Picture taken by Herman Lindsey. Thanks Mike!
For those seeking military records: Anyone who was getting a disability payments from the VA prior to the ’73 fire at the NPRC would have had those Military Medical Records transferred to the VA. They did not get burned in the fire with the other military records. Also, the International Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland, has stopped doing POW record searches for WWII vets while they update the paper files into their computer system. They said it will take about two years to complete. Thanks to Rick Perle, who was researching his father, POW Richard Perle.
This company is the place to contact regarding the caterpillar pins issued after the war to men who were saved by a parachute. Red eyes on the gold pin indicate that the plane was on fire, blue eyes on the pin indicate the plane went down in water, and clear eyes indicate the plane went down on land. Marilyn was able to get a copy of her father’s original letter he sent requesting one, so these letters are still kept on file there for anyone seeking them.
Lucy Nesbitt, daughter of POW Milton McCracken, sent the following contact information:
Switlik Parachute Co. Inc
1325 E. State St
Trenton, NJ 08609
Marie Gowen, Customer Service Manager
Barrack Numbering at Stalag Luft III
Center: 39-46, 51-52, 55-56
North: 101-112 (102-latrine/washroom, 111-cookhouse), 119-123
West: 157-162 (no 163, it could be cookhouse), 164-173
(Note: no numbers in the 140s range)
- Virginia Rolls of Film Reveal Surprises:
Miriam Larson, daughter of POW Ed Bender, sent the following story involving 1930 images taken in Italy. Thanks, Miriam.
- Dutch Tribute:
From Cass Weiland comes the story of a touching tribute to the men of Operation Market Garden:
“About six miles from Maastricht, in the Netherlands, lie buried 8,301 American soldiers, who died in “Operation Market Garden,” in the battles to liberate Holland in the fall winter of 1944. Every one of the men buried in the cemetery, as well as those in the Canadian and British military cemeteries, has been adopted by a Dutch family, who mind the grave, decorate it, and keep alive the memory of the soldier they have adopted. It is even the custom to keep a portrait of “their” American soldier in a place of honor in their home. Annually, on “Liberation Day,” memorial services are held for “the men who died to liberate Holland.” The day concludes with a concert. The final piece is always “Il Silenzio,” a memorial piece commissioned by the Dutch and first played in 1965 on the 20th anniversary of Holland’s liberation. It has been the concluding piece of the memorial concert ever since. This year the soloist was a 13-year-old Dutch girl, Melissa Venema, backed by André Rieu and his orchestra (the Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands). This beautiful concert piece is based upon the original version of taps and was composed by Italian composer Nino Rossi.
- Operation Downfall:
- One Last Ride:
- Watch for the release in North America for this fantastic new D-Day film that will be 3-D.
70th D-Day. A documentary on the big screen in 3D
France – March 28
The documentary, “D-Day Normandy 1944″ tells the story of the different phases of Operation Neptune. The film has already been released in Paris, on the hemispherical screen of La Geode and will be showing in a few of theaters in North America by the end of May. It will be made available on June 6 at the Zenith in Caen in Normandy. The condensed history is told in 40 minutes.
“On the evening of June 5, 1944, the largest armada of all time takes to the sea from the south coast of England, towards Normandy. At the dawn of “D-Day,” the landings began on designated-by-code names beaches–“Utah” and “Omaha” for 55,000 Americans, “Gold,” “Juno,” and “Sword” by 75000 British and Canadians, and by a handful of French free.
On 6 June a large hole was drilled in the Atlantic Wall , a turning point for the end of the Second World War. The results of the Battle of Normandy caused high casualties for the Allies and the Germans, but also for civilian victims of the bombing. The city of Saint- Lô was nearly destroyed – 95% of it damaged.”
The film will be narrated by actor François Cluzet in the French version, and television journalist, Tom Brokaw, will narrate the English version.
- WWII Bombers: http://www.globalaviationresource.com/v2/2014/02/20/d-day-70-pt-3-operation-argument-the-big-week-bomber-offensive-february-1944/
- Stalag Luft III Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/266042346757209/.
- http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/how-blowing-smoke-rings-saved-pows-life/article18713905/#dashboard/follows/– Death of POW James Goodson – from Keith Ogilvie, son of RAF POW Paul Ogilvie.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKqT0-3JV5E&feature=youtube_gdata_playersent by POW T.B. Wilson, a touching Memorial Day Tribute.
What Became of All the German Aircraft Brought to the U.S?
“Most of the German aircraft which are not in museums are part of the runway foundation of O’Hare’s International airport. It used to be a government owned Douglas Aircraft operated bomber plane factory runway. After the war, the U.S. parked most of the aircraft at the idle bomber factory. When they decided to convert the bomber factory into a civilian international airport, they had to increase the size of the runway, and to do that they used the captured German aircraft. There are hundreds upon hundreds of crushed aircraft under the runway.” Thanks to Claudius Scharff for this information, son of Master Interrogator, Hans Scharff.
To see some of the German aircraft:
This is a 1945 air show at Freeman Field in Seymour, Indiana – The film is poor quality, but there are some pictures of rare aircraft…It is history as many have not seen it. It is a spectacular 10.5 minute piece of film–Nazi jets, Nazi helicopters, Italian fighters, and flying JU-88s. It is fascinating footage of captured weapons. This footage is ONLY four months after the German surrender and just one month after the Japanese surrender! Great music will definitely get you in that WWII mood. It is a nearly 70 year look back at a victory celebration at the end of the WWII with music by Glen Miller and his band. Miller was shot down over the English Channel on Dec. 15, 1944, while heading to Paris to give a show to the troops there.
POW Weatherman Wally Kinnan
As a follow up to our last newsletter’s story on Stalag Luft III trumpet player, Henry “Wally” Kinnan, his son, Lt. Gen. Tim Kinnan, has located post-war early pictures of his father as a t.v. weatherman, who became very well known over the years. Wally Kinnan is yet one more Stalag Luft III POW who went on to prominence after the war! Thanks, Tim, for these pictures.
Follow Up on POW Oran Highley
Oran had directed the Messiah presentation at Stalag Luft III and used his outstanding musical ability to entertain the POWs. After the war, he returned home and continued teaching music at the school where he had worked before the war, and where years later Karl Duggin became his students. Karl became very interested in Oran’s story and located his grave but found it needed a big facelift. So Karl arranged for the work to be done. The carpeting around the grave had badly deteriorated, so Karl had it replaced in addition to having other cosmetic work on the markers done. He decided to go to Oklahoma recently to see the grave. Pictures follow of the work Karl had done on the grave to make it presentable for Memorial Day. Thanks for sharing this, Karl and for honoring this deserving patriot.
German Robots in WWII
Interesting link Mike found regarding the early use of robots by the Germans:
Countdown to Colorado begins!
Marilyn Walton Mike Eberhardt
Daughter of POW Thomas F. Jeffers Son of POW Charles M. Eberhardt