Stalag Luft III Newsletter #14 from Marilyn Walton and Mike Eberhardt – October 20, 2014
Greetings to SLIII Family and Friends,
We are thankful for all the items of interest that so many of our readers have sent to us, so this newsletter will be chock full of them, likely something for everyone!
Post reunion, Marilyn received many emails, and she answered all of them, but as files were being restored to her computer after her hard drive crashed, she has found some people never received the replies. If you emailed and did not get a reply, please resend!
We would like everyone to know that we will be wiring money from the sale of our new book plus all donations collected at the reunion, sales of the SLIII patches, etc. by mid November. Many of you have asked how you could contribute to the museum. Since Poland does not use checks, and the museum cannot process credit cards, we have always wired money to Marek. To keep anyone wishing to donate from paying the hefty bank wiring fee, we would be glad to include your donations with ours. If you would like us to do that, please email either of us and send your check to us, marking it as a museum donation. (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) Marek has done phenomenal work with the funds sent to him as he updates and expands the museum. Relatives of POWs, who have visited recently, have been very impressed with the progress being made there. Marek has designed new plaques to list the names of the POWs in whose names donations have been made. We would need the POW’s name and rank at time he was held at SLIII, and middle initial if any. The names will be engraved on silver plates for the plaque which will be hung on the wall of the museum near the flag plaque, which now has all 50 spots filled. At one time Marilyn had a list of those who had asked about donating, but when her hard drive crashed, even with back up, that list was lost. Thanks to all of you for your generosity in helping to remember our SLIII POWs in such an appropriate place. Donations MUST be received by Nov. 15 in order to be included in the 2014 money transfer.
Request for Picture or Video
POW Bill Grafton is asking if anyone took a video or picture of him dancing at the Banquet at the CO reunion. Please let us know so we can get it to this dancing phenomenon!
From The Air Force Academy – Included in the Dean of Faculty’s Weekly Notes
Remembering our fine day at the Academy during the reunion when we found out what it was like to be a cadet.
Saving a Little Girl
You never know what singing POWs at a reunion are capable of. Little Eliza O’Neill is being treated in Columbus, Ohio, for a rare disease, Sanfilippo syndrome. The cure was discovered at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, but more funding is needed before the clinical trials of the drug can take place so that she and others like her can benefit from it. She is almost five now– by age six it will be too late for her. Eliza’s story is on this link: http://www.gofundme.com/ElizaONeill and it has been told in national publications and on national t.v. as well. Another $700,000 needs to be raised to reach the final goal.
One fundraiser for her involves people singing just two lines of a song to be posted on her website. Who better to draw attention to her cause than our own singing POWs? See the link below to hear them singing at the reunion. Thanks to our musical POWs, all over ninety now, who gave their permission to use their images to help this sweet little girl!
Honor for Tuskegee Airmen
From POW Alexander Jefferson:
Tuskegee Airmen to be honored with memorial highway:
Please see the following link also to see what Alex is now up to:
Also from Alex:
Surprise at 8th AF Historical Society Reunion in Nashville, Tennessee
Belgian researcher, Ed Reniere, was brought over for the recent reunion of the Mighty 8th. He is an expert researcher and an authority on the Belgian Comete Line, Belgian resistance workers helping downed airmen escape through Spain. Beyond that, when anyone is researching mission records or their POW’s history, Ed’s name immediately comes to mind. When a bit of information seems impossible to find, we know Ed will find it. Many histories on WWII and about POWs could not have been written without Ed’s help, and his name appears in the credits of countless books. When those of us at the CO reunion learned he was coming to Tennessee, several of us decided to surprise him, such is our devotion to this wonderful man.
New Book on the Wooden Horse Escape
Author, Robert Laplander, has completed his book on the Wooden Horse Escape that took place in East Compound. This incredible story is told in great detail.
www.woodenhorseescape.com It can also be purchased on amazon.com
Dr. John Hurt, University of Delaware, who attended the Dayton reunion, has just had his book published:
Odyssey of a Bombardier: The POW Log of Richard M. Mason
It can be purchased on amazon.com The royalties go to Mason’s widow.
We Mourn their Loss
Former RAF POW, Ken Rees, author of Lie in the Dark and Listen, had planned to make a video for our SLIII Reunion in Colorado. But age finally caught up with this intrepid fighter pilot, and at the close of our reunion, we learned he had died at his home in Wales. The picture below shows him recently reading POW Don Edy’s book, Goon in the Block. The photo was taken by his son, Martyn Rees while he and his dad were waiting for a pre-arranged conference call between the Rees/Edy families. Thanks to Barb Edy for the picture. This dear man, known to so many, is the end of an era. Below is his British obituary:
The last remaining British survivor of the Great Escape team has died aged 93.
Flight Lieutenant Ken Rees spent much of World War Two as a prisoner, and was part of the legendary escape from Stalag Luft III camp.
He was the last man pulled from the tunnel during the escape when it was discovered by a guard.
Mr Rees had been credited as the inspiration for Steve McQueen’s character in the film of the escape, although he always denied this.
He joined the RAF at 18 and flew Wellington bombers during the war, before being shot down in flames over Norway in 1942 and being taken prisoner.
He was later captured and eventually found himself in the Luftwaffe run camp, where it was considered the sworn duty of officers to escape.
In 1944 he was among a group of airmen who attempted to escape from the prison – a plan immortalised in the 1963 film.
Mr Rees helped burrow an escape route out of the camp, but was caught during the breakout in the tunnel when it was discovered by a guard.
He was lucky to escape with his life when he was pulled from the tunnel as German shots rang out in the darkness.
Of the 76 escapees from Stalag Luft III camp, only three managed to reach Britain – the other 73 were recaptured, and 50 of those were killed.
Mr Rees has maintained he had nothing to do with the story that McQueen’s character was loosely based on him.
Mr Rees said: “He is taller than I am, I’m heavier than he is, he’s American and I’m a Welshman – the only things we’ve got in common is that we both annoyed the Germans and ended up doing stretches in the cooler.
“I didn’t get out and if I did, I wouldn’t have been able to ride a motorbike anyway.”
His abiding memories as a prisoner of war were of being “bored to tears”, constantly hungry and finding himself a frequent visitor in solitary confinement or the ‘cooler’.
His dissent usually amounted to annoying his captors by pulling faces or letting down bicycles tyres which meant being marched off.
POW Stan Gampel, father of Jeff and Elaine Gampel, passed away July 17, 2014, at the age of 93 in Florida. He was bombardier on B-17, Victory Bound. The Stalag Luft III community grieves with the Gampels, having lost one of our own.
Many remember the warm smile of former B-17 bombardier and POW, Pierce Wenthur, from the Dayton reunion. His daughter Loreene Balzani and his nephew, Brent, lit a candle for him at the Colorado reunion. He passed away Oct. 11, 2013. A wonderful father, Pierce was proud of his family, especially his nephew, Lt. Col. Brent Wenthur, who is the pilot for Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel’s plane. God bless the Wenthur family in their loss and ours.
Angus Lennie – “Piglet” – The Great Escape
A beloved character from the famous movie has passed away.
POW Louis Zamperini, held in the Pacific, has also passed away. He is the subject of the book, Unbroken, which has been made into a movie. See the link below to view the story of this incredible survivor and former Olympic runner. Louis was in the 11th Bomb Group (H) flying B-24s out of Hawaii.
War Hero, Olympian Louis Zamperini Dies at 97 – “Louis Zamperini, a member of the 1936 U.S. Olympic track and field team who survived repeated torture for two years as a Japanese prisoner of war during World War…”
Missing World War II Soldier Returns Home After 62 Years
Thanks to Bill Krause for the following story:
Missing World War II Soldier Returns Home After 62 Years – “The newly discovered remains of an American soldier who once helped track down millions of dollars-worth of stolen jewels after World War II are finally headed home…”
Note from General Manager of Elegante Hotel in Colorado Springs
“I am glad to hear that you were pleased with the helpfulness of the staff, the quality of the food during the banquet, and the extra effort to accommodate the POWs during the Memorial here in Colorado Springs. The Processional on Thursday morning with the Patriot Guard and local Police Escorts was indeed a breathtaking site! All of the hotel staff were honored to be able to serve those who have given so much for our freedoms.”
Ed Okvath – Gen. Manager – Elegante Hotel
Link to Interesting WWII Stories
Thanks to Barry Schoen for this link that shows the international appreciation of those who fought for those freedoms.
Youtube Links to Classic Stories
Thanks to POW son Arthur Taber for the following links of interest:
B-17 part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChFGBgvVBtA
B-17 part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QL-zRFEt9lI
92nd BG 1944: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnkVPtyGaVA
Hell over Germany (1944): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl6CaJWif1M
Memphis Belle (1944 – war office): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LZP5R109yo
Construction of the B-29: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcS3TCI4SBw
The stuff of aviation lore, Claudius Scharff, son of Master Interrogator at Dulag Luft, Hans Scharff, has sent this legendary tale. “You just can’t make this stuff up! The F-4 established McDonnell Aircraft as the Navy’s supplier of choice for combat aircraft and which led the Navy to select them as the primary contractor to build the F-18, which was not a McDonnell Douglas, but a competitor’s design.”
Camp King Archive
He also sends the following link regarding the archive where his father once interrogated:
50 Years After the Jump
POW Joe Consolmagno’s poignant story and return to Belgium is below as he told it.
This is where Joe landed. Note dark building in upper part of picture.
The building today
“It was an invitation that was hard to accept, even though it included a trip to Europe, expenses paid. It came from Belgium National Television. They were making a documentary about an air raid on an aircraft plant in Antwerp in 1943. I was shot down and captured by the enemy on that mission. The raid was a disaster. Four B-17s went down in the fierce air battle. Thirteen American airmen were killed, 28 became POWs. The Luftwaffe counted five FWs lost. In the targeted plant, 307 Belgian workmen were killed. In the heat of battle, most bombs overshot the target, some by as far as a kilometer. A number fell into the little town of Mortsel, a densely populated suburb of Antwerp. Three schools were hit, 209 children were killed. In all, 936 Belgians died in the raid. It was the blackest day of the war for Belgium.
So why would an American airman agree to return to the scene of the tragedy as Belgium paused to note its 50th anniversary and mourn the loss once again? Because you can’t change history. It happened. And somebody from the
American side had to share in the grief. What could anyone say? Killing and being killed. That’s what war is all about. The monumental tragedy is that we still don’t know how to avoid it and at the same time escape the sure and dire consequences of being passively defenseless.
Mourning the dead is all that is left us.”
For those who have not heard how the game of Monopoly figured into covert plans in the POW camps, it is below. Starting in 1941, an increasing number of British Airmen found themselves as the involuntary guests of the Third Reich, and the Crown was casting about for ways and means to facilitate their escape… Now obviously, one of the most helpful aids to that end is a useful and accurate map, one showing not only where stuff was, but also showing the locations of ‘safe houses’ where a POW on-the-lam could go for food and shelter. Paper maps had some real drawbacks — they make a lot of noise when you open and fold them, they wear out rapidly, and if they get wet, they turn into mush. Someone in MI-5 (similar to America ‘s OSS ) got the idea of printing escape maps on silk. It’s durable, can be scrunched-up into tiny wads, and unfolded as many times as needed, and makes no noise whatsoever. At that time, there was only one manufacturer in Great Britain that had perfected the technology of printing on silk, and that was John Waddington, Ltd. When approached by the government, the firm was only too happy to do its bit for the war effort. By pure coincidence, Waddington was also the U.K. Licensee for the popular American board game, Monopoly. As it happened, ‘games and pastimes’ was a category of item qualified for insertion into “CARE packages,” dispatched by the International Red Cross to prisoners of war. Under the strictest of secrecy, in a securely guarded and inaccessible old workshop on the grounds of Waddington’s, a group of sworn-to-secrecy employees began mass-producing escape maps, keyed to each region of Germany, Italy, France or where ever Allied POW camps were located. When processed, these maps could be folded into such tiny dots that they would actually fit inside a Monopoly playing piece.
As long as they were at it, the clever workmen at Waddington’s also managed to add:
1. A playing token, containing a small magnetic compass
2. A two-part metal file that could easily be screwed together
3. Useful amounts of genuine high-denomination German, Italian, and French currency, hidden within the piles of Monopoly money!
British and American air crews were advised, before taking off on their first mission, how to identify a ‘rigged’ Monopoly set — by means of a tiny red dot, one cleverly rigged to look like an ordinary printing glitch, located in the corner of the Free Parking square. Of the estimated 35,000 Allied POWS who successfully escaped, an estimated one-third were aided in their flight by the rigged Monopoly sets. Everyone who did so was sworn to secrecy indefinitely, since the British Government might want to use this highly successful ruse in still another, future war. The story wasn’t declassified until 2007, when the surviving craftsmen from Waddington’s, as well as the firm itself, were finally honored in a public ceremony. It’s always nice when you can play that “Get Out of Jail’ Free” card!
Mervyn Francis Douglas “Taffy Williams” – Developer of Bee Propaganda
One of the amusing stories from our new book is an account written by RAF POW Kingsley Brown, and it centers on his superior officer, POW Wing Commander “Taffy” Williams. The story of the eccentric wing commander’s attempts to persuade Brown to help him harness bees at Stalag Luft III to release out into Germany with pennants attached to their bodies saying, “Germany Kaput!” is a classic story from the camp. Below is a picture of Williams in order to put a face with a name.
Hans Houterman in the Netherlands supplied the picture and this excellent website for researchers: www.unithistories.com
Marek’s World – POW Camps – Zagan
Catching up with Marek, the Museum Director, always provides interest regarding what is going on in the old camp . Recently, just two feet down, this collection of British biscuits was found in a rusted, deteriorated can. Some powder from the biscuits was found in the bottom of the can, but many of the pieces were pretty much intact!
Another recent find came from Center Compound. Escape maps were hidden in a can, and after 70 years still look pretty good!
Zagan’s Division recently received some of its new tanks..German Leopard 2A5. The first 11 tanks arrived last May. In total 119 will be sent this year to the area. In addition, the Prime Minister of Poland and Defense Minister visited Zagan and touched down where Stalag VIIIC used to be:
Last May 17th was European Night of Museums during which all museums are open for the whole night. Marek’s museum was no exception. Below, he and assistant, Mirek, lead groups through the camp late at night:
A large piece of B-17 (probably wing) with the star visible was found in the German village, Fohrde. The element comes from the crash site somewhere around Brandenburg (Germany). It has been transferred to Marek at the museum. Investigation in progress.
On Oct. 17th, the museum was recognized by The Ministry of Sport and Tourism of Republic of Poland. Marek was in Gorzow (capital of county) to receive a medal of honor for developing tourism in Poland. Since his tenure at the museum, the number of visitors from both the U.S. and Europe has sky-rocketed. “We broke our record…during the first 6 months of 2014, the museum was visited by 7000 people!”
Congratulations to Marek and Mirek for their hard work at the museum that garnered such a prestigious recognition by Poland.
Fun for the Children
One of the many programs at the camp:
An enjoyable event for children was recently held at the museum, described by Marek as a “Railway Picnic,” that took place on the tracks where our POWs once came into the camp. Marek made a promotional stand for the museum and brought his tank for the occasion. It was great fun for the children who got to drive a few locomotives around the station.
Sometimes It’s Not Really Just Luck
This story is confirmed in Elmer Bendiner’s book, The Fall of Fortresses.
Elmer Bendiner was a navigator in a B-17 during WW II. He tells this story of a World War II bombing run over Kassel, Germany, and the unexpected result of a direct hit on their gas tanks.
“Our B-17, the Tondelayo, was barraged by flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. That was not unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit. Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a 20 millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not quite that simple. “On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask our crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck. The crew chief told Bohn that not just one shell but 11 had been found in the gas tanks…11 unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had been parted for us. A near-miracle, I thought. Even after 35 years, so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest of the story from Bohn.
He was told that the shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused. The armorers told him that Intelligence had picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but Bohn eventually sought out the answer. Apparently when the armorers opened each of those shells, they found no explosive charge. They were as clean as a whistle and just as harmless.
Empty? Not all of them!
One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech. The Intelligence people scoured our base for a man who could read Czech. Eventually they found one to decipher the note. It set us marveling.
Translated, the note read: “This is all we can do for you now… Using Jewish slave labor is never a good idea.”
From POW Joe Gosselin – 1965 SLIII Reunion – Sheraton Hotel, Dayton, Ohio. Thanks, Joe!
From POW Daughter, Lucy Nesbitt – She and her sister recently went to see their brother to explore some boxes of memorabilia they had never had seen before. These are two articles clippings she scanned about Hans Scharff, Master Interrogator of Germany, who was invited to a SLIII reunion.
Want to See Your Old Control Tower Again?
http://www.controltowers.co.uk/usaaf%20list.htm – Thank you, Trevor Hewitt, UK
New Plaques at the Air Force Academy Library
New plaques given to the A.F. Academy during the SLIII Reunion there recently now hang in the Academy’s Library. The top plaque was presented by Museum Director Marek Lazarz and commemorates the 70th anniversary memorial he planned for at the camp to remember those murdered after the Great Escape. The one below it is the prestigious new Lt. General Albert P. Clark Award for Excellence—In Recognition for Significant Research and Outstanding Contributions Relating to the History of Stalag Luft III, showing the name plates for the first two award recipients, the late Col. Art Durand, author of Stalag Luft III-the Secret Story, and Mr. Arnold Wright, transcriber of the South Compound secret ledgers, later made into the book, Behind the Wire.
Congressional Medal of Honor – Portrait of Valor
(not WWII but well worth watching)
Two WWII Pilots
The touching and surprising story of two WW ll pilots,Herb Heibrun and John Leahr, is worth a look for those who are unaware of it, and worth a second look for those who are.
http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=agwnwqCdwl8 Thanks to Ross Green
Karl Doenitz’s Magnificent Home
Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz’s residence was in Lorient at Kernevel, France, facing the Keroman bunkers. The bunkers and sub pens of Lorient proved nearly impossible for allied bombers to penetrate. During that time, the admiral lived in the home pictured below. The German naval commander was later held at Spandau Prison for ten years following conviction at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. He lost both his sons on ships during the war. Today the mansion is used by the Commanding French Admiral of the harbor at Lorient. Thanks to Kevin Pearson who visited there.
Many of our POWs bombed the sub pens during the war, many at Lorient. Kevin Pearson visited there and took pictures of how these seemingly impenetrable pens look today.
Lorient sub pens
Bunker – Lorient
Slip in KI where the boats were hauled out of the water onto buggies
Sub pens – Bordeaux
For the Great Escape Movie Buffs
http://www.thegreatescapelocations.com/ sent by Tom Colones
“There is a wonderful website created by a UK resident who has explored and filmed many locations used in The Great Escape movie.”
And from Marek:
“Two days ago Christian Riml visited the museum. His father Walter was a cameraman for “The Great Escape” movie. Walter Riml took many pictures on the set. This year Christian published a book with the pictures. You can order this book directly from Christian Riml. See link (scroll down for English version) http://www.tiroler-filmarchiv.at/2.html
By the way, Christian Riml was a production assistant (apprentice) in “Le Mans” movie (starring Steve McQueen.
At the end of this site you can find pictures using the Photogallery button.
WaRis – Tiroler Filmarchiv
Helma Türk & Dr. Christian Riml
RAF SLIII/Buchenwald POW Jim Stewart
In the Lost Airmen of Buchenwald video, there is a quick scene showing Jim and a few other POWs in civilian clothing crossing a street in Paris. It was a film made by the French Resistance.
http://www.webofstories.com/play/ken.adam/27. Post reunion, Jim continues to entertain with his stories.
From Jim: “I flew Typhoons with Ken “Heinie” (no respect or political correctness in those days) Adam, 609 Squadron, Jan – May 1944. Now, 70 years later, he is Sir Kenneth Hugo Adam, OBE [Order of the British Empire](born Klaus Hugo Adam; 5 February 1921) a German-born British motion picture production designer most famous for his set designs for the James Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s.
Amazing how stories can be misinterpreted – Ken portrays me as an “extra” for the Germans in Reseau X, which, of course, was quite wrong: the film was actually produced and directed by Albert Mahuzier, member of the French Underground, 11th June 1944, 5 days after D-day, – the Krauts were merely innocent bystanders.”
Jim also sent some RAF humor.
Speaking of Buchenwald POWs
Susan Dunavan, daughter of SLIII/Buchenwald POW Richard Bedford, returned with her father and family to Buchenwald for the dedication of the memorial there that filmmaker, Mike Dorsey, arranged. Susan did a rubbing of the words on the memorial and sent copies to the POWs.
From Evan Thomas – UK
Two more items from Evan:
American Red Cross map of Norwich
Marek Lazarz is also an author of a book sold in Poland. It is the story of the making of a popular Polish t.v. show, “Four Tankmen and the Dog” series. In the book, there are interviews with actors, the director, and film crew members, and it explores the genesis of the series. The series, made between 1966 to 1970, revolved around stories of a Polish tank crew during World War II. It is comprised of 21 episodes of 55 minutes each, divided into three seasons. The characters are fictional but all their “adventures” are real and came from different veterans’ stories. The series (black and white) was very popular in the 70s, and it is still popular today. One of the members of the tank crew was a German shepherd called Sharik (“small ball” in Polish) who can be seen on the book’s cover.
POW Joe Consolmagno’s Son
Yet one more honor for Joe’s son, Guy, astronomer to the pope.
The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is pleased to announce its 2014 prize winners.
Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public: Br. Guy Consolmagno has a decades-long track record of communicating planetary science to the public while maintaining an active science career. In addition, he occupies a unique position within our profession as a credible spokesperson for scientific honesty within the context of religious belief. Br. Guy uses multiple media to reach his audience. He has authored or edited six books, with “Turn Left at Orion” in its fourth edition of publication. This book alone has had an enormous impact on the amateur astronomy community, engendering public support for astronomy. In addition to writing books, he is a dynamic popular speaker, giving 40 to 50 public lectures every year across both Europe and the United States, reaching thousands of people. He regularly gives interviews on BBC radio shows on planetary science topics and hosted his own BBC radio show discussing the origins of the universe (“A Brief History of the End of Everything”). These appearances address both pure science subjects and science-with-religion subjects. As a Jesuit Brother, Guy has become the voice of the juxtaposition of planetary science and astronomy with Christian belief, a rational spokesperson who can convey exceptionally well how religion and science can co-exist for believers.
For those traveling to Europe, Tyler Butterworth, from the Dayton reunion, son of RAF POW, the late Peter Butterworth, has devised an app called, “Essential London” to help navigate the streets of London while listening to educational and entertaining commentary. His company is called Guidebud. The app is only in the iPad app store. Link is below:
Escape & Evasions and Code Users Wanted
Help the National Park Service to Uncover the Secret Story of PO Box 1142 and MIS-X at Fort Hunt, Virginia
Were you, or did you know any British servicemen during World War II who interacted with the escape and evasion activities of American servicemen? Were you aware of Americans trained as “Code Users” that enabled them to send secret messages home? As a POW, did you ever see an American receive a care package with a radio, a map, a compass, German currency, or other escape devices hidden inside? Are you aware of American escape and evasion debriefings? If so, you were probably knew about a secret program known as MIS-X, and you can help reveal the secret work done at P.O. Box 1142. Check the link below for more information.
Thanks to Barry Schoen for the heads up.
Escape to D-Day for Spunky Veteran
An 89-year-old D-Day veteran who sneaked out of his care home to Normandy has returned to a hero’s welcome and declared: “I would do it again tomorrow.” Hiding his war medals under a raincoat, Bernard Jordan told care givers he was going for a walk before boarding a coach to France for the 70th anniversary – sparking a frantic missing person search. The former Royal Navy officer arrived into Portsmouth on a cross-channel ferry that morning, where he said: ‘I expect I will be in some trouble with the care home, but it was worth it.” See his delightful story at the link below:
The Story of 5 Grand
In May 1944, 5 Grand was officially delivered to the US Army Air Forces at Boeing Field and a bottle of champagne was ceremonially broken over the aircraft’s nose. The USAAF even made sure that the crew assigned to 5 Grand were made up of locals from the Puget Sound area with Edward C. Unger of Seattle selected as the aircraft commander/pilot. 5 Grand was then flown to Kearney AAF depot in Nebraska for further modifications to make her combat ready. When she left the United States for the Eighth Air Force’s bomber bases in Britain, over 35,000 signatures adorned the bare metal finish of 5 Grand. Some thought that the plane should be stripped as the Luftwaffe might make special effort to shoot down 5 Grand, but it was decided the signatures would stay in place. On the trans-Atlantic flight, the crew found the B-17G was about 7 mph slower than a stock B-17G due to the weight of the ink and paint used on the signatures and the surface roughness from some of the more colorful applications! The fuel consumption was higher and stronger-than-forecast winds aloft resulted in one of 5 Grand’s engines cutting out on landing in the UK due to fuel starvation. Assigned to the 333rd Bomber Squadron of the 96th Bomber Group at Snetterton Heath in Norfolk, one of its first local flights before combat missions were flown ended in near disaster when the electrical system failed and 5 Grand made a crash landing after ejecting its ball turret. She was repaired and reassigned to the 388th Bomber Group and would fly 78 missions over the Reich adorned with her signatures with her gunners claiming two Luftwaffe fighters destroyed.
On 14 June 1945, 5 Grand returned home to the United States, first landing at Bradley Field in Connecticut before continuing on to Boeing Field in Seattle for refurbishment to go on a war bond tour. While in Seattle, many employees found their signatures still in place. Local officials wanted to preserve 5 Grand as a memorial to the city’s home front war effort, but while the Seattle politicians debated the cost, 5 Grand was flown to Lubbock AAF in Texas for further repairs and refurbishment before being flown into storage at Kingman AAF in Arizona to be held in storage while Seattle officials decided how to proceed on the planned memorial incorporating 5 Grand. The US Army Air Forces were willing to donate 5 Grand to Seattle for the memorial planned by the Seattle Historical Society, but on 3 January 1946, Seattle city officials declined the donation of 5 Grand on the grounds that building a memorial with the aircraft represented too costly an endeavor. Despite the efforts of Boeing employees who had signed 5 Grand, no one in the local government wished to take responsibility and the aircraft, still resplendent with its signatures, was sold off by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to the scrapper, where 5 Grand was unceremoniously broken up and molten down, forever lost to history. Source: Aeroplane Monthly, June 2010, Volume 38, Number 6. “A Fort Named 5 Grand” by Howard Carter, p. 40-45.
Virtual Vietnam Wall
This really is an valuable website that pays tribute to those lost in Vietnam. The link below is a virtual wall profiling those lost during the Vietnam war showing their names, bios, and other information. Those who remember that time frame or who perhaps lost friends or family, can look them up on this site. First click on a state. When it opens, scroll down to the city and the names will appear. Then click on the name. It should show a picture of the person or at least their bio and medals.
D-Day – Then and Now
Cut and paste the link below into your web browser to experience before and after in Normandy. Just slide your cursor horizontally across each picture to see the change.
Stalag Luft III Hero
From Colin Kirby-Green, son of Tom Kirby-Green, murdered after the Great Escape:
Colin Kirby-Green fifth from left – Gord Kidder to his right next to Brig. Gen. Zdenek Skarvada after Holy Mass
Memorial of Kirby-Green and Kidder
In 2014, after the memorial at Stalag Luft III to remember the fifty who were murdered after the Great Escape, Colin Kirby-Green, son of POW Tom Kirby-Green, and Gord Kidder, nephew of POW Gordon Kidder, returned to the Czech Republic for a very special memorial. Colin’s father and Gord’s uncle were murdered together at the edge of the road in Hrabuvka in 1944. The town has adopted their memorial, even putting flowers there on their birthdays. Another notable POW, a name no one would know, was instrumental in creating the memorial. Colin tells the man’s remarkable story:
Tribute to SLIII POW Zdenek Skarvada
Slowly, in very good English, at a dinner table in the Czech Republic in 2011, over two days, stopping to pause because of his bad emphysema, SLIII POW Zdenek Skarvada told his story. Zdenek was already a trained fighter pilot with two years experience and the rank of sergeant at the time of the German invasion of Czechoslovakia. With other Czech aircrew, he escaped ahead of the invaders and got to Russia where they were all interned. At that time, there was a non-aggression pact between Russia and Germany, but they were not handed over to the Germans. When Germany later invaded Russia, Zdenek and his compatriots were released from custody. Somehow they got down to Cairo, where the British were still hanging on prior to their big offensive, which drove Rommel out of Egypt. From Cairo, they got down to Durban in South Africa, later going by boat, somehow evading all the German U- boats, and got to Liverpool, England, where Zdenek was soon recognised by a Free Czech officer with whom he had served. As a trained fighter pilot, Zdenek was especially welcome.
Flying operations, Zdenek was eventually shot down over France, becoming a prisoner, and was transferred to various camps, finishing up in a compound for “other ranks” at Stalag Luft III. Since only officer prisoners were excused from working during captivity under the terms of the Geneva Conventions, Zdenek and his fellow prisoners laboured hard clearing areas of the pine forest and performing other manual work.
The war ended, and Zdenek returned home. Instead of being welcomed and looked after, he was sent to work down a coal mine for twenty years, typical of the treatment of almost all those who had fought against Hitler, especially in Czechoslovakia and Poland. Their new Communist masters did not want any freedom fighters at large in their countries. Hence, poor Zdenek’s emphysema.
When the Iron Curtain fell, and there followed the “Velvet Divorce,” when Bohemia and Moravia were formed into the Czech Republic, and separated from what is now Slovakia, the new democratic government went to what we in Britain would think of as extraordinary lengths to compensate all those unfortunates who had fought for freedom and been victimised by the previous regime. In order that these elderly, and sometime unwell individuals should now be looked after, they were given enormous accelerated promotions so that they might have generous pensions. Hence, Zdenek became a brigadier general. His home was close to Hrabuvka-Ostrava and when he found out what had happened to Colin’s father and Gord’s uncle, “on his doorstep,” as it were, he set about with some other help to create the memorial to the fallen men, which was inaugurated with great ceremony and is still honoured to this day.
At the ceremonies this year, the 70th anniversary of their deaths, there was an even bigger turnout than at the previous dedication. A large band played, and the children from the adjacent school performed beautifully. Many speeches followed. There was again the opportunity to lay some extra flowers at the spot where Gordon and my dad were killed, and a Holy Mass followed once more as in 2011. This time, the young sister of the girl, who had sung the “Ave Maria” in 2011, sang César Frank’s, “Panis Angelicus” most beautifully.
But one person was missing this year. Zdenek Skarvada had passed away as one more unsung hero and prisoner of Stalag Luft III who knew the meaning of sacrific
Film Found after 65 Years
POW daughter, Carolyn Miller, has sent the following link to a spectacular WWII rescue of twelve men on a B-29 that went down in the sea, all captured on film.
One small correction for the last newsletter. We incorrectly named RAF POW Keith “Skeets” Ogilvie – Paul – instead of his correct name, Keith. Our apologies.
From POW son, Fred Bobbitt
Five years ago, Fred returned to Stalag VIIA in Moosburg, Germany, and took some pictures of what remained of the old camp:
Have You Ever Wondered What the German Words Meant on the POWs’ I.D. cards? See Fred’s father’s card below with noted translations:
Fred has also located the link below of interest to researchers:
And finally, from Fred, a favorite quote regarding B-17s.
“Fips” Philips was a German ACE credited with shooting down over 200 aircraft on the Eastern Front. While in command of JG 1 defending against American bombers over northern Germany, he offered the following personal perspective about facing a formation of B-17s:
“Against 20 Russians trying to shoot you down or even 20 Spitfires, it can be exciting, even fun. But curve in towards 40 fortresses and all your past sins flash before your eyes.”
Marilyn Walton Mike Eberhardt
Daughter of POW Thomas F. Jeffers Son of POW Charles M. Eberhardt