November 25, 2014
Greetings to Stalag Luft III Family and Friends,
As the snow blankets many of us far too early, we’d like to send some stories and updates and pass along material we have received from others who read the newsletters now–close to 400 people that share our devotion to the Stalag Luft III POWs. We hope everyone had a good Veterans Day and will have an enjoyable Thanksgiving.
Congratulations Marek and Mirek!
Modern Day British Army in Poland – Warriors Return to the Camp Grounds
As usual, Marek has been very busy in the camp. Recently, the British have arrived with their main battle tanks, the Challenger 2s, and will stay at the camp for the whole month of November. The equipment was recently on display to the public at the museum. Tank recovery vehicles and infantry carriers could also be seen on the road called the “tank road” on the southern edge of the camps (VIIIC and Luft 3), a road by which today’s Polish Army moves equipment from the army base to the exercise area south of the camps. A few hundred people visited the British Army display and the museum as well as two national TV stations, which gave great publicity for the museum. Video link below:
Watch the link below for Marek at the beginning in a yellow vest in the commander’s seat and watch for a shot of the museum in the background, next to the goon box, at the very end.
On Nov. 20th, the Polish Prime Minister and Minister of Defence visitied the training ground and on the next day the Polish President and British Minister of Defence visited, some pretty prestigious visitors for Marek.
Recently discovered at Zagan’s railway station–Platform No.1 sign. Most of the escapers used Platform No.1 as it was the famous “Berliner route” (Breslau-Berlin). This sign was used after the war, but with information only in Polish on the other side: “Exit to the town” – “Platform No. 1” (trains departing from Platform No.1 to Berlin and to Leipzig).
Marek’s New Display
Recently, Marek added a display entitled, “The Post-War Stories.” The first items to view were donated by Ellen Feldman Thorp, daughter of Milton Feldman. She accompanied her father to the 1995 reunion just six weeks after he had lost his wife, Ellen’s mother. She wanted to have her father’s jacket from the reunion on display there along with his photos. Nice job, Marek!
Marek has sent a copy of an old map he has located that shows Jeschkendorf, twelve miles outside of Stalag Luft III, where Commandant von Lindeiner had a manor home.
Donations – THANK YOU!
When we wrote, From Interrogation to Liberation, recently released, we did so with the understanding that 100% of the proceeds would go to the museum. In order to continue Marek’s work, Mike and Marilyn have just wired the museum $6100, which includes proceeds from our book sales, sale of patches at the reunion, and donations from POW families wanting to remember their POW relatives. Added to the fundraisers we arranged last year, Marek will have $16,000 to put towards renovations of the museum providing a facility worthy of all the POWs held there. The old communist-era building looks far different than it used to. At this time, we’d like to thank the many people who contributed to the fundraisers for the museum in the past two years. Donations ranged from $100 to $1000, and we are so appreciative of all of you who helped us with these projects.
Marek has sent the following picture taken during his presentation at the CO reunion and asked it be passed along to those who are in it!
Jim Keeffe – Following in His Father’s Footsteps
POW son, Jim Keeffe, is the author of a fascinating book about his father’s experiences with the Dutch Resistance before being captured and taken to SLIII. The story is the stuff of movies, and it was only recently that Jim returned to Holland to walk in his father’s footsteps, even going by boat down the river where the Resistance took his father. Below are some pictures of his trip, captioned as he sent them.
We highly recommend Jim’s book, and it can be found at the links below:
After his visit to Holland, a Dutch publisher contacted him indicating interest in his book.
A Second Legless RAF Pilot!
POW daughter, Joan Wootten, read through her father’s journal only to find mention of a RAF legless pilot he knew at SLIII. But the man was not Douglas Bader, as many might assume. His name was Colin “Hoppy” Hodgkinson. In 1957, he published his wartime story, Best Foot Forward. He died in 2004. Thanks to Joan for her persistence in following up her father’s mention so long ago to discover yet one more handicapped flier who served his country. See link below:
Resolution for a Hero
POW son, Gil Hoel, has sent a recent resolution from the mayor of Chicago paying tribute to his deceased father, James Hoel. The resolution was a surprise to the family. His father, a B-26 Marauder pilot, was one of eleven B-26 Marauders from the 450th and 452nd Squadrons that left the airdrome in the early morning hours of May 17, 1943. They flew low hoping to remain undetected beneath the German radar umbrella, but a navigational error caused the flight of the remaining ten B-26 Marauders to cross the Dutch coastline twenty-five miles south of their intended point of entry taking them directly over the Rozenburg Islands in the Maas River Estuary, considered to be one of the most heavily defended areas in the Netherlands. The results were disastrous. Many planes were lost and Hoel’s bomber was shot down by flak and crashed into the Maas River. Two of the enlisted crew positioned in the rear of his B-26 were killed instantly. The surviving four crew members, including bombardier/navigator 2nd Lt. Hoel, swam to the canal bank, where they were captured by German soldiers. All ten attacking B-26 bombers were lost. Out of the sixty men total, thirty-four were killed, twenty-four were taken POW, with one dying in captivity, and two crew members from one plane were recovered from a rubber life raft in the icy North Sea. The group commander, group executive officer, and both squadron leaders were all either killed or made prisoners. Killed in action that day were a 450th Squadron pilot/co-pilot team of twin brothers. The Chicago City Council passed the resolution in September, and it was signed by the mayor himself. Shortly afterward, Gil and his wife, Julie, left for a trip to Morocco, one of their destinations being a hotel in Marrakech, where his father stayed in 1943 en route to Bury St. Edmonds, England. He was charged with securing the armaments that had been stripped from the B-26’s (to reduce the weight) in his bomb group as they flew across the Atlantic from South America to North Africa. While at the hotel, his father saw Martha Raye perform and spied General Charles de Gaulle, who was also staying at the hotel. Below is the resolution:
Upon his return from Morrocco, Gil sent the following:
“The highlight was having lunch at the Hotel La Mamounia in Marrakesh looking over the gardens imagining my father’s stay there in January1943 en route to his meeting with destiny. Quite moving really in light of his recent passing.”
Happy Birthday to POW Charles Woehrle!
Charles turned 98 in September and is believed to be the oldest American SLIII POW. He has been an integral part of the Stalag Luft III community for years.
Dr. Mary Ruwell from the Air Force Academy, has sent a good, close-up picture of the new addition to the library, the Lt. Gen. Albert P. Clark Award for Excellence, which shows the first two recipieints, the late Col. Art Durand and Mr. Arnold Wright. Over the years, many more names will grace this plaque, thanks to Gen. Clark’s daughter and her husband, Carolyn and Ted Miller.
70th Anniversary Plaque
At the reunion, Mike and Marilyn were presented with beautiful plaques that Marek brought from Poland. The plaques commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Great Escape. For those who did not get a chance to see them up close, please see below:
It is always gratifying after a reunion to hear from attendees who made connections with others there. Such was the case with Mona Sobel and James Drilling.
Mona sent the following: “A couple of weeks ago, one of the other “kids” sent me a copy by email of a letter my grandfather had written to his grandfather with a money order enclosed. The dads were in the same room area or combine in Barrack 40 in Center Compound.” Then Jim Drilling sent the story. We are so glad these two found each other at the reunion to share their memories
STALAG LUFT III: CHANCE MEETINGS, THEN and NOW
Lt. John Drilling came from Illinois, and 1st Lt. Sheldon Sandler came from New York to help fight the war for freedom in Europe during 1944, as did thousands of others.
John was a B-24 bombardier and was assigned to the 8th Air Force, Hard Luck 492nd Bomb Group, 857th Bomb Squadron, so called because of heavy losses of airplanes and men. John survived 11 missions before the 492nd BG was disbanded August 7, 1944. Lucky him. He was transferred to the 446th Bomb Group, 706th Bomb Squadron and shot down on his 13th mission. OK, not so lucky. He was shot down on August 25, 1944 on his way to Rostock, Germany.
Sheldon was a P51 Mustang pilot, the best of the best. He was stationed in Italy with the 15th Air Force, 14th Fighter Group, 309th Fighter Squadron, where one of his jobs was protecting the bombers and the men in them, such as John. He flew 52 missions before being shot down, flying escort to Odertal, Germany.
Both men were captured, interrogated, and processed through Dulag Luft, in Oberursel, Germany, and were transported by train to Sagan, Germany (now Zagan, Poland), where they were marched a short distance from the train station to Center Compound of Stalag Luft III with 94 other airmen. Entering the camp, they were greeted by a marching band and four different sport competitions, not staged for them, but for a September 4, 1944, Labor Day celebration. The unexpected event must have been a little surreal to John, Sheldon, and the rest of the new POWs.
The new prisoners were lined up alphabetically by their last names and assigned POW ID numbers. John became POW 7772, and Sheldon became POW 7820, 47 airmen behind John. Their pictures were taken, and they were both assigned to Barracks 40.
Lt. Thomas Mulligan, a longtime resident of the Center Compound, under instruction from Col. Delmar Spivey, Senior American Officer, recorded basic information about each new arrival, such as name, rank, and home address, in his ledgers. He assigned a sequential number as an index to each airman that he interviewed. John’s number was 348. Sheldon was the third man interviewed after John.
On November 19th, John wrote a letter to his wife, Minerva. In that letter, he mentioned that he traded his green pants and watch to get the necessary clothes to weather the winter. He also stated that he then had wool socks to protect his feet against more chilblains.
The very next day, John wrote a post card to his parents telling them to expect a money order from M. Sandler, asking that they use the money to cover the cost of the parcels they would send him.
About two months later, John’s parents received a letter from Mort Sandler, dated January 10, 1945. The letter included a $50 money order. In the letter, Mort said he just received a letter from his son, Lt. Sheldon Sandler, requesting he send the money order.
Did John and Sheldon first meet at Dulag Luft? On the train to Sagan, while being processed into Stalag Luft III, or Center Compound? Or did they meet after they were settled into Barracks 40? Were they in the same combine? No one will ever know.
Seventy years later, John’s three sons attended the 2014 Stalag Luft III Reunion in Colorado Springs. Throughout the reunion, John’s sons met many wonderful people that were POWs from Stalag Luft III and/or their descendants. Some wrote down their email addresses on a piece of paper that Jim, John’s youngest son, had so they could continue to exchange information after the reunion.
A month later, while Jim was reviewing his dad’s WWII letters and his reunion notes, he saw the name Sandler in both the letters and the reunion notes. He nearly fell off his chair when he realized he met 1st Lt. Sheldon Sandler’s daughter, Mona Sobel, at the reunion, and he made contact with her to tell this story. That chance meeting at a reunion, seventy years after their fathers had initiated contact between their respective fathers, led to a new friendship between two “kriegie kids” who realized how small the world can be when learning more about the Stalag Luft III experience.
Kriege Connection #2 – POW Leonard Spivey & Delmar Scott Spivey
Scott Spivey, USCG retired, and grandson of Major Gen. Delmar Spivey, Senior American Officer of Center Compound, met for the first time at the reunion.
“There is no known kinship, although it seems our ancestors settled centuries ago in the same areas, Virginia and No. Carolina,” said POW Leonard Spivey.
Leonard also included a picture of Gil Hoel, son of SLIII POW James Hoel, mentioned earlier in this newsletter. “He [Hoel’s father] was at first in North Compound where he helped work on the tunnels.” Elizabeth Yee joins them.
POW Bill Grafton’s Space Age Reunion
Bill has worked on America’s space projects from their inception and has incredible stories to tell.
“Thought you might like to see us old timers and what we did in our youth. We just had a reunion of four of the five surviving crew members that launched the first ballistic missile in the U.S. on the 18th and 19th of October at the Cape. We were interviewed by the local newspaper. Click on the link below to open. Read the printed story first, then view the video. It will make more sense. Hope you enjoy. The tall military guy in uniform was not part of the crew. He tried to sneak into any picture that was taken.”
See link below for story:
Those at the reunion enjoyed the insights of those who comprised our German Panel. One of those on the panel was Ernie Hasenclever. At the conclusion of his presentation, he surprised Marilyn and Mike Woodworth with two gifts. Ernie’s former flak battery was one of likely three that shot down the planes of both Marilyn’s father and Mike’s father. In remembrance of both of their fathers, who later became POWs at SLIII, Bernie presented each with a replica of the Kriegsmarine War Badge for Naval Artillery. The link below explains the history of the badge that was awarded to members of the artillery. Note that the original had an eagle and a swastika at the top, unlike the replica. Each father’s name, and date shot down, was recorded on the back of the pins, very emotional for the recipients. Thank you Ernie, for remembering our fathers in this touching way
If only WWII uniforms could talk. When Colin-Kirby Green’s father, Tom, was murdered after the Great Escape, an auction was held in the camp, and his fellow POWs bid for his possessions as well as those of the other forty-nine. They paid with notes written on scraps of paper. All proceeds were transferred through the Red Cross to the families of the 50 men murdered. RCAF POW Don Edy bid on and received Green’s RAF jacket. Being much shorter than the taller Green, he made some alternations, having never sewn before. Afterward, he wore the jacket on the Forced March and slept in it in the barns at Lipna. He also slept in it in the glass factory in Muskau and marched through the mud from there to Spremberg, while wearing it. The jacket kept Edy warm in the box cars to Marlag-Milag, on the march to Lubeck, sleeping in a field and later at the Trenthorst Farm, his final destination. Eventually, he wore the jacket back to England, and it did not leave his side during the weeks of his recovery at Bournemouth. His last wearing of the famous jacket was at his wedding in 1945. Afterward, it was stored away for nearly 70 years. When Edy’s daughter, Barb, discovered Tom-Kirby Green’s son, Colin, living in England and told her father, Don Edy decided the jacket should be returned to Kirby-Green’s only son. Things have come full circle now, and the precious reminder of Colin’s father has finally come home, thanks to 97-year-old POW Don Edy — such a satisfying ending. Thanks to Barb and Colin for this story.
Yellow Ribbons and POWs
See the link below for a delightful story sent by John Lanza, about Tony Orlando, creator of “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree. As a side note, the song was composed in the dining room of John’s first house. John bought the house from Irwin and Sheila Levine, and Irwin and his partner L. Russell Brown wrote the song. They also owned the rights to the song and made a bundle on it, and their songwriting careers took off. Tony Orlando was introduced to his two female singing partners, Dawn, at a party at that house.
From POW son, Arthur Taber
WWII BATTLEGROUND: U.S. 8th Air Force vs. Luftwaffe, Germany, 1945
Battle Stations: B-17 flying fortress
WWII In HD: The Air War
B-17 Flying Fortress Heavy Bombers Over the Nazi Germany | 1943 | USAAF in Europe | WWII Documentary
HELL OVER GERMANY: Colour (RARE) Footage of B-17s VS. Luftwaffe (1944, 720p)
and two BBC documentaries about Bomber Command…
Bomber Boys – BBC Documentary
In Search Of RAFomber Command (video recorded off-air in 1979)
Oldest WWII Veteran’s Funeral – Thanks to Barry Schoen
From Claudius Scharff:
Wings Over the Rockies
From Ross Greene – Christmas Truce – WWI
Very moving video about humanity during war. For anyone unfamiliar with the Christmas Truce, a link follows that tells more.
More information can be found here:
The Torch – from Pam Whitelock
The Torch is a newsletter (low resolution won’t permit reading) from newly-merged JPAC and DPMO whose mission is to recover our MIAs from all wars and return them home. The current issue has a photo of Tuskegee Airmen, Alex Jefferson, with some of his fellow airmen and DPMO personnel who attended the Tuskegee Airmen Convention last July in Orlando, Florida. There are 27 MIA Tuskegee Airmen still unaccounted for from WWII.
WWI Photos – Incredible
Mike has found a very sobering link regarding the tragedy of war that depicts WWI in photos.
World War I in Photos: A Century Later…
A Tribute to Those Who Flew
For those who have not seen the very touching We Remember video, it comes from POW son, Stan Gosselin. You will remember his dad, Joe, from the reunion.
Regarding a quote sent to us regarding Jewish slave laborers who assembled bombs and arranged for some of them not to detonate: Arthur Taber has just read the book that was said to be quoted from, Elmer Bendiner’s The Fall of Fortresses. Below is text from the book:
“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.”
Mike and Marilyn were both surprised when each received a beautiful wooden Christmas ornament specially made to honor their fathers. Barry Schoen sent us the ornaments that were made by his good friend, Mark Turcotte, a true artisan, who was diagnosed with MS in 2000. He is from Middle, Georgia. Mark’s father was a B-29 pilot during WWII, part of the first group to train for B-29 missions in the Pacific. His father’s plane was the sixth B-29 to land there. On one of those missions, his plane was badly damaged and could not make it back to his home base. His only option was to land on Iwo Jima…DURING the battle for the island! Barry sent him one of the SLIII coasters from the reunion and the embroidered patch from the reunion, along with the SLIII logo. Mark worked wonders over several days perfecting the logo to get just the right effect to reproduce it. It was not an easy task, requiring over 1000 mouse clicks to create the logo electronically. He and Barry collaborated on the design of the reverse side. Below is a picture of the two sides of the ornament before it was assembled and before its hanger was attached. We can testify that these ornaments are simply beautiful and would be a nice addition to any Christmas tree, only to become a family heirloom. Here is the website for anyone wishing to order one:
Book Review on Amazon
For those of you who have read our new book, if you would like to take a moment to post a review on Amazon.com, it is very easy. Just type in the book title, From Interrogation to Liberation, and click on customer reviews. Then click on the box that says write a customer review. Thanks!
Marilyn and Mike Book Corner
Like many of you, both of us continue to read books—-new and old—-that add to our knowledge not only about Stalag Luft III but also WWII generally. So, we thought we would add a section to our newsletter that passed on some of our personal recommendations, and we also encourage you to send us yours.
As a start, it is probably always useful to remind readers of some of the most exemplary books regarding Stalag Luft III or that touch on the POW experience in Germany. These include some that have been in print for years, but also some more recent works:
Andrews, Allen – Exemplary Justice (The British hunt for the murders of “The Fifty”)
Barris, Ted – The Great Escape – A Canadian Story
Bender, Lt. Col. Edward – Lest They Forget Freedom’s Price
Brickhill, Paul – The Great Escape
Birckhill, Paul – Reach for the Sky (the story of legless RAF pilot, Douglas Bader)
Brown, Kingsley – Bonds of Wire
Chancellor, Henry – Colditz
Clark, Lt. Gen. A.P. Clark – 33 Months as a POW in Stalag Luft III
Durand, Art – Stalag Luft III–The Secret Story
James, B.A. – Moonless Night
Jefferson, Alexander – Red Tails Captured, Red Tails Free (Tuskegee Airmen)
Keeffe, James H. III – Two Gold Coins and a Prayer
Read, Simon – Human Game – (the search for the Nazi executioners of the 50 POWs who escaped Stalag Luft III)
Toliver, Raymond – The Interrogator (the story of Hanns Joachim Scharff – “Master Interrogator of Germany”
On the broader subject of WWII, here are some of our recent readings and recommendations:
Gay, Timothy – Assignment to Hell – (the war against Nazi Germany with correspondents Walter Cronkite Andy Rooney and others.)
Goodwin, Doris Kearns – No Ordinary Time ( won the Pulitzer Prize – life in the White House during WWII)
Hoffman, Heinrich – Hitler Was My Friend (Hitler’s official photographer)
Kershaw, Alex – The Few – (spotlights the handful of American pilots who joined the Royal Air Force and its fighter squadrons during the Battle of Britain)
Lengyel, Olga – Five Chimneys – A Woman’s Survivor True Story of Auschwitz
Makos, Adam – A Higher Call – (relationship between German pilot, Hans Stigler and Charlie Brown, American pilot, plus insights into the Luftwaffe)
Nichol, John and Rennell, Tony – Tail End Charlies
Milton, Giles – Wolfram: The Boy Who Went to War
Morris, Rob – Untold Valor – (unusual POW experiences of WWII)
Samuels, Wolfgang – German Boy – A Child in War
Schellenberg, Walter – The Labyrinth (memoirs of Schellenberg, Hitler’s Chief of
Vassiltchikov, Marie – Berlin Diaries (the secret diaries of a twenty-three-year-old White Russian princess who worked in the German Foreign Office from 1940 to 1944)
Dorr, Robert – Mission to Berlin (aerial warfare in both large and small scale – WWII bombing operations)
Zukus, Markus – The Book Thief (#1 NY Times best seller – Death, himself, narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family.)
Please send us your suggestions!
Until next time, ….
Marilyn Walton Mike Eberhardt
Daughter of POW Thomas Jeffers Son of POW Charles Eberhardt