Stalag Luft III Newsletter from Marilyn and Mike – June 2015

 

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Stalag Luft III Newsletter from Marilyn and Mike – June 2015

Greetings to all. Hoping you all had a good Memorial Day as we all remembered the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice to provide the freedoms we enjoy today.

Memorial Day

Remembering at Margraten –  POW Leonard Spivey

“Memorial Day Ceremonies at the American Military Cemetery at Margraten, Netherlands, will be attended by Mr. Harry Kennis, our Dutch Friend of the 381st BGMA. In just a couple of hours from now he will again be laying the wreath in behalf of the 381st BGMA during the ceremonies. The photo shows Mr. Kennis standing by the wreath he placed last year honoring our B-17 Group. Mr. Kennis has adopted the grave of 1st Lt. William J. Johnston of the 535th Squadron, my squadron. The selection of this grave was not a random thing. 1st Lt. Johnston was killed on the day Mr. Kennis was born. Many Dutch citizens have adopted graves at Margaten. In fact, all graves there, totaling over 8000, have been adopted, and I understand currently there is a waiting list. This year, endeavors have been made to place a photo of the interred at the grave along with the flags of The Netherlands and the US.”

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Mr. Kennis

Tester Brothers – Memorial Day in Henri Chappelle Cemetery – Ed  Renière

Researcher, Ed Reniere, as is his custom, visits the American Cemeteries in Belgium each Memorial Day. On this year’s visit, he discovered the tragic story of the Tester Brothers. There are 33 instances of brothers buried side-by-side there. The Tester Brothers are the only three brothers buried together, Robert, lost 11/1943, James Earle, lost Sept., 1944, and Glen lost on January, 1945.

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For an incredibly moving view of the Memorial Day ceremony there, see this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbdbiI_ZNG4 – 2015 http://www.bensavelkoul.nl/Henri_Chapelle_selfguided_tour.htm  – Tour of the cemetery where 8000 Americans are buried

* James E. Tester :  https://etvma.org/veterans/james-e-tester-10945/

* Robert D. Tester : https://etvma.org/veterans/robert-d-tester-11029/

* Glen (correct spelling) W. Tester https://etvma.org/veterans/glenn-w-tester-10913/

Oran Highley’s Grave – Karl Duggin

In a previous newsletter, we mentioned the efforts of Karl Duggin to find the grave of his high school music teacher, a former SLIII POW, Oran Highley, who led the production of The Messiah at Christmas time in the camp. After Karl found the grave and saw it was in terrible shape, he restored it to its rightful condition. Local stories told of his efforts, and this year he was pleased to find that many people left flowers at the grave to add to the beautiful arrangement below from Karl. In addition, he has now had contact with the family of Frank Clemons, who was a member of Oran’s crew, killed in action the day the plane went down. Karl was able to locate the nephew of Clemons also who even after 72 years still became emotional telling Karl how Frank was sent a picture of the inked footprints on the nephew’s birth certificate. Frank mounted the picture in the cockpit of his B-17 and so the picture flew on every mission including the fatal one.

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Oran’s Grave

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Barbed Wire Cross

The picture below shows Oran on the left with Flight Engineer MSGT William J. Condon (right) of the same crew, who was also captured and later sent to Stalag 17B. The officer overlooking the others is not from the crew. Karl has just received this picture from the nephew of Frank Clemons, Oran’s pilot. The picture was taken after liberation when Oran and William visited Frank’s mother, Rosa, and Frank Sr.

Crew with Franks parents after war

Lt. Louis S. Means of Whittier, Calif., was navigator on Oran’s crew. He was repatriated on the S.S. Gripsholm in March 1944. Lt. Means reached Stalag Luft III on January 20, 1944, after a stay of three months in a naval hospital at Cuxhaven, ten days at the Dulag Luft transit camp for airmen near Frankfurt, and five months in the Reserve Lazaret at Obermassfeld. He had been severely wounded in the attack when an ammo can blew up in the nose of the aircraft. His right leg was amputated at Cuxhaven resulting in the long recovery time in the reserve hospital before reaching SLIII. He spent about one month at Luft III (Center Compound) before repatriation. He had been severely wounded in the attack when an ammo can blew up in the nose of the aircraft. Louis Means wrote a book about his wartime experiences, “Quality of Mercy.”

Louis Means family001

How the Germans Discovered our Tunneling POW Doug Morrison

“I helped distribute the soil from tunnels by walking the perimeter of the compound and letting it drip out of my pocket. A lot of us did this, and we finally gave ourselves away when the Germans saw that the path around the compound instead of becoming concave, became convex!!!”

Folded Wings

It is with deep regret we announce the death of Col. James Keeffe, father of Kerry Radley and Jim Keeffe III whom many of you know from the reunions. Col. Keeffe died peacefully May 25th. Details will follow in a later newsletter. Col. Keeffe was an integral part of the early SLIII community when the original POWs were running the reunions. The colonel’s son, Jim, has contributed so much as he shared the wonder of digging through his father’s treasure trove of books and artifacts. Our condolences to the Keeffe family.

Vintage POW Photo – Joe Consolmagno

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 “King of the Ferrets” at Stalag Luft III, Hermann Glemnitz, poses with POW Joe Consolmagno. Photo was taken in Berlin in 1976.  Inset photo shows Glemnitz at the camp years ago.

POW Kriegie Kids Visit SLIII and Beyond

After discovering that a few sons and daughters of SLIII POWs would be in Europe about the same time, we arranged to meet in Berlin and travel to the old camp, as well as to Dresden and Colditz before going our separate ways. Many among our group had not been to the camp before and were anxious to see where their fathers had been held. Supporters of the fundraisers Mike & Marilyn have generated for the museum, the travelers got a chance to see the incredible progress Marek has made in renovating the museum, turning it and the camp into a unique and popular tourist attraction in Poland. Below are some of the pictures we all took so we could take you along with us. Maybe these types of jointly-planned trips in the future should be a consideration for those who would like to go back and see some of the things we did.

Berlin

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Kaiser Wilhelm church left as it stood after the bombing of Berlin. It is now a sister church of the Coventry Cathedral in England, also heavily bombed.

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The interior of the glass dome of the Reichstag, seat of the German government – It is made of glass so government dealings below it remain transparent.

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The large “hill” on the horizon, viewed from the dome – This hill, called Devil’s Hill, is where all the rubble of bombed out Berlin was buried.

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Marilyn with Tyler Butterworth, son of RAF airman, Peter Butterworth, and with Tim Davies, son of British Naval officer and POW Rupert “Pud” Davies, who later played the part of Maigret in the British series of that name – Tyler and Tim met for the first time. Their fathers both entertained on the theatre stage of North Compound and went on to become famous actors after the war. This picture was taken in a Berlin restaurant.

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Beneath this Berlin parking lot was Hitler’s bunker, site of his suicide. A simple sign marks the bunker’s former location.

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Some of the members of our group having “kaffe and kuchen” (coffee and cake) at the top of the Reichstag in the dome restaurant.

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Marilyn, Diana, and Joan make a friend in Berlin.

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Some in our group across the street from Fassbender & Rausch, the biggest chocolate store in Europe

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One of the many chocolate displays in the store–the Brandenburg Gate

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Bullet holes in the columns of the Brandenburg Gate

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Large posters around Berlin depicted scenes from the end of the war. This one was posted near the Brandenburg Gate to show what the area looked like at the end of the war.

Zagan

We spent 2 1/2 days in Zagan visiting with Marek whom we had asked to accompany us to Dresden and Colditz.

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On a cold and rainy day, Marek led us around the camp. This is North Compound and some of the remaining foundations.

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Mike Eberhardt and Mike Woodworth stop where Barrack 138, South Compound, used to stand, where their fathers both lived.

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Marilyn stands on the remains of South Compound, 128, where her father lived.

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South Compound wash room

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North Compound fire pool, long ago the place of boat races and some swimming, and early 4th of July festivities

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Tyler “on stage” where his father used to perform in the North Compound Theatre

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An appreciative audience of fellow Kriegie Kids, standing where Red Cross parcel boxes, once made into seats, used to stand, applauds Tyler onstage.

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Onstage reflection — the reality of remembering a father’s days in the camp were not always good ones.

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Tyler at the Memorial for the Fifty murdered after the Great Escape –The monuments were built by RAF POWs several months after the murders. Tyler’s father was a contemporary of all the names of the murdered RAF POWs whose names still grace the memorial.

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The length of Tunnel Harry is marked by concrete blocks with the names of the 76 who escaped carved on each block Color of their engraved names indicate their fates. Black – 50 killed by Gestapo Blue – 23 survived Green – 3 successful escapers The exit of the tunnel into the woods can be seen at the top of the picture.

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RAF-built replica hut behind the museum–The room is typical of the POWs’ rooms. As the war progressed, the double bunks became triples, and rooms were much more crowded.

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Original light fixture from a barrack….one per room giving off very little light

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Train station in Zagan, formerly Sagan – Roger Bushell and many of the escapers mingled with Germans in this area purchasing tickets and waiting for trains just days before their murders.

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The flag plaque, result of Marilyn and Mike’s first fundraiser for the museum. The names of the POW fathers/uncles/husbands of 50 contributors are engraved on the flag. A second plaque is now underway.

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Our group in front of the museum

 

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Mike, Marilyn & Marek

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Our hotel in Poland was a converted Polish palace where Napoleon and his troops once stayed! See the website and view the unique pool. http://www.palacwiechlice.com/ – 20 minutes for Zagan.

Gros Selten and Muskau

Barn in Gross Selten

Along the evacuation march route, South Compound stayed in the barns in Gros Selten. Only a few of the barns remain. There were approximately 10,500 evacuated POWs in Stalag Luft III and 1,200 in Belaria, the Stalag Luft III satellite camp, also evacuated.

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The old smokestack at the glass factory in Muskau

 

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When the POWs got to Muskau, the British stayed in a horse stable at a castle there. Tyler shows Sharon his father’s sketch book and the picture of the exterior of that horse stable drawn 70 years ago.

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70-year-old sketch by Peter Butterworth

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Tyler holds the sketch up to compare it with the structure today–virtually unchanged.

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The front of the train station in Spremberg. – POWs were put on 40&8 boxcars from a loading dock behind this building. The loading dock was there in 2009 but is now gone, and new ticket-selling machines have been installed next to the train station. Many of the cobblestones the POWs marched upon are now paved over also–a big change from 2009.

Dresden

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The Opera House in beautiful Dresden – totally rebuilt after the bombing of 1945

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The Crown Gate in Dresden. SLIII POWs’ 40&8 box cars passed through Dresden less than two weeks before it was bombed. Over one million people were killed in the firestorm there in two nights of bombing. The entire city has been rebuilt.

Colditz

Oflag IV-C was Colditz Castle in the state of Saxony in Germany. It was intended for the habitual escapers from other camps–men like RAF legless pilot, Douglas Bader. The castle was considered to be impregnable, but there were several escapes from its walls. At the end of the war, a glider built by some of the POWs was discovered up near the top of the clock tower. The war ended before it could be tested, but recent tests of a replica indicated it would have flown successfully.

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Colditz Castle sits high above the town of Colditz. POWs were taken to this park until one escaped.

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Interior courtyard of the castle where POWs had appel.

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The glider replica ready to fly

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Massive thick walls surround the castle. At one time, it also had a moat.

After our trip, we thought it in the best interest of the museum to review it on www.tripadvisor.com  We would encourage others who have visited there to do the same.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It – Marilyn & Mike

Publishing is real challenging and evidently it does not stop when publishers upload book files to websites such as amazon.com and others. The paperbacks always go online before the ebook titles are uploaded to the websites. Our paperback cover for the new book, From Commandant to Captive, was uploaded perfectly. Some of you might recall that with our last book, From Interrogation to Liberation, the wrong file was sent by the publishers to the websites, resulting in a huge publisher’s watermark on EVERY page of the book–700 pages! It took months to get that error fixed. When the new von Lindeiner ebook was uploaded to the sellers’ websites two weeks ago, we found that someone along the way, as a book snaked its way through many channels to those websites, had made a change in “Stalag Luft III”  in the title of the book. Someone, not recognizing that the title had a Roman numeral in it, decided to “fix” it as if it was an errant word! So now when you look on Amazon, or lulu.com, or BarnesandNoble.com, you will see “Stalag Luft Iii” instead!  Not only that, but they also “fixed” the title on the paperback version of the book online to reflect the same error. We have been battling to get that changed. Initially, we were told that we could only capitalize the first letter of any word. We responded that III is NOT a word, but a number. They are slowly fixing this debacle, and we’ll never know which employee did this, but this makes us believe they don’t teach Roman numerals in school anymore!  Anyone ordering a book from the websites, of course, will not see the error in the title of the book they receive. This is just a cosmetic problem on the websites. Mike and I continue to sell discounted copies of the von Lindeiner book until our supplies run out. They are $22.00, and that includes the postage. Email either of us if you would like a book. Rest assured we are familiar enough with the camp to know Stalag Luft III from Stalag Luft Iii , whatever that is !!

Another Member of the Nonagenarian Club of POWs

Best wishes to POW Bob Doolan who is now 98! Bob attended the reunions for many years. We wish him well, and we are glad to have him as a reader of the newsletters.

POW Stuart Hunt’s Book

 Read about Stuart’s experiences in two wars—WWII and the Korean War. Stuart flew with the RCAF during WWII and after being shot down, he evaded in Belgium. You can read more about his book on the following link:

http://www.amazon.com/Twice-Surreal-Memoir-World-Korea/dp/0557252784

twice surreal

Scharff’s Cousin – British Wartime Hero Passes – Claudius Scharff

Claudius Scharff, son of Master Interrogator of Germany, Hans Scharff, reports the death of his favorite cousin, whom he looked up to as an uncle. With a German father and an English mother, Claudius had relatives who fought on both sides during the war. The link below tells the story of his cousin, highly-decorated British naval officer, Nick Mead, who sank the last U-Boat in the war. He died May 2, 2015, and his death was reported in the British newspaper, The Telegraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11627188/Nick-Mead-naval-officer-obituary.html#disqus_thread

War’s Voices Val Burgess

POW researchers and historian, Val Burgess, sends the following link regarding her research to POWs in the Pacific Theatre of Operations after her years of doing oral interviews with POWs who were held in the ETO. Take a look to see interesting stories of POWs held in the brutal camps in the Pacific.

www.warsvoices.org

Here is a link from Val showing a TedX talk she gave last year. Such talks and research go a long way in keeping the memories of our POWs alive.

http://tedxbillings.com/ted-x-billings-home/tedxbillings-january-2014/wars-voices/

UK Connection Trevor Hewitt

For over ten years, Marilyn has worked with a gentleman in the UK (Norfolk) who specializes in crash sites in the UK. Many of these crashes involved American bombers either taking off or landing in southern England around Norwich, which was the hub of activity during the war. All the American air stations surrounded Norwich, and returning pilots coming across the English Channel looked for the tall steeple of the Norwich Cathedral as a beacon after crossing over the Cliffs of Dover. Marilyn has visited some of the crash sites with Trevor and also viewed the museum he has built on his family’s home property, which started as a tribute to the crew of the B-24 Belle of Boston that crashed on the property during the war. His father and grandfather ran out to tend to those injured that day, but most of the crew died. Trevor, the go to person for identifying parts of crashed planes, has been relentless in his efforts to keep the wartime history of that area alive, and he has given hundreds of speeches asking only for a donation to the East Anglian Air Ambulance Helicopter service which is based at Norwich Airport. The airport used to be the home of Marilyn’s father’s bomb group, the 458th. The wartime block house still stands there. Today, when the big yellow air ambulances fly from that airport over Trevor’s home, they are often flown by none other than HRH Prince William who has a home a half an hour’s drive from Norwich.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/royal/567306/Prince-William-helicopter-pilot-East-Anglian-Air-Ambulance

Thanks to Trevor for all he does to keep the history of the 8th A.F. alive in that area.

Overheard at Collings Foundation Event — Wise Words from a Former WWII Airman

“I wanted to see a B-17 that happened to be in the area. It is a really cool airplane and is actually smaller than a lot of people think. There was a 90-year-old WW2 vet that showed up and the people running the show offered him a free tour. ‘No way in hell!’ he replied. ‘Every single time I got into one of those bastards people kept trying to shoot me down! I didn’t make it this far by getting into one when I didn’t have to!'”
Corrections:

The story on Jerry Sage’s watch brought a reply from POW Davy Jones’s son. His father had been featured on PBS with other POWs on a return to Stalag Luft III some years ago to discuss their experiences there. Filmmakers, after hearing his stories, had him pegged as the Cooler King. An amusing discussion with his son assured that his father wanted no part of being tagged the Cooler King and said it was the film’s director, John Sturges, who tied him to that character. Like many other American POWs, Steve McQueen’s storyline in the movie, The Great Escape, was not their favorite part of that movie—to put it mildly, and for those of you who knew Davy, mildly was not normally the way he put things! He is dearly missed.

Also, John Lanza, one of our contributors, in the interest of full disclosure, wanted to make it clear he did not take the picture of the P-51 at the DC Flyover mentioned in the last newsletter. He greatly admired it and sent it, but did not take it.  We appreciated having it.

Links:

 Overlooked Aircraft Arthur Taber

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/04/28/1379946/-The-other-ones-overlooked-aircraft-of-WWII#

11,000 images from WW-II Arthur Taber

see: http://www.worldwarphotos.info/

There are 500 B-17 pictures – see: http://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/usa/aircrafts-2-3/b-17-flying-fortress/

and: http://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/usa/aircrafts-2-3/b-17/ The largest collections are from Germany, USA, USSR, France, & the UK (in decreasing numbers of photos).

 92-Year Old Female Spitfire Pilot – Barry Schoen

http://www.buzzfeed.com/patricksmith/a-female-world-war-ii-pilot-aged-92-flew-a-spitfire

Dive Bombers: American Olympians Defeated Axis Powers in Peace & War – John Lanza

http://www.si.com/more-sports/2015/05/25/memorial-day-dive-bombers-frank-kurtz-marshall-wayne-olympics

 One Every 55 minutes – New Link to B-24 Testing at Willow Run – Claudius Scharff

Until next time ….

Marilyn Walton                                           Mike Eberhardt

Daughter of POW Thomas Jeffers             Son of POW Charles Eberhardt

 

 

 

                                 

 

 

 

 

 

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