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.
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.”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.
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.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.
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.”
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!!!”
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
“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.
We spent 2 1/2 days in Zagan visiting with Marek whom we had asked to accompany us to Dresden and Colditz.
Gros Selten and Muskau
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!'”
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.
Overlooked Aircraft – Arthur Taber
11,000 images from WW-II – Arthur Taber
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
Dive Bombers: American Olympians Defeated Axis Powers in Peace & War – John Lanza
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