Stalag Luft III Newsletter – October 1, 2015
Greetings POWs, Families, and Friends,
Just weeks until the 69th SLIII Reunion!
WWII Museum – New Orleans – Stalag Luft III Reunion
To facilitate planning for reunion attendees who will visit the WWII Museum in New Orleans, I wanted to list three of the most popular attractions there. Many of these are interactive and immersive. All WWII vets are admitted to these events free, and they will not pay admission to the museum. You might want to read about these opportunities first and decide how to start your day at the museum. The Tom Hanks film is a great way to start.
From Marek in Poland
Below is a picture of the recently-hung plaque that Marek has designed to honor the POW relatives of donors to the museum. Several more spaces are left on this newest plaque for anyone wanting to honor a loved one. Donations are $100.00 and have brought in thousands of dollars to renovate the dated museum. Marek has designed and made all of the plaques below, all part of the fundraising project initiated by Mike Eberhardt and I.
For those who have not seen the original plaque, it is below:
American, William Geiger, flew with the RAF Eagle Squadrons
German mail censor, Lisa Knüppel
RCAF Tributes 1st Lt. O.V. Robichaud Crew
Below is the newest look of The Donation Wall. On the left of the plaques is a new exhibition of the paintings and sketches done by RAF POW P/O Kevin Murphy. The pictures were donated by his daughters in 2014 and framed by Marek.
The entrance to the museum is finally complete. See the series of sequential drone shots below taken to view the completed work.
The Polish subtitle says: Restoration of the memorial was funded by The Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
The POW John Pedevillano Honored at 2015 Air and Space Conference – William Vuccci – U.S.
SLIII POW John Pedevillano was chosen recently to be honored with other Air Force heroes at the 2015 Air and Space Conference in Washington DC. USAF Commanding General Mark Welsh, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, recognized several heroes at the conference.
Honored Heroes with AF Chief of Staff, Gen.Mark A. Welsh III and his wife – John is on the left.
Secretary of the AF, Deborah Lee James
John & Spencer Stone
Spencer Stone was with Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos aboard a high-speed train en route to Paris from Amsterdam in August when they subdued a terrorist. Spencer was the most injured in the attack and was recognized along with John.
The USAF Air & Space Conference dedication, featuring John and other heroes, can be seen at the link below. This is a very high-spirited, energetic, ceremony, well-worth watching, that gives the assurance that our USAF is in good hands today.
Click on the link above and then click the top right video presentation of USAF Commanding General Mark Welsh. For an added treat, click on the second video below that one to see Gen. and Mrs. Welsh with the Muppets.
F/O Irving Baum – USAAF – Bombardier – 92nd BG – POW #3629 – South Compound
Irv died suddenly on Sept. 17th only days after he had been diagnosed with cancer. I spoke with him the day he had been diagnosed, and he told me he had been given 6-8 months to live.
Irv was one of the early founders of the SLIII reunions and attended most of them over the years. Mike and I were privileged to tell his story in one of our books. Some might remember from an earlier newsletter his incredible story of arriving at SLIII the day after the Great Escape took place. Irv was filling out information for his ID card there. A young German geifreiter guard quietly watched him as he wrote. When it came to the section on the form marked Religion, Irv hesitated and wondered if he should write Hebrew as the letter H indicated on his dog tags. But, instead, he decided to write Jewish. Irv had just completed the J when, without a word, the guard put his hand on Irv’s hand. Then to Irv’s astonishment, the guard took the card and the pencil, and he formed the J into a P, writing Prot. for Protestant in that space. He walked away with the card never saying a word. See 4th line on the left below.
When liberated from Stalag VIIA in Moosburg, Germany, Irv volunteered to go to the concentration camp at Dachau, nearby, to help with the overwhelming task of caring for the prisoners there who had managed by some miracle to survive. The experience remained indelible in his life. He spoke of his wartime experience as long as he lived. He was editor of the 92nd Bomb Group’s newsletter as well, and he spoke fluent German.
Irv was schedule to come to the last reunion in Colorado Springs in 2014 and had to cancel the day before when the earthquake hit Napa Valley and damaged his home. He told me that many of their expensive tea cups had fallen from a cupboard and broken, but he laughed and said that his kriegie nature kicked in as he tried to figure out how he could use all the broken pieces to make something else useful out of them. Irv had owned a vineyard for years and created “Prisoner” wine. He sent some bottles to Colorado so that his fellow POWs could enjoy it, and they had a toast with it at the banquet.
When I wrote his story for the book, he called me and said he would like it read at his funeral. Those words are so poignant now. I ended my last conversation with him with the usual, “Good-bye sweetheart,” never knowing it was the last good-bye. Two days later he was gone. Shalom my friend and rest in peace.
Interview with Irv:
POW Jerry Conlon – Keith Fauerso/Sue Moyer
POW Joseph J. Conlon of Roaring Spring, PA, died on Tuesday morning, September 29, 2015. Many will remember “Jerry” from the reunion in Dayton, OH, in 2012. Our condolences to the family of Mr. Conlon. Jerry was a bombardier on a B-24 shot down over Hungary. He also lived in South Compound. He was a delightful man who was a true patriot.
POW George Sweanor Remembers his Meeting with Hermann Glemnitz – U.S
George attended one of the Stalag Luft III reunions years ago where he met with former guard Hermann Gelmnitz. A newspaper article featured a picture of the two together. Unfortunately, the resolution of the picture was too low to post here. From George:
“Yes, it was a good reunion. Hermann was there with his daughter, and I gave them a copy of my book. Wally Floody was a guest speaker and a few times, during his talk, he would turn to Herman, asking: “Are you listening, Hermann?”
RAF POW Tony Parsons – James Castle – England
Pilot Officer Anthony (Tony) Parsons, 2nd from the right in the back row, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, Bomber Command, No.87063, and Prisoner of War, No.39646 was great uncle to James Castle, who has traced his history and written a book about him. Tony was in Hohemark Hospital in 1942 for treatment for frostbitten feet. Below is an account he wrote about his stay in Hohemark Hospital, where German Dr. Ittershagen, mentioned in the last two newsletters, practiced in Oberursel, Germany, near the interrogation center.
“After my various visits around Germany through the various camps, I eventually finished up at Dulag Luft and was interrogated, that’s another story. And then because of my feet I was put in the local cottage hospital sort of place where a lot of the German soldiers, or German forces, wounded, were recuperating, so it wasn’t really a hospital, it was rather a convalescent home.
And the first floor of this old German schloss was given over to British Prisoners of War. It was a very strange affair, the staircase went up to the first floor onto a big landing, and then there were double doors, about each three foot wide, making a six foot wide opening, and about ten feet tall, into an octagonal inner hall which had a skylight, and opening off this hall were about eight rooms, quite big bedrooms, and one was a bathroom.
And there were about ten or twelve R.A.F. Prisoners of War there, and I happened to be the eldest of the bunch, so I was made Senior British Officer of that floor, and warranted a single bedroom to myself. At night the doors, these lovely old fashioned large doors to the bedrooms were locked from the outside, or from the hall side, and wooden roller shutters were pulled down over the windows, the windows opened inwards, and the mechanism to control these shutters was locked by the German guards. So we were each in their little cell, or cells at night unable to get out from the window and unable to open the door, and if one wanted to go to the toilet, one just didn’t until the following morning.
Well now during my short time there a Squadron Leader, South African chap, Squadron Leader in fighters I think he was, came in, and he’d had facial bruises, because when he landed, he ditched or force landed on the ground, the land, and his face hit the instrument panel I think. It was very badly bruised, and they sent him to this place as a rest home to recuperate before he went into the main camp. Otherwise he was physically fit, and although he outranked me they left me there as S.B.O. and he joined someone else in one of the other rooms.
During the day he said to me ‘If you could open your window shutter, or if we could open your window shutter, I could escape because the window to your room, I’ve been checking that outside, opens onto the back of this schloss and from there on one can get into the garden and it looks to me as if I could get away. How about it?’
So I said ‘Alright by me, but first of all we’ve got to be able to open my door, or we’ve got to be able to open yours and mine to get you into my bedroom, and then I’ve got to open the lock to the roller shutters.’
So we had a look at the lock, and I had a wire type of coat hanger which I manipulated and found that the locks to the doors were a piece of cake. So I could open mine, and open his and by a little bit of organisation and manipulation I could open the lock to the shutter. So it was all agreed that after the Goons had locked us all in and about an hour had passed to let things die down I would open my door, and open his, let him out into the hall, and lock his door and so on through mine. And I opened the shutters, the roller shutters, and very carefully wound them open, just enough for him to squeeze through, and he had brought with him his sheets which we knotted together and I let him climb over the sill holding on to the end of the sheet while he slowly went down onto the ground. I watched, because it was very dark, I watched to see if I could see any movement when he got to the ground, but there was a short tug on the sheet which meant that he was clear and I could pull the sheet back again, and presumably away he went. So I closed the shutter and went through the rigmarole of undoing the sheets, and put a couple back to his room, and all was well.
I never did hear whether the Squadron Leader got away or not, but when they had the count in the morning, as they did every morning, there was one missing. So the officer in charge had an identity check and discovered that the Squadron Leader was missing. But he never said, or it was never known whether the Squadron Leader got away or not, I don’t think he did, otherwise we would have heard one way or the other.”
Oberursel historian, Manfred Kopp, has sent a picture of the interior of the hospital showing the staircase that Parsons described. This picture was taken in 1942.
Interior of Hospital
7-8th December, 1941, hit by flak over Walcheren and ditched in Thames Estuary on return from Aachen flying Hampden OL – Z , AE191, 83 Squadron RAF
12th December 1941 Rescued by German convoy escort off Dutch islands.
13th December 1941 Naval Hospital Cruxhaven.
14th December 1941 Hospital at Marlag and Milag Nord.
14th March 1942 Cooler Dulag Luft.
17th March 1942 Camp Dulag Luft.
1st April 1942 Hohemark hospital Obersursal.
14th June 1942 Stadt Rhoda Hospital near Weimar.
17th August 1942 Egundorf Hospital near Weimar.
20th December 1942 Oflag 9A/Z Rottenburg near Kassel.
12th January 1943 Arrived Stalag Luft III East Camp Sagan.
29th March 1943 Moved to North Camp Sagan.
30th January 1945 Muskau.
3rd February 1945 Luckenwalde Stalag 3A (Oflag)
28th May 1945 Returned home via Halle and Brussels
Red Cross Repatriation Parade – Marlag & Milag – James Castle – England
James’s great uncle, Tony Parsons, is back row on the left.
“This photo of Tony was taken while he was at Marlag & Milag. Both Tony (Pilot) and his gunner George were being treated for frostbite having spent four and a half days in their open dinghy after being shot down. They were rescued by the crew of V1305 Wuppertal of the 13 Vorpostenflotille. A few years ago, I met Fritz Rossmann who was the Signal Man aboard. He told me that the crew were amazed that Tony and George had survived so long. The other two members of the crew had died from exposure.
Details of the attached photograph are as follows:
|Photograph carried by both Tony and George was taken in Marlag & Milag Nord and shows Tony Parsons, back row left with hat on. Norman Bidwell, back row right with hat on. George Wiscombe, in flying jacket and hat behind the Chinese man. Dr Graham MacDiarmid is seated front right with a white cap on.|
|Extract of a letter to James Castle from Norman Bidwell, November 2006:
“I remember the photograph being taken, it was a gathering of injured personnel which were possibly being collected for repatriation in the future via Red Cross. We had all been operated on by the surgeon of the camp, a Yugoslavian Colonel, a POW. I had an armour piercing bullet removed from my chest, Tony & George fingers & toes from frost bite. George is wearing his Irvine flying jacket similar to mine which was eventually confiscated by the Jerrys. The men were all ranks seamen, the only commissioned person was Tony. George & I were sergeants and most of the rest of the personnel were the lowest of the low on board a ship and unknown to us but there would be some exceptions. I was collected by the Luftwaffe sometime in the early New Year, 1942 and taken down to Frankfurt am Main Dulag Luft for interrogation and eventually Sagan. I never saw Tony or George again. They were both great blokes and a pleasure for me to have known them.”
Sergeant Norman S Bidwell RNZAF who was shot down in Whitley Z6575 (GE-B) of 58 Squadron which took off at 17.06hrs on 30th November 1941 from RAF Linton-on-Ouse to bomb Hamburg. Flight Sergeant Duncan Gordon McKay RCAF (Pilot) R/10573 and Sergeant John Stanley Gearing RAFVR (2nd Pilot) 1167730 are buried in Hamburg Cemetery, Ohlsdorf. Sergeant JHK Deane became a POW (No 90071) and was interned in Camps 7A/383/L7. Sergeant NS Bidwell RNZAF became a POW (No 221) and was interned in Camp 357. Flying Officer F. Ivins became a POW (No700) and was interned in Camps L1/L3.
|Looking at one of these photographs (in P.O.W. diary) I realise what I was wearing on that last fatal flight, I didn’t mention that I had my side hat folded up and put inside my blouse of the battle dress, so that [I] was able to wear while I was in Germany. And I remember swapping one of the buttons with a Belgian Army type over there, so I had one R.A.F. button and one Belgian Army button. (Tony Parsons Memories)|
Scharff Remembers Incident at Hohemark Hospital – Claudius Scharff – U.S.
File under the oddities of war, we’ve heard of Allied POWs carrying their German guards guns when the latter could no longer do so on the Forced March, but it seems that a weapon exchange also occurred at Hohemark Hospital:
“The German doctor once told the German guards to give their weapons to the POW patients when the American forces were near. When the German soldiers came back, the same doctor told the patients to give the weapons back to the Germans. And they did.”
Author Louise Williams Provides Great Escape Cards to the Museum
Australian author, Louise Williams, has provided two designed postcards she had made for Marek to sell at the museum to help raise money for its renovation. The artwork is original by Richard Purdum to commemorate the 70th anniversary of The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III.
Map of Route for West Compound POWs – Devon Geiger Neilsen – U.S.
This map indicates the POW Camp routing for West Compound starting with interrogation at Dulag Luft, near Frankfurt, Germany, to Stalag Luft III, to Stalag XIIID in Nuremberg, and finally to Stalag VIIA in Moosburg, Germany, where they were liberated.
Doolittle Raider Dick Cole is 100 – John Lanza –U.S.
“I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but a book about Dick Cole came out on his 100th birthday.”
First Hand Account of the Blitz – Mike Woodworth
Goolge Map of the Forced March – Jim Keeffe III – US
Jim Keeffe III made this map showing the march route of the Forced March in 1945 that we as Kriegie Kids followed in 2009 when we replicated the march (Road from Sagan) of our fathers.
You can zoom in and see the Panzer yards and a photo of what it is now. http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&t=h&msa=0&msid=102902019812434567252.000450e5e56b79d725a70&z=10&mid=1236107458
WWII Mascots – Ed Reniere – Belgium
More on the Search for the Nazi Gold Train – Stephen Marks – Poland
Two of My Favorite Videos:
Little Belgian Boy Pays His Respects to the Canadians
Double Click to Open
The Canadians Pay Their Respects to their Veterans
Until next time,
Daughter of POW Thomas F. Jeffers