Stalag Luft III Newsletter – October, 1915
Greetings, POWs, Families, and Friends,
The 69th Stalag Luft III Reunion has concluded, and some of the highlights are shown below. Thank you to so many for sending photos they took. It was wonderful to see how many new friends were made there, all bonded by the experiences of their fathers decades ago.
From Marek – Poland
Marek returned (1st week of Oct.) from a military training ground, where he had gone with his tank. It was a huge military meeting (military camp) for students from all over Poland. Over 500 students from the military high schools attended. These schools are ordinary high schools, but the students wear uniforms every day. They have some basic military training, and after graduating they are ready to apply for the Military Academy, Police Academy, or Fire Fighting Academy. The meeting was also a competition with students competing by running, shooting, and demonstrating drill training. They also listened to lectures. Marek gave them a lecture on Polish tank troop history.
Krzysztof (Kris) Kustra, Marek’s friend and tank crew member, a soldier (NCO), professional tank commander, and tank gunner is on the left. Marek is on the right.
Zagan’s American Football Team
American football has become popular in Poland. There are now many amateur teams there. Meet Zagan’s SHADOWS, the first (American) football team in Zagan.
Candles for the Fifty – Nov. 1. 2015
All Saints Day in Poland is when candles are lit on graves throughout Poland. It is a day that the fifty murdered after the Great Escape are also remembered when candles are lit on the memorial the RAF built in the camp to preserve their memory.
Marek attended the 69th Stalag Luft III in New Orleans, Oct. 21-25. Pictures are below. I encourage attendees to send more pictures for the newsletter that follows this one. Once, again, we had a tremendous group of people, and by the end of the reunion they were all family. We are so grateful to our POWs who attended and our interesting presenters who entertained all of us. Our visits to the WWII Museum there and the AirPower Air Show were incredible. Marek also visited the A.F. Academy Library to research for the museum in Poland.
POW Ed Dement and admirer
POW Gideon Jones & Tuskegee Airman, POW Gideon Jones and wife, Janet, with Devon
Charles McGee Geiger Neilsen and her husband, Steve
POW Ed Horn with one of the Victory Belles who performed on stage at the air show
Jim Keeffe and Marilyn Author, Ross Greene at the Air Show
Media interviews POW Gideon Jones and Tuskegee Airman, Col. Charles McGee
Marek at Tuskegee Airmen Display
Marek with Col. McGee
Col. McGee of the Red Tails of the 15th Air Force, Marianne Leary representing her father, 2nd Lt. Thomas C. Leary of the Yellow Tails, and B-24 pilot and POW Gideon Jones, in front of the P-51 Red Tail fighter. McGee and Jones were comparing notes and discussing the possibility that McGee might have escorted Jones on a mission.
George Bruckert POW Gideon Jones
POWs Gideon Jones, Ed Horn, and Ed Dement
Marilyn presents a plaque to Pam Sconiers Whitelock Ross and Marianne Leary
Marilyn, Marek, Devon Geiger Neilsen Marilyn and Jim Keeffe
Ross, Marek, Marilyn Ross and Keith Buchanan Carolyn Clark Miller
Daughter of Lt. Gen. “Bub” Clark
Kerry Radley, Barry Schoen, Pam Sconiers Whitelock,
Carolyn Clark Miller, Jim Keeffe
Devon Geiger Neilsen
Meeting our bus tour guide, Barbara, in the
Part of our group at WWII Museum
waiting for our briefing.
George Bruckert’s Collection
Marianne locates her father’s squadron
brick outside the museum.
POW Leonard Spivey at WWII Museum Leonard’s Name on a Display
Marine and Coast Guard Color Guard
Candles of Remembrance
Candle #1 – In memory of POW Col Jim Keeffe – lit by his son and daughter, Jim Keeffe III and Kerry Radley
Candle #2 – In memory of POW Irv Baum and Pilot Officer William D. Geiger – lit by Officer Geiger’s daughter, Devon Geiger Neilsen
Candle # 3 – In memory of SLIII artists Emmet Cook, Don Stine, and Carl Holmstrom, and former P-51 pilot and POW, 2nd Lt. Thomas C. Leary – lit by Lt. Leary’s daughter, Marianne Leary
Candle # 4 – In memory of POW Jay Coberly – lit by his friend, George Bruckert
Candle # 5 – In memory of POW Charles Woehrle, until his death, the oldest surviving POW from SLIII – lit Dr. Tamara Haygood.
Candle # 6 – In memory of Doolittle Raiders Ed Saylor and Robert Hite – lit by WWII B-25 combat pilot, 57th Bomb Wing, Victor Hancock.
Candle # 7 – In memory of POWs David Schellenger, Albert Schwegel, Joe Spontak and Doolitte Raider and South Compound Medical Officer, Heston Daniel – lit by Capt. Daniel’s son, Dennis Daniel
“Commander Ed” Dement receiving a Certificate of Honor to be held
in the Air Force Academy’s Book of Honor. A certificate was also awarded
posthumously to POW Irv Baum, and another was awarded to POW
Alex Jefferson, who could not attend this year.
POWs Ed Dement, Bob Emick, Ed Horn, George Carruthers, and Leonard Spivey drink a toast to recently deceased POW Irv Baum with Irv’s “The Prisoner” wine. Two POWs not pictured, Gideon Jones and Bill Grafton
“The Prisoner” wine
Some attendees of the 57th Bomb Wing, having their reunion in New Orleans, also joined us for dinner. We were honored to have them.
Our POWs answer questions
The following letter is from General Mark Welsh, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Joint Chiefs of Staff. I read it at the dinner. Gen. Welsh also sent a DVD about the state of the Air Force today. While this letter was read to our attending POWs, it is appropriate for all our POWs who were unable to attend:
I’m deeply sorry I’m unable to join you on this momentous
occasion. I can only imagine the memories you stirred by rejoining
your Band of Brothers and laying eyes on your beloved aircraft.
Yours are the real-life war stories we read about in history
books…and Hollywood does their best to capture. You
simultaneously witnessed and authored history…and created our
The world has changed a lot in the past 70 years. What hasn’t
changed is the indomitable Airman spirit…leading raids and
outlasting enemies. On behalf of your brothers and sisters in blue,
thank you for building a force worth guarding with all our
might…we won’t let you down.
May God guard and guide the ones who fly and fight, both
now and forevermore!
MARK A. WELSH III
Chief of Staff
Handwritten note: “We continue to stand on your shoulders.
Thank you for the inspiration you left behind.”
Black Bread Recipe – Marianne Leary
“A gentleman showed me this recipe at the Air Show in Gardner, KS, in September. A POW had given it to him, and he has kept it in his wallet.”
Where Were the Former Stalag Luft III Reunions? – Mary Ruwell
Former POWs started the reunions in 1946. After 1999, families took over. There are lots of gaps to fill in in the list below. If you can add to this list, please do.
RAF Memorial Ceremony, London, 1969, also went to Sagan
Cincinnati 1975, 1980, 1990
Chicago, 1981, 1983
Oxford, England – RAF Ex-POW Association International Reunion, 1982
Barth, Germany, 1986
Norfolk 1988, 1990
St Louis, 1992
Cincinnati, 1995 – 50th and supposedly the last
Colorado Springs, 1997
Kansas City, 1999
Washington DC 2013
Colorado Springs – 2014
New Orleans – 2015
1965 Reunion – Dayton
Marek has sent this picture, and some of the people in it can be identified. Back row, left to right, Jim Keeffe, Bob “Moose” Stillman –Notice that Bob has made horns with his fingers behind the head of Wilhelm Stranghoner, a guard in Center Compound who Kriegies called “Popeye.” Some of the Kriegies invited Stranghoner, Gustav Simoleit, and Hermann Glemnitz to that reunion also. Front row, next to “Popeye” is Gen. Delmar Spivey and his wife. Sitting on the floor is Swedish YMCA rep., Henry Soderberg, who was tireless in his efforts to improve the lives of all the POWs in Europe. Can anyone identify the others not named?
North Compound Photo – POW Joe Consolmagno
Many North Compound POWs had their picture taken in this same spot. Americans shot down early in the war, living in North, did also. Names and the dates the men were shot down are below:
Left to right: 1st Lt. Quentin Burgett, co-pilot, shot down 12/20/42
1st Lt Joseph Consolmagno, navigator – 4/5/43
1st Lt Frank (Jackie) Jacknik, navigator – 1/13/43
Capt. LR McKessen, pilot – 12/20/42
1st Lt Robert Hermann, navigator – 3/6/43
1st Lt George Matthews, bombardier – 12/20/42
1st Lt Frank Leasman. Navigator – 12/20/42
May, 1943, North Compound (RAF Compound) “garden” in front
of us made up of dispersal sand from Great Escape tunnels.
McKesse, Burgett crash landed in Seine. Jacknik downed by collision at Lille
News Coverage of Lt. Sconiers
More news on Lt. Sconiers in the next few months.
S/Sgt. Albert A. Schwegel – Liz CainAlbert was 93. He died Oct. 9, 2015 – ball turret gunner, shot down by a rocket from a fighter attack on return from mission to Brunswick on 11 Jan 1944 in B-17F #42-30248 “Prodigal Son.” Prisoner of War, SLIII. Condolences to his family and daughter, Lee Ann Schwegel Giesy.
Harry M. Grimball Jr. – Kevin Wilson
William McGeehan – Cathey Frei – niece
Lt. Col. (Ret.) William F. McGeehan, died peacefully in his sleep on November 6, 2015, at his home in Jefferson City, Missouri. 2nd Lt. William F. McGeehan, a navigator in the 384th BG, 544th Sq., was based in Grafton, England. On July 25, 1943, his B-17F was shot down by German ME-109s on a mission to the docks of Hamburg, ditching five miles north of Heide, Germany, where he was captured and sent to Hohemark Hospital in Oberursel, Germany, at the interrogation center. A bullet remained lodged in his right forearm for the rest of his life. He was a POW at Stalag Luft III, arriving August 19, 1943, and was liberated at Stalag VII-A in 1945.
McGeehan later became a member of the Strategic Air Command, working there for twenty-two years retiring after he had flown a total of 4,370.4 hours, 20 of those in active combat. Upon retirement, he became a dentist in Jefferson City, Missouri. A favorite story of Dr. McGeehan’s was the time he was slugged by a German interrogation officer when he refused to divulge information, the officer yelling, “You are the most stubborn prisoner I have ever interrogated!” Whenever he told that story later in life, he would always have tears of pride in his eyes and would say, “That was the greatest compliment I have ever received.”
Arrangements for his burial at Arlington National Cemetery are pending. Condolences to Cathey and this brave patriot’s family.
After I took orders at the reunion for our first book, From Interrogation to Liberation, Mike Eberhardt will order books to sell.
The books are discounted and cost $35.00 each, including the shipping. If anyone would like to order this book, please email Mike at email@example.com As always, 100% of the proceeds will go directly to Marek for the museum in Zagan.
Chance Meeting – Jim Kurtz
When author, Jim Kurtz (The Green Box) left the reunion, he happened to see Tuskegee Airmen, Colonel Charles McGee, at the airport. Jim asked him where in the ETO he was based; his answer: Italy. Jim asked him when he was flying fighter support; his answer was from January to October, 1944. Jim told him that his dad was shot down returning from a mission at Friedrichshafen, Germany, on August 3, 1944. The colonel said it sounded familiar, but that he had some days off back then, so he would check his flight logs when he got home. Sure enough, the next morning he wrote to tell Jim that he definitely was on that mission, thus he was part of Jim’s dad’s fighter support that day.
Air Force Academy – Marek Lazarz
After the reunion, Marek did some research at the Air Force Academy. Dr. Mary Ruwell shows him the Certificate of Honor we awarded to him at the last reunion in Colorado Springs. In addition, Marek was taken to Petersen AFB nearby to see the Stalag Luft III exhibit there.
Marek looking at his Certificate in the
Honor Book at the Air Force Academy Library
Model of two huts from the camp
“Milko” tin in the display. KLIM was the most popular, but MILKO was the same size as KLIM and was also used in a ventilation system.
Milko cans found in Tunnel George
The famous Nazi flag from Moosburg
The flag displayed had been flown in Stalag VIIA in Moosburg, Germany, and it
was removed on liberation day April 29, 1945. The Stars and Stripes was put in its place.
The flag was displayed at the very first POW reunion in Dayton,Ohio, in 1946.
POW “Tex” Newton’s Dog Tag Found at the Camp – Mike Woodworth
Doolittle Raider – Dick Cole – Marianne Leary
“Richard and I were able to attend a reception and celebration of Dick Cole’s 100th birthday at the CAF Air Show in September at New Century Airport just outside of Kansas City. Richard is holding a copy of the new book just out about Dick. As you can also see, Dick has on a Kansas City Royals cap; he was honored at the baseball game the night before which he attended. He was given a standing ovation by the sellout crowd!”
Hermann Glemnitz Photo [German guard at Stalag Luft III] – POW James Stewart – Canada
(Jim was a SLIII POW featured in the documentary, “Lost Airmen of Buchenwald.”)
“This photo was taken at Pappy Elliot’s farm at one of our last POW conventions, probably around 1984………can’t remember exact year.”
English the Official Language of the European Union? – Ernie Hasenclever – Canada
The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as “Euro-English”. In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard “c” will be dropped in favour of “k”. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.
There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with “f”. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter. In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent “e” in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away. By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”. During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaining “ou” and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensi bl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru. Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.
German Personnel Transporter Found in Poland – Stephen Marks – Poland
“Here’s something you don’t see every day – an entire WWII German personnel transporter extracted from a river (I think near Warsaw)! It was probably abandoned during the German retreat in January 1945. Actually, there were two vehicles, but one was heavily damaged by a grenade, whereas the other wasn’t. They say a military museum will perform reconstruction and conservation work and eventually put the machines on display. There is even a comment that it might be possible to actually get one of them up and running again! Apparently, the anaerobic mud they were buried in prevented decay. They also found inside it a remarkably preserved walking cane that belonged to one of the crew. The cane had “Zakopane” marked on it, which is a Polish town in the mountains bordering Slovakia – purchased or stolen, no-one knows (You can see it with an eagle’s head in one of the photos on the link below.)”
[From Marek: “The Germans crossed the frozen river in January 1945. The ice fractured and the vehicle got stuck. The soldiers took the ammunition, and guns, and they left the vehicle.”]
Murdo – POW Jule Spach
Jule Spach and Murdo
“Marilyn, I think it was 1965. I was visiting my “ole” alma mater of Georgia Tech., and Stalag Luft III chaplain from Scotland, was there in Atlanta visiting the Presbyterian Seminary located in Atlanta. That visit was long ago. Murdo, in my opinion, was one of the truly great members of our Stalag Luft3. As I mentioned to you, he had a real influence on my life and many, many others. [Murdo was so beloved that when the Americans were moved from the British North Compound to South Compound, they took Murdo with them.]
Games with the Germans – POW Crawford Hicks – age 94 – West Compound
“We used to have a lot of fun playing games and tricks and so forth. One night, in particular, I remember. We used to have a spot check made by the Germans, and we had to have lights out at 12 o’clock at night. We were not allowed out of the building after lights out. So when we heard the Germans coming in at the end of the hall, as we were lying on our beds, we all got a book. We opened it in front of us in the dark, so when the German guard came in and turned the light on to count us, all he saw was 15 guys lying in bed reading a book. He didn’t even count! He turned the light off and slammed the door and went on! We just roared outloud when it happened. “
In addition, Crawford had a request:
“Our Museum of Aviation just recently received a B-17 which had languished for about 50 years outside in the weather in Indiana. We have an inside hanger here so we were able to get it. But is going to take about $400,000 for renovations and the entire community is involved in it. I would like to give the museum a copy of the poem (or “Ode”) to the B – 17 written by one of the Kriegies from Stalag III, but cannot find a copy of it anywhere in my papers and do not know the author’s name. I’m hoping you might be able to find a copy and send it to me. I would like to get it to the museum as a gift from the Kriegies of Stalag Luft, World War II.
I was able to find the poem on the following link:
http://www.tn.gov/tsla/educationoutreach/multimedia.htm POW Log of Hardy A. Michener
This log had the following poem which Crawford was looking for. He will have it framed to be hung near the restored B-17. The poem is below:
The means and wherewithal…
POW D. Hughes
You can talk of your airplanes and talk of them long.
Discuss all their points, both the weak and the strong.
You can argue with passion—or calmly assess,
Demerits or merits each plane may possess.
Pile figure on facts and statistics relate
Or a personal preference impressively state;
But when it’s all over, it’s plain to be seen –
There’s none that touches the B-17.
First of the four-motored bombers to come –
First to the stratosphere, first to the front
Of bombing by daylight in enemy skies
And first to invite the Luftwaffe to rise.
She made the long hauls at whatever the cost,
And many came back—many were lost.
Formations were lashed by fighter and flak
And battles were fought that were bloody and black.
But thru them she rode, still triumphantly strong,
To deliver the goods where we know they belong.
So thanks to the escort for helping us through,
And thanks to the “24” both gallant and true.
A toast to them all, let every man raise!
And this to the fortress, deserving our praise.
She’s a symbol of all that freedom can mean.
We’re proud of our ship—the B-17.
POW Wallace Kirkpatrick – South Compound – Gets Medals – Marek Lazarz/Emmet Cook Jr.
POW Gideon Jones – Center Compound- Receives POW Medal – Doug Descant
Surprise in Holland – Jim Keeffe, III
Jim is the son of the late Col. Jim Keeffe and author of Two Gold Coins and a Prayer. He has sent the unique pictures below of a discovery he made on a Dutch playground when he went back to Holland to see where his father evaded. He was stunned to find a wooden model of his father’s plane built for a playground for the school there.
“This is Babette, one of two daughters of Helen Berman Cohen. Helen, now almost 80, is the little Jewish girl who was hiding with her family in the attic of Dr. Jappe-Alberts in Rotterdam during the war. When my father was invited to stay with the Jappe-Alberts, he met Helen and her family. When I went back to Holland last year, I spent quite a bit of time with both Helen’s daughters, Babette and Lili, running around to different places. It’s on the outskirts of the town of Hendrik-ido-Ambacht, just a few miles SE of Rotterdam, bordering a one-lane road called Vrouwgalenweg – Mrs. Galen’s Way.”
For Your Favorite POW – Barry Schoen
Mark Turcotte is the son of a World War II Air Corps Pilot and 22 year Veteran of the Air Force who piloted a B-29 on Saipan throughout the entire heavy bomber campaign in the Pacific. On three occasions, his father was forced to make emergency landings on Iwo Jima. The crew was the 6th B-29 to land there while the battle still raged. After Mark was sent the paper coaster with the SLIII logo on it from our 2014 reunion, he designed a commemorative ornament, which can be customized in any way. Information is below:Ornament/Medallion featuring the laser engraved SLIII logo. The ornament/medallion features a 5/16” brass screw eye on top of image and beige parachute cord for hanging. The wood is finished with Clear Danish Oil to highlight wood grain. (APPROX 3” D Bradford Pear) You may customize the obverse with the POW name, rank, given POW #, compound name, the phrase “Behind The Wire” and barbed wire that extends L/R.
- Standing engraving of the SLIII logo for display upright on a mini easel. The wood is finished with Clear Danish Oil to highlight wood grain. (APPROX 5” x 5” x 3/16” thick Bradford Pear or Cherry)
Mark’s contact information:
An Unbelievable Color Film of Berlin, July 1945 –Mike Eberhardt – U.S.
Shortcut to Tuskegee Airmen Alex Jefferson’s collection at the Air Force Academy – Mary Ruwell – U.S.
http://afac.sdp.sirsi.net/client/default/?rm=ALEXANDER+JEFF0%7C%7C%7C1%7C%7C%7C1%7C%7C%7CtrueDoolittle Raiders – Oliver North’s War Stories – John Lanza – U.S.
Spitfire Found – Herb Weber – Germany
Lancaster Radio Chatter – Barry Schoen – U.S.
I Love WWII Planes” (https://www.facebook.com/iloveww2planes?fref=nf)Synopsis: “This radio chatter clip is from a Lancaster Bomber which is flying a mission over Germany during World War Two. The bomber is attacked by a German fighter later on in the clip. The crew seems to panic as the fighter engages them, and the captain at one point shouts ‘Okay, don’t shout all at once!’ Eventually, one of the gunners manages to bring down the German fighter.
Stalag VII Pictures – Ross Greene – U.S.
POW Grover Blevins Collectionhttps://www.dropbox.com/sh/fzztelu8x7tydnk/AADUCFPiAYe41ZxJLInWYjSZa?dl=0
More RAF Radio Chatter for Sale on Amazon – James Castle – UK
Research Websites – Mike Woodworth – U.S.Fighter Groups and stories of those who survived bailing out without parachutes
Until next time,
Daughter of POW Thomas F. Jeffers