Stalag Luft III Newsletter – September 2015


Stalag Luft III Newsletter – September, 2015

Greetings, Stalag Luft III POWs, Families and Friends,

I received the following recently that fully describes the spirit of reunions. Thought you would enjoy it too.

Reunions – Moe Moyer

   “I now know why men who have been to war yearn to reunite. Not to tell stories or look at old pictures. Not to laugh or weep. Comrades gather because they long to be with the men who once acted at their best; men who suffered and sacrificed, who were stripped of their humanity.

   I did not pick these men. They were delivered by fate and the military. But I know them in a way I know no other men. I have never given anyone such trust. They were willing to guard something more precious than my life. They would have carried my reputation, the memory of me. It was a part of the bargain we all made, the reason we were so willing to die for one another.

   As long as I have memory, I will think of them all, every day. I am sure that when I leave this world, my last thought will be of my family and my comrades . . . Such good men.”

        George J. Marrett, from his book, Cheating Death: Combat Air Rescues  in Vietnam and Laos

 I just confirmed that, once again, Marek will attend the SLIII Reunion. Our SLIII community will be glad to see him again and learn of the progress being made at the museum under his guidance and learn more about the artifacts he has recently found in the camp!

From Marek in Poland

[In regard to the picture in the last newsletter of the motorcycle on the town square in Zagan, a sculpture of Steve McQueen’s motorcycle from the Great Escape movie:]

“It was made for the 65th anniversary of The Great Escape in 2009. There is also an information sign near the motorbike about the movie and the real escape. You can sit on the motorbike and take pictures.”

New Find in Camp

Marek found this Catholic religious medal between huts 39 and 40 (Center Compound). It is approx. 1 inch high. It is from the Shrine at Royal Oak, MI. I have contacted the Shrine, and they will run an article about it in their church bulletin and see if they can help find the former owner or his family. The medal is actually sliver but looks gold when photographed under the light.

michigan 02 center compound (6)  michigan 01 center compound (7)

Stalag VIIIC Memorial Updated

VIIIC Memorial (2)

This memorial sits near the entrance to the SLIII Museum. Stalag VIIIC sat right next to West Compound in Stalag Luft III, predating it.

“Stalag VIIIC Memorial is almost finished. I added new flag posts. The Polish flag is in the middle. And the RAF ensign is on the left.”

VIIIC Memorial 01 (2)

Sculpture representing all POWs who suffered and died at Stalag VIIIC

Air Show

The biggest air show In Poland took place in Radom, near Warsaw, the weekend of 8/19, and Marek and Mirek attended again to promote the museum. 180,000 people attended.

“We had a promotional stall in the heart of the visitors’ area, near the VIP section! “


Marek,  left, Pawel Frackowiak, (middle) a soldier in Zagan’s 11th Armoured Cavalry Division (“Black Division”) and a member of the Zagan Historical Society, and Mirek  (who has evidently now has joined the 8th AF after a stint with the RAF!) The nickname of the division, “Black Division,” is a tribute to General Maczek, Commander of the 1st Polish Tank Division during WW2. His tankers wore black leather jackets, and the Germans called them “Black Devils.”General Maczek is a Polish national hero. During the 70th anniversary of the Great Escape that Marek planned at the camp, Pawel played a wounded USAAF pilot shot down and captured by the Germans.





we will remember 01 (2)

Marek and Mirek

air 066

Mirek and Marek with American Lockheed C-130 Hercules used by the Polish Air Force

We Will Remember Them”  Drum Concert and Memorial

“We Will Remember Them” was the name of the drum concert at the museum 8/ 15/15. Musicians from the 15th International Drum Forum in Zagan came to the museum to pay tribute to Stalag VIIIC and Stalag Luft 3 victims. The International Drum Forum is a two-week drum workshop for children from all over Poland. One of the teachers was John H. Beck from the U.S. who can be seen laying a wreath. John was a special guest of the workshop. He was in Zagan last year too.

we will remember 02 (2)

John Beck

we will remember 05 (2)

we will remember 01 (2)

Marek and Mirek

we will remember 03 (2)

we will remember 04 (2)

Gold Train!

The long-lost legendary Nazi Gold Train has possibly been found in Poland in the past few days.  More investigation is pending. By the 28th, the news had reached the U.S. (See link below.)  A German armored train was found in an old collapsed tunnel. The train departed Breslau in May, 1945 and disappeared somewhere around Walbrzych (Waldenburg). It is about 30 kilometers from Marek’s hometown, and he went to high school in Walbrzych. The train was called Gold Train, because it was full of money, gold, and goods (art) stolen by the Nazis. The Polish General National Heritage Custodian confirmed the find. He saw the train, guns etc. The location is still the secret, and there is a chance the train might be rigged with explosives. 

 Folded Wings

POW Alan Righetti passed away in Australia on Saturday, August 15, 2015. He lived in North Compound. Below is an exchange I had with him last year about the Forced March.

0984-2-Sargeant A Righetti - Rhodesia 1941 (2)                 0984-1-2003 (2)

Sent by Barb Edy – Canada

Alan Righetti, 3 Squadron RAAF. Courtesy of Alan Righetti

Alan Righetti, 3 Squadron RAAF.

Sent by Kristen Alexander – Aus.

Rhodesia – 1941

“The ‘back packs’—The Canadians in my room were accustomed to heavy snow, and showed us how to build a light frame from parts of the backs of chairs etc. to carry the load, and then to have straps over the shoulders to carry a lighter load (no frame) on the chest. This enabled an upright stance when marching. 6 of our room preferred a sled to start with, but switched to this when we started to run out of snow nearer to Muskau. One big disadvantage became apparent on the spring march from Milag-Marlag Nord to Lubeck. Our column was often attacked by the RAF (usually Typhoon rocket- firing fighters). As soon as they were sighted, all air-crew PoWs dived for the ditches, knowing that a long column of men would be impossible to identify. With the Canadian type packs, it was quite a task to get up agai!!   (One of our Navy PoWs climbed on to the bread wagon, waving, and was fatally wounded).”

 2nd to the Last Great Escaper – Paul Royle


Australian POW, Paul, #54 out of the tunnel, was 101 years old. Gary Sarre Photography – Taken for the WWII veteran’s project just a few weeks ago. Courtesy Charles Richard Page/Barb Edy




Paul is standing, last man on the right. This picture was taken at Stalag Luft I in Barth before these Australians were transferred to Stalag Luft III. Courtesy Barb Edy & Charles Richard Page

British POW, Dick Churchill, remains at the last living Great Escaper. Gordie King, Jack Lyon, John Harris, and Alan Bryett, who were in the original 200 scheduled to escape through the tunnel, are still living.

POW Donald Sjaardema Interview

 POW Robert Fortnam Tells his Story

POW Blog – George Sweanor

[George’s essay, “Deutschland” was mentioned in the last newsletter. It is blog #102, dated 19 October 2014. The quickest route to his site is:  He now has 132 blogs on the site with 47,514 call-ups so far from 34 different countries.

 Follow up on Ed Carter-Edwards – Rob Davis – UK

[Rob is a WWII historian who, after reading about Ed, sent me the following from his data base.]


DATE : 07-Jun-1944 / 08-Jun-1944

UNIT : 427 (RCAF Lion) Sqdn

AIRCRAFT : Handley Page Halifax III

RAF BASE : Tholthorpe



TARGET : Acheres

CAUSE OF LOSS : Crashed / general

Pilot : Warrant Officer Class II D F Foster RCAF [Evaded]

Flight Engineer : Sergeant G W Philliskirk RAF [Evaded]

Navigator : Flying Officer G M Waddell RCAF [Evaded]

Bomb Aimer : Flying Officer T W Farr RCAF [Evaded]

Wireless Operator : Sergeant E Carter-Edwards RCAF [PoW]

Mid-Upper Gunner : Sergeant C W Ford RCAF [PoW]

Rear Gunner : Sergeant N Donnan RCAF [Evaded]

DETAILS : Tasked to bomb communications.  Shot down by night fighter and crashed at Gaillon sur Montcient, 1½ miles north-west of Meulan

Source: 971 RCAF A/M Slemon Wing Newsletter.  Author: via George Sweanor.

About 0130 on 08 June 1944, Ed was en route in his Halifax to bomb Acherer, near Paris, when a nightfighter raked them from underneath setting the aircraft on fire. Two of the 7-man crew survived and Ed found refuge with the French underground only to become one of 168 downed airmen (82 US, 48 UK, 26 Canadian, 9 Australian, 2 NZ, 1 Jamaican) who, while in custody of the Resistance were betrayed by Jacques Desoubrie to the Gestapo who concentrated them in Fresnes Prison, Paris.

After our March 1944 Great Escape, when our air offensive was really hurting, Hitler issued harsh new rules that included shot-down enemy airmen captured in civilian clothes supplied by the Resistance could be shot.  But, on 15 Aug this group was packed into boxcars for the 5-day journey to Buchenwald where they were totally shaven, denied shoes, and forced to sleep outside in a sub-camp. The 168 were quick to organize themselves and pledge lifetime solidarity. Two died of health problems before, in Oct 44, the Luftwaffe found them there and had them delivered to Luft III. Bob Taylor, RAF, designed a pin that featured a winged, chained, bare foot. But, it was not until 1979 that 4 of the RCAF group sparked a concerted effort to locate all 166. They found 140 and organized reunions. Willie Walaldersm, RCAF, wrote a 36-line poem, ”A Reflection” and a book “168 Jump Into Hell” was published in Victoria among many others in the UK and US. Of the 26 Canadians only 4 are still alive.

Honor Flight Dancer! – John Lanza

Reminiscent of our POWs singing performance at the CO Springs Reunion last year, there is something about Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B that still gets the boys up and moving!Honor Flight flies WWII veterans free to see their WWII Memorial in Washington DC.

Lt. Sconiers – Recovery Continues

For those new readers unfamiliar with the story of 1st Lt. Ewart T. Sconiers, he was a bombardier on a B-17 and went down early in the war. He had washed out of pilot’s training due to a depth perception problem. On a mission over France, his co-pilot was killed, and his pilot sustained severe injuries, plus burns on his hands. Sconiers removed the co-pilot’s dead body from the cockpit seat and with little experience flying the big bomber, flew the plane across the English Channel for an emergency landing at the 458th Bomb Group’s station in Horsham St. Faith, the closest place he could land safely. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and it is said that FDR mentioned him in one of his Fireside Chats.

sconiers 25-6 (800x578)

sconiers 25-3 (755x800)

The B-17 Sconiers flew across the Channel.

On a later mission, Sconiers’ crew was shot down off the coast of Brest, France, where their plane, Johnny Reb, Jr., still lies underwater. Sconiers was a POW at SLIII living in North Compound and later South Compound. While in North, he worked security for the construction of Tunnel Harry of Great Escape fame under Lt. Col. Clark, who headed up security operations. Sconiers fell on the ice, and a splinter of wood penetrated his ear drum leading to an infection of his brain, due to the untreated ear infection. There were no antibiotics to treat it. As a result, he exhibited symptoms of mental illness, and the Germans removed him from the camp and sent him to a mental hospital in Lubin, but he was dead the next day. There is still much mystery to this case. Lt. Col. Clark, and a POW burial party buried him in Lubin, about an hour away from the camp. Archeologists have just returned from Poland!

134 Lubin - Sconiers funeral 2

Soniers’ burial – Lt. Col. Clark, later to become Lt. General Clark, Superintendent of the A.F. Academy, is the tall man on the right.

Sconiers’ niece, Pam, will give a presentation at the reunion updating everyone on the recent developments in this case!

Columbus Dispatch:

 Polish newspaper:

A picture of the recent August excavation in Allies Park can be seen in the following newspaper. The article says that the Americans revisited Lubin, Poland, where Sconiers had been buried in 1944 to find the grave.  It also gives details on Sconiers’ heroic military career, specifically the emergency landing.The article states how important it is for the Americans to “bring the boys back home.”

“When Will He Come Home?” is the headline. Marek is quoted in the article.,3479415,art,t,id,tm.html

Re-Enactment March from Stalag XIII-D to Moosburg and Beyond – Dick Olson

For those who want to re-enact their uncle’s or father’s march at the end of the war from the camp in Nuremberg (Stalag XIII-D) to Stalag VIIA in Moosburg, Germany, there is a tour group facilitating this. West Compound at SLIII went to Nuremberg before marching to Stalag VIIA for liberation with their fellow American SLIII friends.

Two Evaders – Gary Hill

Fall, 1944, Harlan Hill and three of his crew were evading capture by the Germans after their B-17 was shot down July 24th on a mission out of Foggia, Italy, to bomb the Fiat Factories in Turin, Italy. For six weeks, they holed up on a hillside camp above the village of Febbio, Italy, 130 miles north of Florence, Italy. Their crude camp was a dent carved from the hillside under wooden framework and covered with sod. When it rained, the water soaked through the sod.

By October, Harlan and John Henry, Ed Massey, and Paul Miller, discussed the danger of winter ahead and their chance of survival in the inadequate camp. The partisans introduced them to another evader, a B-25 co-pilot, Merlin Heuppchen, behind German lines since May 1944. He joined them with hopes of all reconnecting with the Allied Forces.

The partisans would either guide them west to the coast, 100 miles through the mountains to rendezvous with an Allied submarine, or south to cross the front lines just north of Florence, 100 miles south. It would be a rugged journey either direction. They chose to go west with the guide taking them 10 to 20 miles to meet another guide who would provide food and occasional shelter. They worked their way to within 15 miles of the coast, near La Spezia. There, they waited two days shelterless in the freezing cold. The second guide never came. Knowing the Germans were looking for evaders in that area, they chose to go south with their current guide and attempt to cross the front lines.

Within a day, they were at the front lines with no food, and sleeping rough in the freezing cold. At dawn, they huddled on the hillside waiting to cross a wide valley with a road running at the base of the hillside. The road was the front line, the demarcation that determined if they were evaders or free airmen. A bivouac of Germans was just a few hundred feet above them.

They had to cross an open strip of shrubs, enter the forest on the other side, move through that forest, and enter a vineyard on the other side of the woods to work their way down the mountainside to cross the valley at the bottom, spacing themselves out five minutes apart, avoiding German soldiers camped near their gun emplacements watching for evaders.  The evaders drew straws to determine the order they would leave. Harlan got the shortest straw; he would go last.

Paul went first, followed by Merlin, then Ed, and John. At sunrise, bits of fog hovered above the hillside as they crept along the route. Most dangerous was the semi-cleared strip of shrubs that ran down the mountainside, about 70 yards across. Paul disappeared into the shrubs and was never seen again. Next, Merlin began to crawl and scoot his way across.  Ed went and then John, and with the fog quickly disappearing, twenty-five minutes later, Harlan took off. Within minutes, Harlan was fired upon by the Germans up the hill. He went flat on his stomach and waited as the soldiers swept down the hillside. When caught, he rolled to his back, hands in the air, and heard, “For you the war is over.” John and Ed were also captured that morning, but Harlan never heard from Merlin or Paul. Harlan, Ed, and John were assigned to West Camp at Stalag Luft III on November 7th.

In 2007, Harlan visited his son, Gary, in Boston, who was working on a book about him. Gary had a letter from early 1945 written to former evader, John’s, wife, telling her what really happened the day of the attempted escape. But Gary could not read the signature on the letter.

The typewriter hadn’t struck the letters of the last name very well, and Gary thought it was Wuepchhen. He Googled that name but found nothing.  But he did find the name of Merlin Hueppchen in an Italian article about an award being given to a man from Rockland, Maine, who had been a B-25 copilot and spent several months evading behind German lines in 1944. Within minutes, Gary dialed the number found, and an older man’s voice came on the line. Gary asked for Merlin Hueppchen. “Speaking,” he said.

Merlin told him that he often wondered how the others had fared, especially the three that didn’t make it. Gary told him they all made it home and that Harlan was just thirty feet away. Ecstatically, Gary gave his ecstatic father the phone. They talked for half an hour like brothers meeting again with stories shared on both ends of the line.

In 2008, sixty-four years after the attempted escape, Harlan returned to Boston. Father and son drove up to Camden, Maine, and spent several hours with Merlin. The two old veterans sat on a park bench overlooking the harbor and reminisced about their few days together on one of the great adventure of their lives, and Gary had the opportunity to share in that incredible reunion.

Merlin and Dad 001 (2)

Merlin and Harlan

Gary’s book about his father, Harlan (Jake) R. Hill, is entitled:  I Wanted Wings, A Tail Gunner’s Story

Douglas Bader Foundation

Mike and I are pleased to find out book on the website of famous legless fighter pilot and SLIII POW, Douglas Bader!

New Video on the Tuskegee Airmen – Bryan Williams

This new video provides interviews with the men who flew the planes out of Italy and defended the big bombers. The “Red Tails” were a welcome sight for many a bomber crew. This well-done film documents their stories and gives insight into their experiences fighting for a country that did not always fight for them. A shorter version of this video will be available for use in high schools to tell the story and keep their memories alive.

Bryton Entertainment, LLC.

Office: 803-341-9435

POW StoryPOW Ken Collins





To Marilyn Walton (3)

English Memorial to the B-24 Hookem Cow – Trevor Hewitt – UK

I met Trevor years ago in England, and we walked the crash sites of several bombers that crashed in England. One was the Belle of Boston, from the 458th BG, and it crashed on his grandfather’s property. Trevor has devoted himself to the memory of the crew of the Belle and has a museum on the property. He also excavates other crash sites in the area, one being that of the Hookem Cow. Recently, he planned a memorial for that crew with many British in attendance. The 458th later became an airport, and the nephew of one of the crew, a pilot for United Airlines, occasionally flies in there.

Hookem Cow memorial photo DSCF4847 Brass palque

New Book from Australia – Louise Williams

Niece of POW John Williams, one of the Great Escapers, tells his story in this new book just released.

“Shot down in 1942, young Australian fighter pilot John Williams DFC became a POW in the notorious Stalag Luft III camp in Germany. John had joined the air force shortly before the outbreak of war and, in the larrikin tradition, led his squadron into air combat over the deserts of Libya and Egypt dressed in sandals and shorts…John and his best mate Rusty Kierath were among the 76 POWs who tunnelled their way out of the supposedly escape-proof camp under the noses of their German guards in what later became the Hollywood blockbuster, The Great Escape. Their families never learned what really happened once the pair made it out into the forest…John’s niece Louise Williams has pieced together his life, from his upbringing in a tight-knit family hit hard by the Depression, to his exploits in the air, and the many missing details of the tragic escape. It is a powerful and intimate story of one of the most dramatic episodes of World War II…’A riveting tale, superbly told’ – Peter FitzSimons, author and journalist..’A brilliant achievement. Louise Williams reminds us that the story of the Great Escape should not be owned by Hollywood, but rather by the families of those who made the greatest sacrifice.”- Guy Walters, author of The Real Great Escape

I am very pleased to let you know the book has been picked up in the UK, so will be published in a separate edition there about November by Amberley Books, an ideal historic and military publisher.” (Louise)


Hohemark Hospital – Dulag Luft – Dr. Ittershagen

More severely injured POWs who were transported to Oberursel, Germany, for interrogation would likely meet with German surgeon, Dr. Ernst W. Ittershagen, who performed countless surgeries repairing broken limbs, bodies, and spirits and became an early pioneer in the use of pins to secure broken bones. When the POW x-rays, indicating the use of metal pins, fell into Allied hands, it was thought at first the prisoners had been tortured. Dr. Ittershagen pioneered the repair of such bone injuries with his technique still being used today.


Log Book – POW Vince Lisanti

Vince has recently sent images from his Log Book that he had kept in camp. He was an excellent artist and became a photographer after the war. He has given permission to share the contents of the Log Book. Future newsletters will feature more of his drawings. The Log Book was carried on the Forced March by Vince. For the Intro of the Log, Vince copied a piece he had read from the book Oliver Wiswell by Kenneth Roberts. It is shown below. Vince read the book in training. When Vince was shot down over Hungary, he was taken to the prison in Budapest. While there, he was thrust into a dark cell. “In the dark, all the words of the piece came flooding back to me.” He used a fork to carve the words into the walls of his cell. Sometimes, in pitch black, he would find a piece of straw from his mattress, and use the small piece to prop open the small door where his food was passed through so that a small ray of light could come through. In addition, he copied what he remembered from his high school physics book, as those passages come back to him as well. When he was captured, his wedding ring and rosary beads were taken from him.  One day, when the small door through which food was passed opened, his ring and rosary were with it, he assumed put there by a Catholic guard.

(Pictures from the log are temporarily unavailable.)



POW Dave Pollack ran the SLIII Reunions for many years. His name

is at the bottom of the Foreword as its writer.


Once at Stalag Luft III, Vince was put into South Compound. One day, a very unusual plane flew overhead at great speed. The POWs had never seen anything like it. It was the ME 262, the first jet plane the Germans developed. Vince immediately sketched what he saw, having only seconds to see it, and his fellow POWs helped him remember the details. He drew the image on thin wrapping paper and through security operatives amongst the POWs, the image was sent to the ultra secret MisX security operation in the U.S.

Red Baron, Freiherr Manfred von Richtofen Cause of Death – Maj. Alan Hopewell

The son of SLIII POW Clifford Hopewell has been doing research on the brain injury which led to the “Red Baron’s” death and found this picture of von Richtofen and his dog.  “There is an extensive medical history about von Richtofen’s injuries, as well as the circumstances of his death, and it now appears conclusive that he was shot not from the air, but from an infantry rifleman from the ground, probably an Australian.”


Freiherr Manfred von Richtofen and his dog

Correction POW Russ Reed would like to rearrange the names of his crew in the picture posted in the last newsletter. The correct order is below. And thank you to Russ for his nickname for the newsletter, ‘The Flak News.”

from word file 02

Top row:  Ball Turret Gunner – SGT Darrel Thorpe, Radio – S/Sgt. Michael L. Barnes , Engineer – S/Sgt. Alphonse B. Grothues , Waist Gunner – Sgt. Paul. Audet, Tail Gunner – Sgt George E. Barnum

Front Row: Co Pilot – 2nd Lt. Richard J. Wansersky, Navigator – 2nd Lt. Stanley R. Mattes , Bombardier – 2nd Lt. Charles J. Proctor, Pilot – 2nd Lt. Russ F. Reed…­­­not pictured Sgt August V. Krizek – (replaced Audet on Mission 5)


A working link (unlike last time—my fault!) to a haunting WWII video is below. Karl Duggin has done the research here while finding connections to the crew of POW Oran Highley, who led The Messiah performance for Christmas as SLIII.

Karl has found that one member of the crew, Frank Clemons, later KIA, was able to visit the Beach family on his first London pass when he arrived. The Clemons family was very good friends of the John Beach family that lived near London. John Beach was a cinematographer and took a short 16 mm color film of Frank during his visit. Roger Beach, John’s son, who found the film, converted it to digital format for sharing with the family and Karl. Ten days after Frank’s visit was filmed, Lt. Clemons was killed in action. The very beginning of the film is May, 1943. It shows James Clark and his wife, Harriett, and a 6-year-old, Frank’s nephew, whose infant footprint photo was in the cockpit of Clemon’s plane. There is no sound. At the end of the film, there is scene of Frank’s funeral in May, 1949. George’s mother, Alice, sister to Frank, can be seen.


Evasion Video – Mike Eberhardt

This is a very interesting video about a fighter pilot who evaded right near the end of the war. His daughter returns to follow his escape route. One of the Germans in the video, Josef Eimannsberger, is also helping Mike with his father’s crash site near Munich.

Vintage Colorized WWII Photos – Barb Edy – CA

That Same Spitfire Flies Again – James Castle – UK

 Unedited Videos – Arthur Taber

See also – the first USAAF mission over a German target:

“Wednesday, January 27, 1943: The first USAAF raid over a German target was carried out. A total of 55 American bombers raid Wilhelmshaven, losing 3 bombers and claiming 22 German planes shot down. This clip contains the unedited crew interviews following the raid. Notable is (then colonel) Curtis Lemay referring the raid as “rather dull.” Also one sergeant uses the word “damn” during his description which is quickly re-shot and the sergeant looks at loss for words.”

Incredible Purple Heart Story – Barry Schoen

New Plane for Old Pilots?

How would the B17, B24 & fighter pilots handle this one?

Canadian Finds Halifax Barry Schoen

To Read More about Robertson – Ed Reniere

Robertson’s friend and fellow crew member John EVAN

Spitfires! – James Castle – UK

As A Pilot Sees the World – POW Bill Grafton

Until next time,

Marilyn Walton

Daughter of POW Thomas F. Jeffers



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