Stalag Luft III Newsletter – October 2016
Greetings Stalag Luft III POWs, Families, and Friends,
The fundraiser for Marek that Mike Eberhardt and I are overseeing is well underway, and we will be continuing it until December 15th for those of you who would like to contribute to enable Marek to continue his projects at the museum. We are so thankful to all of you who have already contributed. For those new to this newsletter, $100.00 donations (or more) are requested to have a POW’s name engraved on the POW plaque in the museum as well as the contributor’s name on a plaque to be placed in the new replica POW room in the museum that Marek will be completing. Our goal is $5000.00. Donations can be sent to either me or to Mike, with checks made out to either one of us. Please write Stalag Luft III Museum in the memo section of your check. We will wire the donations to Marek to use in the coming year. He will send us photos of the contributors’ plaque and POW plaque and the new Kriegie room when complete. Mike and I, and Marek, thank you in advance for your consideration of this project when you contemplate your charitable contributions this year.
1275 Fareharm Drive
New Albany, OH 43054
6006 Club Oaks Drive
Dallas, Texas 75248
New Museum Acquisitions
Visitors and past visitors to the museum in Poland continue to find a home for some of their fathers’ wartime mementoes, always welcomed by Marek.
Anne McCaw, daughter of Pilot Officer William “Wally” D. Gaynel McCaw, RAF 22 Squadron, visited the museum and recently sent an original photo of her father in uniform, two original photos of an ice hockey game in camp, a copy of his Stalag Luft 3 ID card, two original letters, a newspaper photo of several Canadian POWs, and an original receipt of funds deposited into an account while in camp.
POW letter sent home
Close up of the hockey pictures:
Restored Fire Pool in North Compound
Marek has been cleaning out this historic structure. This is where POWs occasionally cooled off or sailed small boats they had crafted and where senior officers of the British and Americans were thrown into during the infamous 4th of July Celebration in the camp in 1943.
Below is the section of the book Mike Eberhardt and I recently did, From Interrogation to Liberation, which describes this celebration and the activities in this fire pool that 4th of July in North Compound. Much of it was told to me by the late Lt. Gen. A.P. Clark.
Celebrating Freedom Behind Barbed Wire
4th of July, 1943
As 4th of July approached in the summer of 1943, American POWs living in North Compound planned to celebrate the day, and the Red Cross had delivered new suntan uniforms for them that they planned to wear to appel. Up until the holiday, they had devoted all available parcels and their Foodacco points to accumulate enough raisins and prunes to outdo the British kriegie brew spectacular of Christmas 1942. Using all the barrels and jugs they could find, the Americans prepared a vast quantity of the highly-intoxicating brew.
Just after the Germans unlocked the barracks’ doors on the 4th, and just as the sun was peeking through the tall pines, a commotion in the camp caused a stir among the British POWs and alerted the German guards. For the second time in two years, 1st Lt. Harold “Shorty” Spire, mounted his gunny sack “horse” and road through the barracks in North Compound proclaiming the last and greatest American 4th of July celebration was under way. Dressed as Paul Revere, he rode atop his thoroughbred steed, comprised front and rear, respectively, of 2nd Lt. Ellis Porter and Capt. Alexander Kisselburgh. While Spire led the charge, Maj. Jerry Sage, planner of the celebration, decked out as Uncle Sam, complete with a large white papier mâché glove, roamed the camp in recruiting poster fashion calling, “Uncle Sam wants you!” Other kriegies, re-creating the painting, “The Spirit of ’76,” embodied the classic triad of wounded Revolutionary War patriots suitably equipped with fife and drum and a big American flag. Americans dressed as whooping Indians invaded the British blocks throwing unsuspecting kriegies out of their bunks. Sage took great pleasure in throwing Roger Bushell out of bed as Sage yelled, “The rebels are coming, arise, arise! Don your red coat and fight like a man!” Over three hundred boisterous Americans paraded along behind him toward the British barracks, where the British joined in the parade, many still in their pajamas.
By morning appel, the patriotic spirit of the day was symbolized by a staggering Uncle Sam, arm-in-arm with an unsteady Paul Revere, while Revere’s horse displayed a singular ability to synchronize its fore and aft ends, one or the other only, to stagger a few paces before frequently collapsing. The British had joined the celebration hauling out their own home brew. At first, the Germans suspected a great conflict had grown between the Americans and Brits, and they hoped that the strong alliance between them had been broken. Then they watched both sides throw the other into the fire pool and realized it was all in fun. Sage was the first to be thrown in. Normally sedate and very British, “Wings” Day, always in full military uniform, tie, and medals strutted forward.
“Who will save him?” he cried. “I’ll save him!”
“Who’re you?” cried the crowd.
“Jack Armstrong of the Royal U.S. Marines!” Day shouted, and with that he belly-flopped into the four-and-a-half-foot-deep pool.
The two inebriated men sat dripping on opposite sides of the pool and shook hands. Then they clasped both hands and leaned back stretching their hands across the pool.
“Hands across the sea!” they roared to cheers from the crowd.
Soon Senior American Officer Goodrich and block commanders, “Bub” Clark, Dick Klocko, and Doolittle Raider, Davy Jones, were all in the pool. Late in the afternoon, they all looked down to see a kriegie at the bottom in the shallow water. The startled officers fished him out, pumped water from his lungs, and gave him artificial respiration. When they got him breathing again, the celebration continued, never missing a beat.
The party moved to the middle of the appel ground from the pool, and “Shorty” Spire, still riding on his blanket-covered steed, entertained the kriegies, goon box guards, and other Germans, when he galloped onto the parade ground during appel. He instructed the men under the blanket to dump a keintrinkwasser pitcher of water, and the horse’s leg lifted as the water splashed out onto the ground, causing great hilarity among the international assortment of spectators. Good-natured Hauptman Hans Pieber went along with the prank. After counting the assembled block, he shouted to his recorder, “Zwei und achtig und ein pferd.” [82 men and one horse]
The British gave the Americans full credit for a “good show,” and the goons took the whole thing with good-natured resignation. By the time the sun went down behind the deep forest trees, the party had run its course. For evening roll call, one report indicated that the Germans counted the motionless forms that had retired early to their bunks.
* * *
Remains of the Hospital in North Compound
Below is the cooler ten years ago. You can clearly see the walkway down the center between rows of cells on either side. This gives you an idea of the size of the cells.
This is the most recent picture of “der cooler,” that Marek has taken. The cooler had 20 cells, a bathroom, and a guard room. No sounds of Steve McQueen of “Great Escape” fame throwing a baseball against the wall! One of Marek’s projects is to clean and restore it to the condition ten years ago.
Theatre South Compound
Theatre North Compound
North Compound – Hut #120
The Escape of Homer Mohr – Marek
“I found these two documents in The Institute of National Remembrance (Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation) in Breslau. They are originals. I don’t know much about Mohr’s story. The document says that Mohr escaped from the train in October 1943 while being transporting from Frankfurt to Sagan.”
Homer Mohr was navigator on B-17 #42-5232 “Available Jones” of the 305th Bomber Group/364th Bomber Squadron, shot down 4 April 1943 in France. Landing near Rouen, France, he was captured and became a Prisoner of War at Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Poland. Mohr stayed in the Air Force and served in Korea and Vietnam, ending his military career as a lieutenant colonel. Mohr was in West Compound.
As a side note, POW Morris Jones, on this same crew, was a roommate of my father’s in South Compound. They called Jones “Available Jones” who was a character then in the Li’l Abner comic strip series.
This document is similar to a “wanted poster.”
The Three Who Got Away – Photos of the Great Escapers
Credit – Cato Guhnfeldt, Oslo, Norway, author of “Spitfire Saga”
Only three of the men (names in boldface font) who went out through Tunnel Harry made a successful escape and returned home. Standing from left to right: Sgt. Jan Staubo, Sgt. Per Bergsland, Sgt. Halldor Espelid (one of the 50 killed by Gestapo), and 2nd Lt. Jens Muller. The picture, taken in 1943, was in North Compound on the sports field. There is a theater under construction in the background.
Bram van Der Stok – from the book, “War Pilot of Orange” by Van der Stok, was third successful escaper.
The Long March Memorial Statue
As a follow-up to the story on the RAF Long March Memorial, Marek has sent additional views of it and more information:
“A few words about The Long March Memorial miniature now displayed in the museum. The original Long March Memorial is located within the RAF Museum at Hendon in London. Erected by the RAF ex-Prisoners of War Association, it was dedicated to the memory of prisoners of war of the RAF, Allied, and Commonwealth Air Forces. Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE, President of the RAF ex-Prisoners of War Association, was the initiator of the memorial. This memorial represents air forces’ POWs trudging through snow after being forced by German guards to leave their prison camps in the face of the Russian advance in 1945. It was unveiled by His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, on 14th May 2003. It was generously funded by members and friends of the RAF ex-PoW Association.”
Sculptor: Pam Taylor
Marek has restored the miniature version of this sculpture at the museum placing it in a new display:
Finding the Owner of the German Dog Tag
The German dog tag anonymously sent to Marek by mail from Warsaw that was mentioned in the last newsletter caught readers’ attention. Just who owned this dog tag numbered 3647?
Two crack researchers, Ed Reniere in Belgium, and Dave Champion in Canada, were quick to trace the number. Not realizing just where the dog tag had been found in the camp provided some interesting results.
Ed and Dave had both located a RAF POW Squadron Leader Thomas William Piper. From Oliver Clutton-Brock’s list of RAF POWs:
Piper was the pilot of Stirling N6018 of RAF 15 Squadron–Prisoner N° 3647 at Stalag Luft 3. He was hit by flak on the Circus 51 mission to Lille, one of three Stirlings diverted to attack the secondary target of Dunkirk instead. During the run up to the target, the aircraft was hit by flak, the port inner engine catching fire, causing the aircraft to dive vertically to the ground. All but Sqn Ldr Piper and Sgt G Armstong, RCAF, who became POWs, were killed. Piper went down in July 1941, which means he spent almost four years behind the wire. He crashed near Killem (Nord), France. The six who were KIA rest at the Dunkirk Communal Cemetery. In the link below, Piper is in the photograph taken in 1942 at Oflag XXIB (Schubin) – where the men were held before transfer to Stalag Luft 3.
Piper became an Air Marshal after the war. Born October 11, 1911, Air Marshal Sir Tim Piper retired 5 November 1968, and he died on 1 January 1978:
Two portraits from the National Portrait Gallery:
HOWEVER, by some system the Germans used that is still hard for researchers to figure out, they reused POW #s.
Marek : “We found T.W. Piper, too, but we also have POW No. 3647, American, John E. Gilmore. The dog tag was found in 2005 near hut #133 in South Compound. Gilmore was in hut #132. It is not an unusual case. We have many POWs with the same number on our lists and no key to understand it.”
Gilmore’s entry from Behind the Wire: [Date shot down is actually March 16th, not the 10th as shown.]
Thanks to Dave and Ed for their research on this. I have located John’s, son to give him the news.
Old Maps of German Railroads
This fantastic find by Marek shows the German RR lines in 1942. You can track the route that the 40&8 box cars might have taken during the evacuation of January, 1945. There are several railways so it is hard to say precisely just which one was used during the evacuation, and many of the railways were bombed during the war, but usually quickly repaired to be operational as soon as possible. But these maps will provide a good idea of which way the POWs traveled.
Chemnitz to Nurnburg (Nuremberg)
Nurnburg (Nuremberg) to Müchen (Munich)
Sagan (now Zagan) to Chemnitz (lower left corner)
POW Jim Stewart – Stalag Luft III & Buchenwald
From Jim’s Log Book – Jim has recently shared his entire Log Book, and it has some wonderful details. The picture below of Jim in the suit was taken in Paris for his false ID as he evaded capture. The more stark picture was taken for his ID card at Stalag Luft III after he was transferred from Buchenwald where he had been held with the 168 Allied Airmen sent there.
Before and after
Anthropoid – Rob Davis – UK
The new movie, “Anthropoid” is about the assassination of Nazi, Reinhard Heydrich, in Prague, Czechoslovakia. At that time, Roger Bushell, later mastermind of the Great Escape, was hiding out in Prague. He was caught up in the net after the violent aftermath of the assassination, and the family that hid him was murdered. It was then, after a stay in Gestapo Headquarters in Berlin, that Bushell was transferred to Stalag Luft III through the intervention of Col. von Lindeiner. Rob Davis reviews the film on his Great Escape website:
Sky King – POW daughter, Leslie King – U.S.
As a follow-up to the posting of POW King’s obituary in the last newsletter, Leslie has sent a picture she and her family found of their father with some of his crew, one being Jack Sinise, uncle of actor, Gary Sinise:
Left to Right – co-pilot, C.W. Henry, R Olson, unnamed bombardier, pilot, Stephen King, and Jack Sinise, navigator
Jack Sinise – Navigator – uncle of actor, Gary Sinise
The late POW, Don Casey, was a last minute substitute co-pilot on this crew when they were all shot down. Some years after the war, Stephen “Sky” King served as the personal pilot for the Secretary General of the UN.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieRA0bFWpxo Gary and Jack Sinise
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwQ7oJKxBao Jack Sinise – Part 1
To Get Canadian WWII Records – Dave Champion – Canada
Unique Gift – POW son, Steve Kramer – U.S.
I have been blessed to receive many interesting Stalag Luft III mementoes, but recently I received something I thought I’d never see. Steve had told me the story of his father. The story was found in a faded blue booklet of 30 pages that Steve did not know existed until the day his father died. Found in a filing cabinet, the booklet detailed his father’s previously unknown story. Beside the booklet was a piece of a parachute and a Purple Heart. The B-17 navigator had been shot down over Berlin. Previous to that, he had been on 12 missions. On June 18, 1944, he had been on the same mission on which my father was shot down. Three days later, Harvey Kramer, 398th Bomb Group, would be shot down. Hit over Berlin, Kramer received a gash to his head, a wound that bled profusely. After bailing out, the navigator with H on his dog tag, standing for Hebrew, landed right in the heart of Berlin. The first to greet him was a German man wielding a sledge hammer. When hit, Kramer rolled so that the sledgehammer glanced off the back of his skull. He freed himself from his parachute harness and grabbed the man by the throat. Police arrived and separated the two. Drenched in blood from the flak wound in his head, Kramer had to use a strip of his chute to stop the flow. Force marched through the angry streets of Berlin, Kramer was kicked and pummeled by civilians. Before he got to the police station, he met with two members of the Gestapo who dragged him into an alley where he was again beaten. Taken to the outskirts of Berlin, he was reunited with two of his crewmates, and flak was removed from his head. Then they flew to Frankfurt for interrogation and later transferred to Stalag Luft III.
Throughout the transfer from the Interrogation Center to SLIII, and then taken on the Forced March, on the box cars, to Stalag VII-A present through the degradation in Moosburg, and through the joyous liberation there, the on to Camp Lucky Strike, and finally on a troop ship home, one possession of great value traveled with Kramer–a part of the parachute he had depended on to save his life.
I am grateful to Steve for cutting a piece of this treasured parachute and sending it to me. Of all the parachutes I’ve read of, this is the first one I’ve ever touched. 72 years from the time it was used, as a frightened navigator jumped out over Berlin, I hold it in my hands, worn and marked in a few spots with dirt from so long ago; it is such a poignant reminder of one man’s story that speaks to the stories of so many men and is a visible reminder of the sacrifice that today we can’t even begin to imagine. It is in times like this for me that I hope the nation never forgets.
Piece of the silk parachute
POW Harvey Kramer’s Stalag
The original story can be seen on this link:
Steve: “To read about what they and others undertook and survived – time after time – on bombing missions – can only reinforce how fortunate we are for their survival and our own good fortune in not having to take the same risks in other contexts. To not take the time and make the effort to educate ourselves and millennia about the sacrifices they made would be a failure to appreciate their efforts and a selfish indulgence of our good fortune and should be something we realize every time we look in their mirror.”
Steve submitted the poem below for reflection:
The Man in the Glass
When you get what you want in the struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say
For it isn’t your mother or father or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass
The person whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass
He’s the fellow to please
Never mind all the rest
‘Cause he’s with you clear up till the end
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the man in the glass is your friend
You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears if you’ve cheated the man in the glass.
POW Roommates – POW Joe Consolmagno – U.S.
Hiding tunnel sand in North Compound:
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
Photos – POW Robert McBride – POW daughter, Joan McBride – Canada
Joan has shared these amusing pages from her father’s Log Book:
Robert McBride’s Log Book Cover
“Mac” and his tuque [winter hat]
Flt Lt McBride
First one caught coming out of the tunnel
“Rise and Fall of the RCAF”
New Feature – POW son, Mike Eberhardt – U.S.
Mike is back. My co-author and I initiated this newsletter together four years ago, and he turned it over to me when his work schedule got very busy. He’d like to add a monthly feature of WWII facts of interest. We are calling it, “Did You Know?” Welcome back, Mike!
Did you know?
The first American serviceman killed in the war was Captain
Robert M. Losey. He was serving as a military attaché and
was killed in Norway on April 21, 1940 when German aircraft
bombed the Dombås railway station where he and others
were awaiting transport.
Tommy Hitchcock and the P-51 Mustang – POW Leonard Spivey – U.S.
Rare Color Footage of WWII Carrier in the Pacific – POW son, Mike Woodworth – U.S.
1940s Aircraft Carrier in the Pacific – This is 16mm color (not “colourized”) footage that you may not have seen of carrier action in the Pacific. Not many color shots in the ’40s – extremely expensive then, with a complicated and exacting processing process.
Air Force Escape and Evasion Society
The Writing 69th – Journalists – Cronkite, Rooney, et al.
The book above is a very good account of the experiences of these noted war correspondents. As an added surprise to me, as I read it, I found that they first trained in England at Bovingdon near Hertfordshire. The unique mission undertaken at the RAF instructional base at Bovingdon was the training of the United States journalists to cover the air war over Occupied Europe. The military journalists underwent training in February 1943 to fly high-altitude missions in bombers. At Bovingdon, they were taken up in a B-17 no longer able to fly on missions. The name of that plane was Johnny Reb and as Walter Cronkite took his first flight in a bomber, he sat in the very seat of SLIII POW Lt. Ewart T. Sconiers, who, as a bombardier, flew Johnny Reb home across the English Channel Aug. 21, 1942, from Rouen, France, when his pilot, severely injured, could no longer fly it, and his co-pilot had been mortally wounded. Pictured below is Johnny Reb when it arrived in England from that perilous flight. Those of us who have been involved in Lt. Sconiers’ recovery in Poland, always wondered what happened to that plane. The book above told us.
The primary mission of Bovingdon was to support Eighth Air Force Headquarters and the Air Technical Section, both equipped with a variety of aircraft types. General Eisenhower’s personal B-17 was housed on the base. During World War II, several film stars were assigned at one time or another to the base, including Clark Gable, James Stewart, and William Holden. Among famous wartime visitors were Bob Hope, Frances Langford, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, and Glenn Miller.
Sconiers’ Plane – Johnny Reb
Last Living Iwo Jima Medal of Honor Recipient – Hershel “Woody” Williams – POW son, Mike Eberhardt – U.S.
[In 1941, President Roosevelt appointed John Gilbert Winant U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom to replace Joseph P. Kennedy. Winant appears in this video. His son was a POW at SLIII and a roommate of Lt. Ewart Sconiers.]
Highway Named for Tuskegee Airmen – Marek Lazarz – Poland
Until next time,
Daughter of POW Thomas F. Jeffers