Stalag Luft III Newsletter – July, 2017
Greetings Stalag Luft III POWs, Families, and Friends,
POW John Pedevillano – Youngest Man in His Squadron Becomes Oldest Man to Receive a Purple Heart
After John’s son-in-law, Bill Vucci, received requested records from the archive in St. Louis, with the help of an archivist there, John was finally able to receive the prestigious award. John’s medical files supplied the needed proof of injuries sustained when he was shot down and on the march from Stalag Luft III. Bill brought the documents to his father-in-law, and John’s daughter, Barbara Pedevillano, and Bill pointed out these were the medical documents needed as evidence to support the claim to pursue the Purple Heart. Barbara took them to her workplace, Walter Reed Hospital, to give to John’s doctor to verify his injuries. The evidence was then given to the Order of the Purple Heart for consideration and approval.
Maj. Gen. James A. Jacobson, Commander, Air Force District of Washington, presented World War II Prisoner of War, 2nd Lt. John R. Pedevillano, with the award at a special ceremony at the Air Force Memorial, July 14, 2017. The general’s father had been a B-17 pilot during the war. According to the USAF, John is the oldest living WWII veteran ever to receive the award 72 years after the end of WWII.
Pedevillano, who turned 95 on July 19, 2017, was a bombardier on the B-17 “Miss Carriage.” As part of the 306th Bomb Group, he flew his fateful mission on April 24, 1944. His plane was shot down by German fighters, and he was captured by German soldiers and became a POW at Stalag Luft III.
Below is a link to the ceremony which has now been broadcast around the world.
Thank you to my son, John Walton, broadcaster for the Washington Capitals Hockey Team, for these pictures since he attended the ceremony in my place. He had arranged a salute to John at a Cap’s game last year. John Pedevillano is a big fan of the Caps and listens to my son’s play-by-play of the games on the radio. Being blind, he knows my son’s voice the instant he hears it. So it was a nice reunion surprise at the ceremony.
John with Major Gen. Jacobsen
The general pins on the Purple Heart
John, with my son, John Walton
Talking with the press – Since the award, John has
received calls from all over the world.
Folded Wings – Richard Bedford – Bonnie Bedford White
P-47 pilot and SLIII and Buchenwald POW passed away early the morning of July 6th. Dick will be remembered fondly by all who attended the Dayton Reunion with his extended family. A kind and gentle man, he lived out his days surrounded by a large loving family. Condolences from the entire Stalag Luft III community to Dick’s family.
More Excavation in South Compound – Marek Lazarz – Poland
During the last month, Marek has been working hard excavating part of South Compound. A group of volunteers from the local Exploration Association, “Nadodrze,” (Nadodrze means “area at the Oder River”) has been working with Marek. Initially, they all spent two days cleaning foundations of huts #135 and #134.
Marek and volunteers prepare to excavate the huts in South
Septic tank between Huts #134 and #135
Volunteers work on Hut #134
Marek: “As you remember, we did some GPR (ground penetrating radar) on hut #135 last year. We’ve found the tunnel. According to POW Mitch Cwiek’s drawing, the tunnel was discovered in February 1944. I decided to find the possible entrance of the tunnel. My first thought was the drain of the bathroom. We cleared it but found no traces of the possible tunneling. After we cleared the whole floor, I discovered a collapsed floor of the small room near the bathroom. It was the kitchen or small bathroom. they look similar. The whole big floor is fine except a small part that you can see in the picture below. The only reason to find such a collapsed area was that the entrance was there. By the way, TOM was built in the same spot of hut #123 (North camp). Red arrow in the second picture below shows possible entrance of the Hut #135 tunnel.”
POW Mitchell Cwiek’s map of escape attempts in South Compound showing the location of those escape attempts and of the tunnels. Lower resolution copy with the two barracks numbers show below:
#135 “finds” are lined up at the edge of the excavated area.
Hut #134 finds: From L-R: rims (for the bulb), junction
box and the socket—electric wire at the bottom
Hut #134 – wash basin cap
Hut #134 – Half of bombardier wings
Hut #134 – cigarette lighter
Hut #134 – soap box
Hut #134 switch
Hunt #134 – sink tap
These are such interesting finds by Marek. I did a quick check for names of men who lived in those two huts, and some of the readers of this newsletter are related to many of them.
William “Dusty” Runner
Col. James Luper
Paul Gordy (Lt. Sconier’s friend)
William C. Connor
New Items Donated to the Museum
On her recent visit to the museum, Debbie Boyle donated precious items including three of her father’s hats:
Lt. Wilfred Boyle wearing the hats
Challenge Coins – Marek
Marek has designed a collector’s “challenge coin” for the camp. He provided the history of such coins below
Marek: “Looks like the tradition started in Germany after the war. There is a military tradition to present the coin to the other person in very special way. The coin is hidden in your palm, and you present the coin while you are shaking the hand of the other person. The trick is then the other person should repay with the same. When the other person has no coin – you will get the beer instead.”
More from Col. Keeffe’s “Vault of Treasures” – POWs Visit the Camp in 1976 – POW son, Jim Keeffe III – US
American POWs who accompanied Col. Spivey
Rare pictures taken inside the church in Halbau where Center Compound stayed along the march route in Jan. 1945:
Col. and Mrs. Spivey
Col. and Mrs. Spivey lead the way.
German Guards, Willi and Franz
Marek sent these ID papers for the two guards, and we were curious as to what some of the words said. I asked my German friend, Ernie Hasenclever, to translate:
Willi’s blue card says: 10 Commandments as to the behavior of German soldiers during war time. His uniform is lower rank Air Force
#4 Refers to enemy PoWs
#5 Refers to the forbidden use of “Dum-Dum” bullets — (A method whereby the tip of the rifle bullet is filed off so that the bullet, upon hitting the target, will tilt sideways and thereby inflict terrible wounds.)
#8 Refers to respecting neutral countries
# 9 Refers to behavior when taken PoW. ( pretty standard for all nations )
Personal ID card for a fellow born in Wien (Vienna). However, he was at the time considered a German national .
Recent Dedication of Bushell/Scheidhauer Memorial – Ingo Hauck – Germany
On July 1, near the Ramstein Airbase in Germany, a memorial stone for Squadron Leader Roger Bushell (Royal Air Force), the Mastermind of The Great Escape, and his escape partner, Sous Lieutenant Bernard Scheidhauer (sub lt.) (Free French Air Force) was unveiled by the niece of Roger Bushell and the great niece of Bernard Scheidhauer.
By invitation of Air Marshal Stuart Evens and Wing Commander Alan Jones, Ingo attended. The Royal Air Force, the French Air Force, the US Air Force, and the German Luftwaffe attended to pay tribute to the brave men. After an opening prayer, the British and French National Anthems were played, and flowers were placed at the memorial stone by the family and Air Forces that attended.
The following is the memorial’s inscription:
On 24 March 1944, 76 Allied Airmen escaped from Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp at Żagań, Poland. Near this spot, on 29 March 1944 the Gestapo executed two of the airmen who took a part in this ‘Great Escape’. They were the Escape´s mastermind Squadron Leader Roger Bushell (Royal Air Force) and Sous-Lieutenant Bernard Scheidhauer (Free French Air Force). Having made it as far as Saarbücken, Germany, they were arrested on 26 March and interrogated. On 29 March, the prisoners, on the pretext of returning to their prison camp, were driven to a bridge near this spot and shot. Throughout the following days, on the direct orders of Adolf Hitler, a further 48 of their fellow escapees were executed.
The memorial was funded by: RAF Community Ramstein (2017), 92 Squadron Association (RAF), The RAF Historical Society, Le Souvenir Francais, and After the Battle Magazine. At the remains of the concrete bridge that research suggests is where the executions took place, one of the concrete blocks is adorned by another memorial plaque. Only the research of Dr. Silvano Wüschner make this project possible after he found the place of the executions.
See this link on dr. Wüschner’s website for more information:
Pictures below by Thomas Tiltman
Caroline Kennard, niece of Roger Bushell – (Her mother was his sister.)
RAF representatives on the left and French on the right. Two Luftwaffe
representatives are on the far on the right and two are on the far left.
The great niece of Bernard Scheidhauer is on the left.
Crematorium in Saarbücken where the men were cremated
Handling Red Cross Parcels
Marek has found some old pictures taken at Stalag Luft I, Barth, the alternative Luftwaffe camp for Allied Airmen. RAF POW Alfie Fripp worked in the Red Cross parcels distribution center at Barth, and he continued the same job in Stalag Luft 3. (Fripp is fourth from the left in the first picture below.)
Germans and POWs take charge of the parcels.
Marek: “I think the German is examining contents of the parcel. Standard procedure. They knew that they were being photographed so they are posing I think and pretending doing something .”
Germans with Fripp and fellow POWs
Program from North Compound “Excerpts from the Messiah” Presentation – POW son, Mike Netherway – AU
The faded program below belonged to Mike’s father RAAF 409580, SL3 2627, Len Netherway, who sang in the choir.
“He’s listed tenth of the thirteen First Tenors from “Excerpts from Handel’s Messiah” on page four of the program – Dad said that there were no guards posted and that the commandant was in tears and was quite speechless after the concert. I think he [Mike’s father] was quite proud that he’d been part of the whole show. He used to sing at local concerts, receptions etc. before the war but after, he kept his voice for the church choir, eventually stopping in the mid- sixties.”
[Photoshop enhancement did not work on the document.
Also from Mike – Celebration of ANZAC Day in the camp:
Australian POWs at SLIII
I have previously posted this list below, (further down in this newsletter) and also the Fordyce cartoons. Mike and POW daughter, Barb Edy, both worked at correct spelling of names, but I wanted to include the list again for the many new readers from Australia so they could see the cartoons, and also hopefully correct more names on the list for #119.
The Men in Hut 19 – North Compound. From Mike: “Corrections so far: Rice is really John “Jock” Bryce. In Room 15, the Blake Petersen is most likely Peter Bjelke Petersen. Room 15 – Buckinsdale should read Clayton Beckinsale.
Szymon’s Tour – Visit to Stalag Luft III
POW Col. James Keeffe’s daughter, Kerry, recently went on Szymon Serwatka’s tour, which included Stalag Luft III. Szymon is an early member of “Ewart’s Army” helping to locate Lt. Ewart Sconiers.
“We had a wonderful time and Szymon is a fantastic guide. We got to see some places that most tourists would not see. He has various friends who have their own museums of Polish and WWII things. One is dedicated to the 15th Army Air Force. They also continue to look for lost downed planes and airmen. I highly recommend his trips to anyone.”
Finding her Father’s Name on the Flag – Col. James Keeffe
Kerry with Marek
Hunting for the correct barracks
Kerry with Mirek Barracks #43 Center
POW son, Dick Olsen, and his wife also went on the tour and sent pictures:
North’s fire pool
West Compound’s fire pool
Dick: “I added the fire pool pictures to show the difference between the North and West compound pools. North has some really nice brick work but West is concrete.”
Dick and Kathy Olsen sitting on the foundation of West’s theatre
Dick and tour leader, Szymon, at West #163, where Dick’s father lived.
The memorial the RAF POWs built to honor The Fifty. It is always adorned with remembrances visitors leave.
West Compound Barracks Numbers
For anyone seeking the number of their West Compound father’s barracks, be aware that some records fail to add the “one” at the beginning of the number designation. West Compound barracks numbers were all three digit. They started at 157 and ended with 173.
Wendover Field – Utah – POW daughter, Diane Stamp – U.S.
Thanks to my sister who recently visited Wendover Field in Utah where our father trained as a bombardier.
The base was well hidden, surrounded by mountains.
The Enola Gay was also taken to this base.
B 24 hanger
SLIII Cartoons – POW son, Mike Maxwell – AU
From the pages of Mike’s father’s Log Book:” This cartoon by Bill Fordyce of dad doing “stooge” duty in the kitchen of their hut.”
Below is another Fordyce cartoons. Note the clever signature of the POW artist.
From a Center Compound POW diary: March Route for Center Compound
Left Stalag Luft III – 4am Sunday, Jan. 28, 1945 Arrived Halbau (Lutheran Church) – evening Sunday, Jan. 28 (??km) Left Halbau – Monday, Jan. 29 Arrived Freiwaldau – 4:30pm Monday, Jan. 29 (14 km) Left Freiwaldau – Wednesday, Jan. 31 Arrived Muskau (pottery factory) – evening Wednesday, Jan. 31 (34km) Left Muskau – Saturday, Feb. 3 Arrived at Graustein – Saturday, Feb. 3 (20km) Arrived at Spremberg – Sunday, Feb. 4 (7km) Left Spremberg – Sunday, Feb. 4 Arrived Stalag VII A – Wednesday evening, Feb. 7 Stalag VII A Snake Pit – Feb, 8,9,10 Stalag VII A moved to perm location in camp – Sunday, Feb, 11
Video of Recovered Tulsamerican B-24 off the Coast of Croatia – POW niece, Pam Whitelock – US
DPAA that worked with the Lt. Sconiers case is also working with the Croatian Government on this fascinating case of the Tulsamerican recovery off the coast of Croatia’s Vis Island in the Adriatic Sea. The B-24 is pretty famous as it was the last one to roll off the production line in Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the war and was funded by the workers, so it was appropriately named the Tulsamerican.
Divers have recently located human bones near the wreckage. The plane was hit after a bombing run over German-occupied Poland. It crashed into the Adriatic Sea on Dec. 17, 1944. The crew apparently tried to get the plane back to its base in Italy, but they eventually decided to ditch it in the Adriatic. The wreckage itself was found at the bottom of the sea at a depth of some 40 meters (130 feet) near the island of Vis in 2010 after a 17-year search. Three members of the 10-man crew were killed in the crash. The U.S. is still looking for some 200 Americans who perished in Croatia during WWII. An effort to recover and return pieces of the wreckage to Oklahoma for display at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum has been underway for several years.
See link to some interesting and haunting undersea footage.
This picture was taken at the Fort Snell National Cemetery in Minneapolis, MN, on a June morning . The eagle had landed on the grave of Sgt. Maurice Ruch, who had been a member of the St. Anthony Kiwanis Club. Maurice graduated from college in mechanical engineering in December of 1941 and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Known for his keen eye, he became a rifle marksman and was stationed in the Aleutian Islands. He served four years in the military and earned a bronze star
SR-71 Pilot – Ross Greene – US
Excellent and humorous
Salute to Vets Ad – POW nephew, Ross Greene – US
Model Airplane – Concorde and 747 – Joe Lawrence – US
Doolittle Raider Ross Greening’s Art – Tom Colones – US
Interesting story from Stalag Luft I – the alternative officer’s camp
http://www.merkki.com/art.htm (thanks to merkki.com)
POW Jerry Sage
The most likely American model for the Cooler King in the Great Escape movie, Sage was known as, “Silent Death” at SLIII. Gen. Clark appointed him to train a handful of POWs on how to kill silently if the German guards every turned against the POWs. Jerry was a member of the OSS caught behind enemy lines, passing himself off as a member of the Air Corps. He was eventually thrown out of SLIII for his “bad behavior.”
Did You Know ? – POW son, Mike Eberhardt – US
During WWII, the U.S. provided enough food aid to Russia to keep 6 million people fed through the war.
And a Bonus Did You Know from Marek:
In 1945, the total number of Poles in the RAF was about 17,000 men.
Poles were the biggest group of the foreigners in the Battle of Britain – 145.
Until next time,
Daughter of POW Thomas F. Jeffers