Stalag Luft III Newsletter – October 2017
Greetings Stalag Luft III POWs, Families, and Friends,
New POW Plaque
Below is the new plaque designed by Marek which incorporates the names of the POWs whose names have been added after the recent fundraiser.
The Stalag Luft III Clipped Wings logo is in the background of the plaque—special lighting shows it more vividly in the museum. It is so nice to see all these men honored. Thank you, Marek, for your work on this and thank you donors!
Donation Wall at the museum with new plaque added
Dick Butler, son of P-38 pilot, POW Richard Butler,
(Hut 56, Center Camp) visited the museum recently
paying tribute to his father by bringing this plaque
Dagger Brigade Arrives in Zagan
After nine months, U.S. soldiers from Fort Carson (Colorado Springs) are returning home. New troops arrived in Zagan to replace them, and they will stay for the next nine months. The Red Dagger Brigade came from Fort Riley, Kansas.
Colonel David W. Gardner, Commander,
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry
Division (Big Red One)
3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, case their unit colors, and 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, uncase their unit colors during a transfer of authority ceremony in Zagan, Poland, September 29, 2017. That marked the end of 3rd ABCT’s rotation for Atlantic Resolve. The pictures below were taken at Gen. Maczek Square in Zagan. The new troops brought their own tanks and equipment which was unloaded on the railway platforms on the site of Stalag VIIIC. They will keep it in Karliki Military Camp, 500 meters from Stalag Luft 3.
Pictures by Lt. Krzysztof Gonera
The Polish Army participated in the ceremony.
Colonel David W. Gardner visited the museum on Thursday, Oct 5th. He was accompanied by the Mayor of Zagan, Mr. Daniel Marchewka.
Dagger Brigade Event Day in the Camp
See link below for pictures and video of the Dagger Brigade that was such a big hit with the Polish people visiting the camp Oct. 21st.
Marek: “Our display was a part of the big event organized by Lubuskie County authorities. It was called Scientific Weekend. Museums, schools, universities, etc. organized different types of meetings, lectures, presentations, and displays. My event was called, Open Day at the POW Camps Museum. We conducted several free guided tours called, ‘The Great Escape – Myths and Facts.’ Over 750 guests visited the museum that day! We were on the local TV evening news. Great success and publicity.”
Marek has also sent pictures of the day. Since he has done several projects for the Polish 11th Cavalry Division, spending six months with them, he has become one of them, and he is the only civilian with the permission to drive their tanks. The men in the pictures wearing camouflage are Americans. A few men are in WW2 American uniforms. They represent the Historical Association, Big Red One, Poland.
Marek driving the first tank. He is in the open hatch in the front of the tank.
Marek interviewed by local news
“We had a hurricane in Zagan last Thursday night. Much damage in the town. Fortunately, no damage at the museum (except one fallen pine tree). But we had no electricity for a few days. Hurricanes are very rare in Poland. This year we had one during the summer in northern Poland. Huge damage, terrible.”
(Just a few days ago, a second hurricane hit Zagan, and once more the museum lost power, so Marek closed it today.)
Interview with a Stalag Luft III Censor
On October 14th, Marek, along with German, Ingo Hauck, drove to northern Germany to interview Stalag Luft III censor, Gertrud K. (last name withheld at Gertrud’s request), spending five hours with her. Gertrud, 95, greeted them very warmly. Marek recorded the entire interview. The interview and its transcription will become part of the museum’s collection for researchers.
Gertrud left school at age 19 when she was called up to “Labour Service” (RAD – Reicharbeitdienst). She worked on farms for seven months and then worked five more months in an ammunition factory. Meanwhile, her parents found a language school for her in Dresden where Gertrud learned English, Spanish, and typewriting. In 1943, Luftwaffe officers visited colleges all over Germany looking for interpreters to work in the POW camps. Gertrud decided to take the job with two other friends from the Dresden school. They went to Stalag Luft 3 on 15th October 1943. At that time, there were about 25 censor girls there. The number rose up to over 100 in January 1945. Gertrud was censor No. 93. In early February, 1945, all the censors were evacuated by train from the camp a few days after the POWs marched out. After the war, she worked as a secretary for the West German Government. She retired in 1982.
Gertrud mentioned all the names we know: Glemnitz, Major Gustav Simoleit, and Kommandant Friedrich von Lindeiner etc., but she had no chance to meet them personally as the censor girls were not allowed to socialize with the military staff. She remembered the Great Escape, saying there was much movement in the camp, and the censor girls did not work that day, being confined to their barracks in the camp. Marek took a big aerial picture of the German compound to show her, something she had never seen before. She pointed out the censors’ barracks for him and showed him the kommandant’s office, kitchen, and the guard barracks.
The censor girls had their own reunions. Von Lindeiner and his deputy, Simoleit, attended one in 1961. Then in 1988 the censor girls were contacted by the American POWs. POW Dick Schrupp called Gertrud one day. The group of the American POWs, including Schrupp and Lt. Gen. Clark, visited the censors in 1989 (in Frankfurt) at their invitation. In 1990, the censors were invited by the Americans to the Stalag Luft III reunion in Norfolk, Virginia. They had a great time there, and the Academy has a DVD of their panel discussion.
This interview and visit with Gertrud was the direct result of the many donations given by the generous SLIII families. She was so grateful for the visit with Ingo and Marek, knowing their interest in her work at the camp and learning that her words would become part of the museum’s growing research collection. Marek and Ingo were honored to speak with Gertrud and wish to thank all of you who made this possible.
Gertrud and Marek
Gertrud examines the maps.
Gertrud in the barracks at Stalag Luft III
Frankfurt – 1989 – Censors Reunion – The man far right (next to Gen. Clark who is second from the right, back row) is Lloyd R. Shoemaker, author of “The Escape Factory,” the story of MIS-X. POW Dick Schrupp is sitting on the floor. Gertrud K. (light blue blouse) sits behind him. The others are “censor girls” and family members. More on MIS-X in next month’s newsletter.
Courtesy USAFA McDermott Library, Stalag Luft III Collections
A few pictures were inadvertently omitted from the last newsletter. Better late than never!
Warwick Thomas family visiting from Australia visits the replica hut:
Mary and Warrick at the Memorial to the 50 killed after the Great Escape.
Warrick and daughters
Below: 78th Anniversary of the Invasion of Poland Day: The mayor speaks.
Marek shows the visitors the new room.
Polish Lt. Piotr Gubernator, very pleased with the new room
Polish Army firing a volley salute
Schweinfurt, Germany Trip – 2019 – POW son, Robert McCaleb – US
The Second Schweinfurt Memorial Assoc. is planning to have a representative or representatives in the city for the 5th anniversary ceremonies on Oct. 14, 2018, the date known as “Black Thursday” in U.S.A.F. history. In 1998, veterans of both sides commemorated their reconciliation by dedicating a monument which included the inscription, “Dedicated by some who witnessed the tragedy of war, now united in friendship and the hope for lasting peace among all people.”
While members of the SSMA can give travel tips, all travel will be independently arranged by the travelers. SSMA will not be coordinating any travel plans. They welcome all to join them.
Proposed activities: ceremonies and events surrounding the 75th Anniversary of the Second Schweinfurt mission, meeting local citizens, and possibly visiting crash sites. The trip allows visitors to travel independently to other sites at Nuremberg, Munich, or south to the Bavarian Alps.
POW Primo Lursardi
POW John Harvey Henry – 2nd cousin, Robert Berry – U.S.
Mr. Henry passed on October 18th at age 94. John flew with the 348th Bomb Squadron, 99th Bomb Group.
Condolences to both of these families from the Stalag Luft III Community.
German Tribute – Bernd Schmidt – Germany
Bernd Schmidt with plaque placed at Buchenwald for the 168 Allied Airmen held there. The plaque was created by Mike Dorsey, filmmaker, who produced the “Lost Airmen of Buchenwald” award-winning documentary. Notice stones of remembrance left by visitors.
Thanks to Bernd for the following recent story:
Bernd found WWII airman, Victore Kinkade’s niece, Mary Kinkade Maddox, who visited the area of Weimar in Germany on September 3, 2017. Mary had written two booklets about the killing of her three uncles, including Victore. She visited to look for the location where on July 29, 1944, her uncle, together with four of his crew, was murdered by Nazi officials. Bernd had researched the crew and arranged for a monument to pay tribute to them. At the ceremony at the memorial that commemorates the murders, many attended including the German Prime Minister.
During an air battle over the village of Ottmannshausen, a woman looked out from her window and was killed by a bullet at the same time a B-17 was shot down. The crew bailed out and was captured by Germans. Then Nazi officials ordered the USAAF airmen to the house of the killed woman. They were accompanied by a truck full of Gestapo who called the airmen of the bomber murderers of the woman. The local farmers and citizens were very angry and believed the false charges, and they demonstrated their anger. Finally, two Nazi officials killed the five airmen with their pistols. It was obvious that the Nazi officials were planning to kill the airmen and tie it to the downing of the plane. According to the Geneva Conventions, the airman were designated POWs. They never had a trial, and it was preposterous to think that a B-17 bomber could shoot a woman in the head as she stood at her window.
It had been Mary’s wish for a long time to come to Germany to visit the location of the killing of her Uncle Victore and to thank the people of Ottmannshausen for the memorial which commemorated the tragic incident. The memorial was erected 17 years ago. She wanted to shake the hands of the family of the killed woman for the sake of forgiveness and reconciliation, the woman and the airmen all being victims of the war, which was evidenced by their emotional meeting. Tears rolled down their faces.
One other airman had parachuted from the B-17 that day. He was Robert Fife, 100th Bomb Group, who landed in another area saving his life. He wasn’t captured with the others. After his capture by the Germans, he was sent to Stalag Luft III.
Bernd had looked for the relatives of the killed airmen for 15 years. He found a relative of the pilot, Carl Gustafson, Nita Nell, who sent information but couldn’t attend the ceremony. She sent many greetings and regards.
He also found the ninth member of the crew, Robert Fife. Mary had written of him in booklets she wrote. Two other members of the crew were killed in the nearby village of Daasdorf by Nazi officials also. Another crewman died parachuting from the plane.
German newspaper coverage:
Letter to Bernd from Mr. Fife:
Below is Mr. Fife’s account. A few errors are corrected at the end of some pages. The account will be enlightening for those whose POWs were in Stalag Luft IV.
Bernd is interested in hearing from anyone who had family of crew or friends related to those crews involved in cases, crashes, missions, or KIAs who were in the area of Thuringia around Erfurt; Weimar, or Buchenwald. Let me know, and I will provide his contact information.
Bernd together with Mary in front of the Memorial
in Ottmannshausen at the ceremony
Officials of the county together with the Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow
Member of Grave Registration Command Thuringia,
Henrik Hug, Bernd, Mary
Mary shaking the hand of the grandson of the killed
woman, Frieda Hochstein
Mary hugs the grandson of the woman killed.
One final photo of Mary and Bernd at the memorial in Ottmannshausen
SLIII POW Carl Groesbeck
I met Carl recently at the 306th BG Reunion in Indianapolis. He will soon be 100. He was in Center Compound. Susan O’Konski has provided his oral history below:
306th Veterans Fly High
Below: Veterans of the 306th Bomb Group take a flight on B-17 Yankee Lady in Indianapolis. The Governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb, and his wife joined them on the flight. The governor later presented the men with medals.
Sketch of Stump Puller – POW daughter, Carolyn Miller Clark – U.S.
The sketch below was drawn by Carolyn’s father, Lt. Col. Albert P. Clark, in his Log Book. Stalag Luft III had an ancient stump puller that was in constant use. The structure in the foreground is an incinerator.
“At Moosburg, Bavaria, fuel shortage was acute as well as stoves. With the popular kriegie tin can burner, wood had to be secured as paper burned too fast. Guard fence posts were torn town, abort partitions, bed boards and floor boards split up, doors went—all utilized to provide us with one hot meager meal per day.”
Primitive Conditions at Belaria – Dave Champion – Canada
Belaria Compound, outside Stalag Luft III proper:
Toilets at Stalag Luft III – Belaria
100th Bomb Group Reunion – Washington DC
On October 23rd, several POW Kriegie Kids stopped by the 100th Bomb Group Reunion to visit with friends there. Congratulations to the 100th for a wonderful reunion.
Mike Eberhardt, Carol Godwin, Marilyn Walton, Ted Miller, Carolyn Clark Miller
Doolittle Plane Recovered – POW nephew, James Castle – UK
Bob Hope Tribute – POW son, Ed Wheeler – US
Did You Know? – POW son, Mike Eberhardt – US
The German siege on Leningrad cost the Germans military in 300,000 soldiers killed — the U.S. had 292,000 combat deaths during the entire war. (Another 113,000 Americans were killed in non-combat related actions.)
On a recent visit New Orleans for the 8th A.F. Reunion, I saw a new VA Hospital facility built after the flood. It is state of the art and enormous, over a mile square. On a marker there are these words:
“The Price of Freedom Can Be Found Behind These Walls.”
Beautiful words that say it all.
Until next time,
Daughter of POW Thomas F. Jeffers