POW Stories

  Help support our efforts to honor those who served and suffered as a POW.

The following stories were complied by Greg Hatton of www.b24.net. There are several more stories by the 392nd Bomb Group veterans under the Wendling base section found on the main page or by Clicking Here.

Edward Appel - A Textbook on Escaping  - It was September 5th, 1944 and the target was Karlsruhe Marshalling yards. We were to fly deputy lead and I remember we were flying on formation instruments nearly all the way. Just before reaching the IP we broke into the clear. We had just started our bomb run when the 88s hit. We took a monstrous hit in the right wing which knocked out the right two engines. The last two engines were still going strong but we had no turbos, and the fuel cells were ruptured. The rudder cables were also cut, so we had no rudders. The windshield had come in with the first blast and with gas flowing around I thought we were going to burn.

David Purner, Navigator, Ofenstein crew  - Soon after we were hit, the plane went into a flat spin. We lost altitude pretty rapidly, but the floor of that aircraft seemed pretty solid, you know. We lost two engines on the left; the third engine was on fire apparently! It was in a flat spin to the left. I don't think there was any collision with other aircraft. I think if you got hit that hard with something that would knock the tail assembly off, you'd know it. From that initial impact when we got hit, the damage was done, boom - right there! We fell right out of formation. You know that!

Carter Lunsford Account of Four Men Escaping From Luft 6  - Among the many volumes is an interview taken in August of 1945, of Sgt. Carl Mead, US Army Air Corps. He had been a prisoner of the Germans at Stalag Luft 6, Hydekrug, in what is now Lithuania. There is a small handwritten notation in the lower corner of the page: “Four men escaped from Luft 6, March 11, 1944; one named Lamarca”. In 1985, I located Sgt. Mead in Georgia. He had not been part of the escape and remembered little about the incident. One of his remarks has echoed for ten years: “I was at the end of the column as we marched out. I was the last man to leave the camp and I could see our guards scavenging through the barracks. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Boy, we sure made some history here!‘ “

Don Kirby - Stalag Luft 6  - When we got up to Heydekrug the camp was pretty new and we had to make do without much. Our area was all fenced and we were free to roam around. There was 4 stone barracks with an alley between each of them and the rooms had one window and a door opening into the alley. There wasn't much inside but our bunks, a table, and a stone stove. Out room was F-G and I was still with Tinker. Old Van (Vanderveldon) was our barracks leader. He had been in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

2nd Lt. George Graham - Co-pilot Kaminitsa crew  - I got out of my seat took one step forward and was on the ground. I helped Kamy untangle himself and then went to see about the men. German civilians had us surrounded by this time. A couple of them had rifles and so we deemed it advisable to follow their orders. Heater's leg was cut pretty badly by the top turret and something ripped my clothes and cut my leg, but the scratch wasn't bad. The civilians headed us into a small truck and under the supervision of a Luftwaffe non com, we were taken to a flak emplacement, where we stayed for about seven hours.

S/Sgt. Oliver Guillot - Waist Gunner, Kaminitsa crew 576 sq.  - Most of us dropped down close to a hundred pounds. I weighed about 110 lbs. when I got out. The only way you could get through the POW experience was to keep thinking: "The war is going to be over next week; or next month; or next year (for some of the British)" You lived from month to month. If you knew ahead of time, that it would be such a drawn out thing, with such lousy treatment, and so little food for a year. I don't think you could have lived through it. In fact, after the invasion, we were sure the whole thing would be over any day.

Heaven to Hell - By Malcolm Hinshaw  - We crashed near a little village 20 miles from Strasburg, France called Ettingheim-Munster, Germany, and we chuted nearby. Russ and Rosko were captured instantly on the spot by German home guards (old men, boys and wounded vet-erans). Peterson and I teamed up and stayed loose for about four hours, but were finally run down by men and dogs. Everyone 'cept me went to a hospital. My first night I spent in jail in Strasburg. The next night I was in a Prison in Frieburg. Two days and two nights later I arrived at an in-terrogation camp outside Frankfurt. Two nights later I was in the city of Frankfurt and had my first shower and food since 2:00 A.M. on the 18th at Wendling.

The Heydekrug Run - by Greg Hatton  - Greg Hatton tells the story of his dad, a survivor of the death march from Luft 4 where he sustained severe injuries to his back, where chronic arthritis and the effects of prolonged malnutrition would alter the rest of his life.

S/Sgt Hyman Hatton - by Greg Hatton  - The events of March and April 1944 put the Kai Bosch on us trying to escape. After the SS shot those 50 officers at Luft III, they came up to Luft six, called up out and told us about it. Before this, digging tunnels was kind of a pastime. They knew we were digging them but probably figured it kept us busy. At that point, the SS and the Gestapo probably began to have more to do with running the camps. By the time we got to Luft IV, things were really different for us, what they were saying was: "There's no more of this crap, where you guys run things, we're gonna run it all."

Ed Jurist - My Life at Heydekrug  - Life at Stlalg Luft 4, Heydekrug  - Ed Jurist's story on his life and attempted escape at Stalag Luft 4. Ed finally escaped during the "Black March" and ended up hidden in a German hospital by French workers only to be later rescued by the Russians.

John Krejci - Right waist gunner Kaminitsa crew  - After the attack, I wasn't aware of all the things going on around me. We were on the way down and ME 109's were buzzing all around us. I was really wrapped up in drawing area on them. We had dropped our wheels as an indication of surrender and Kamemitsa says: "Cease fire!"... I'm firing away and I couldn't imagine him telling me to quit with fighters all around us. I looked over at Ollie, trying to figure out what in the hell was going on with him. Ollie says "Look out here"...he points to the left waist window...jeez, there's the outer wing section gone and the rest flapping in the breeze.

2nd Lt. Jack Kaplan - Interview by Miriam Zwerin AAF Historical Assoc  - Prisoners were brutally beaten. You've got to understand, when you've gone through that, you push some of it behind you. There were men who used to try to climb the wire, and, unnecessarily, they were shot. The guards could have brought them down. Things were done to the men that were not necessary. It was a way of committing suicide. A punishment that was legitimate was, if you were caught escaping, you were supposed to be put in solitary. We called it the "cooler." They would put you in for as long as 30 days. The cooler was so crowded that, one time when I was in solitary, there were four men in my cell.

2nd Lt. Jack Kaplan - My Kriegie Education  - You've got to understand, in the camp you had to do anything that might help to keep some of your self intact, to keep some of your dignity, to be somebody and not just vegetate. Even if it was just busywork, you had to maintain the sense that you could still make certain decisions, that there was some part of your existence that you could control. You had to have something-whether it was escape plans, school, athletics, or a close personal relationship-that they couldn't get to, so you could feel that they didn't control you completely.

Roy Kennette - Stalag Luft 6  - I was kind of worried about jumping before I did it – I didn't know if I could do it, but in our case, there I was standing in the bombay with fire all around me. I didn't think twice about it. I said to myself "Gee, mothers going to worry now!" Well, finally I landed - I ran - tried to get away and they caught me - they took me to a little town that was close by there and threw me into a stable. I was alone in a cell; they gave me a piece of bread every day and some water - that’s all. Then they took me out, put me in a room with an interrogator and he's got this questionnaire.

S/Sgt William A. Krebs - Judge Advocate War Crimes Investigation  - Reinhard Fahnert had charge of the prison guard and supervised the distribution of food to the prisoners. Fahnert was a rough character, and was always after, anyone of Jewish extraction. He wanted to segregate all Jewish prisoners from the others in order to give them all the hard work and menial tasks. They would go through the barracks Searching all our equipment and clothing, and would take any of. our personal belongings they desired. Watches, rings, and other objects were taken by Fahnert, American Kits, ~, Schmidt, and some of the other German NCI’s.

S/Sgt. Vitold Krushas - Engineer-Top turret  - We pull up to the rail yards and six box cars are attached to this train...old 40 and 8's from WW1. One hundred and fifty of us pile into the cars; twenty five POW's and eight guards in each. The doors slam closed and you can see bullet holes through the sides of the car. There's new wood on the roof, so it doesn't take much to figure out these cars have been strafed. It took us four days to go from Frankfort to Krems, Austria...Stalag 17B.

T/sgt. Robert Longo - Waist Gunner Rogers' Crew  - The fighters only made one pass. The bullets went right down the middle of the plane. The bombardier, Kane got killed; I heard him holler when the fighters first attacked us. Eddy Gienko, in the top turret, had his flak suit hanging up there and said he could hear the bullets hitting it. Two bullets hit Bob Danford, the ball turret gunner. One bullet hit me in the back, but it didn't do anything; it just went in and came out again through my leather jacket. The whole ship was ablaze, so I called them over the intercom and said, " Everything is hot back here!" The co-pilot, Dick Weir, heard me and says: Bail out!

Stalag Luft 1 Stories  - The saga of American airmen at Luft 1 is laid out in this chapter from "Stories My Father Never Told Me". The narratives, taken between 1986 and 1993, include a previously unpublished interview with Francis Gabreski of the 56th Fighter group. Of special note is the fabled "all for one" story by Fred Weiner which occurred in February 1944, when the "Heydekrug Sergeants" arrived at Barth. He told me: " It was my proudest day as an American!"

Stalag Luft 3 Stories  - Several stories of life in Stalag Luft 3 assembled by Greg Hatton and is duplicated from the Stalag Luft 3 page on this website.

Stalag Luft Stories - Case 1624: U.S vs Germany  - The War Crimes Trial briefs filed by England and the United States are the most direct source of names. Hauptman Richard Pickhardt, Col. Aribert Bombach, obfwl. Reinhard Fahnert and Feldwebel Hans Schmidt were held responsible for an organized reign of terror (lasting from March,1944 until May,1945). Four unarmed American POW's had been shot.

S./Sgt. Roy Kennett - Radio man, Ofenstein crew   They decided to move us to Munich, Germany (that was on April 4th). They were marching us ( as I understand it, there were about 9,000 prisoners) down this road, three abreast. Just before we left , Smitty and I talked it over. "Now, this will probably be a good time to escape. We don't know how soon the war's going to be over or anything." Smitty says: "Yeah, I think you're right." I said: "If we see a chance, let's go!" So he says: "OK, I'II stay behind you. If we see a chance and you think it's OK, then I'II be right behind you!" I said: "Okay!"

Joseph P. O'Donnell - The 86 day Death March from Stalag Luft 4  - "The Shoe Leather Express" The evacuation of Kriegsgefangenen Lager Stalaf Luft 4 Deutschland Germany from February 6, 1945 to May 2, 1945. In early January, 1945, the Russians started their winter offensive from Warsaw, Poland. Stalag Luft 4 was 200 miles northwest of Warsaw. The Russian breakout initiated the evacuation of Luft 4. By February 3, 1945, the front line was 40 miles south of Luft 4 and extended to the Oder River, 40 miles east of Berlin; our only route left for evacuation was northwest through a narrow 50 mile gap to Swinemunde, on the Baltic Sea.

Red Cross report on Camp Status with M/Sgt. Frank Paules & T/Sgt. Carter Lunsford  - The thing that really saved our lives, just before we went out on that Black March ...we received carloads of food, shoes and clothing. Without this, we could not have survived that awful period of 80 days through the ice and snow. Before we left camp, a couple of the guys came to me and said they wanted to stay behind and wait for the Russians. After we left, they hid under the barracks and did get liberated. Only thing was, they were sent back to Russia, and it was a long time before they got home. In fact, after the march out from Luft 4, about 200 guys just disappeared. Some went back to Italy or England to see their girlfriends or what not. Others just did not want their families to see them.

Deposition by Frank Paules - Camp leader of Stalag Luft IV  - Although thousands of Allied airmen suffered at their hands, the Germans who ran Stalag Luft 4 have remained largely anonymous. Rumors have persisted for decades about their real identities and their fates at war's end. Only the most determined effort has revealed who they were and what were their deeds. Records held at the National Archives and the U.N. Archives had to be combined with personal narratives from people directly involved in the legal process.

2nd lt. David Purner, Navigator, Ofenstein crew  - Soon after we were hit, the plane went into a flat spin. We lost altitude pretty rapidly, but the floor of that aircraft seemed pretty solid, you know. We lost two engines on the left; the third engine was on fire apparently! It was in a flat spin to the left. I don't think there was any collision with other aircraft. I think if you got hit that hard with something that would knock the tail assembly off, you'd know it. From that initial impact when we got hit, the damage was done, boom - right there! We fell right out of formation. You know that!

Diary of Lt. David Purner - by Greg Hatton  - This diary starts with his application for cadet training in February 1942, enlistment on April 4, 1942, arrival Wendling on March 24, 1944, shot down April 29th, 1944, captured May 1, 1944 and sent to Stalag Luft III. Forced march to Nuremberg in January 1945, then to Moosburg in March 1945 followed by the POW camp liberation by Gen. George Patton on April 29, 1945. This historical account ends with some vivid reflections of the POW life.

James M. Ross - Our Turn Next  - "OUR TURN NEXT" is the account of the service record of James M. Ross, Staff Sergeant, US Army Air Corp. It starts upon his induction on October 15, 1942 and continues through training, active duty as a waist gunner in a B-24 Bomber, being shot down, captured and held as a German Prisoner of War. It concludes with his liberation and finally his discharge. It is filled with interesting side stories and anecdotes that GI's experience. It also describes life as a POW in several German prisoner of war camps. However, abuse, inflected human suffering and death that was carried out in German prison camps is not discussed in any detail in this writing. Although he saw and experienced his share, he chose not to expound on it, due to the exposure that has been given the subject over the years. Anyone reading this will not have to be concerned about coming to the "gory" parts. There are none.

Who was George Walker? - by Greg Hatton  - In April of 1944, T/sgt. George Walker was killed by a guard while attempting to escape from prison camp in Germany. The epitaph for the WWII airmen from Spartanburg was pinned to the side of his barracks: " In a little burial plot on the edge of a grove of young birch trees, six of his comrades laid to rest the body of T/Sgt George B. Walker. Thousands of miles from his native Carolina, the only touch of home was the simple American flag that draped his bier; and the sharp notes of Taps, that drifted across his grave in a chill wind, under the clear blue Baltic sky... just a stones throw from one of the guard towers of Stalag Luft 6."

A Prisoner of the Luftwaffe - by Claude Watkins  - Much has been made of and written about the forced marches, and I can only report on what happened to me and those around me, and on what I have learned as a result of a great amount of follow-up research and conversations. Some of my comments here will be on events and conditions much reported on before, and I make them knowing some of them will not please those who have written difficult-to-believe accounts of their and others experiences on similar, but much shorter duration marches. This movement of allied prisoners across Germany and occupied areas taken by a great number of small groups and lasting various lengths of time has been called The Death March, or the Black, or Bread March.

Capt. Henry J. Wynsen - Deposition for the Judge Advocate General’s Investigator  - On 20 July 1945, Capt. Henry James Wysen, Youngstown, Ohio, was interviewed regarding hospital facilities at Stalag Luft IV, Pomerania, and also as to general conditions existing at the hospital and in the prison compounds. Wynsen was a Prisoner of War of the German Army from November 1942 to 26 April 1945. He was held at Stalag Luft IV, Gross Tychow, Pomerania from June 1944 to 6 February 1945.