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Thread: RAF Hunt for Nazis

  1. #11
    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Auburntsts View Post
    My Dad, who turns 100 in April, was a POW in Stalag Luft III which is the same POW camp as the Great Escape. He was there from '44-'45 so it was a few years after the Escape, but it still holds my interest and I watch the movie any time it's on.
    Actually, the Great Escape occurred in April 1944. However, as I mentioned earlier, the Germans had moved the American POWs to their own compound a few weeks prior.

    We had a B-17 tail gunner/POW as a speaker at EAA Chapter 26 a while back. I was curious about how the poor food and bad health care in the camps had affected his long-term health. I expected some nutritional deficiencies, or dental problems.

    I asked him. His response was immediate: "Nightmares."

    This really rocked me. But it makes sense. Airmen do not become POWs because of a sudden overrun of their position, or a negotiated surrender. They become prisoners after a violent, life-shattering event that they barely escaped from. Today, we call the aftermath Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And there were camps filled with thousands of men who'd survived their shootdowns. As well as ground and naval personnel with similar experiences, of course.

    I really recommend Brickhill's book. He talks about some who broke, but a lot more about how the others coped. He goes a lot into what it was like in the camps, and why the POWs were (mostly) so anxious to escape.

    Ron Wanttaja
    Last edited by rwanttaja; 02-03-2018 at 02:11 PM.

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by rwanttaja View Post
    I really recommend Brickhill's book. He talks about some who broke, but a lot more about how the others coped. He goes a lot into what it was like in the camps, and why the POWs were (mostly) so anxious to escape.
    After I posted this, I remembered the very first paragraph of the book:

    Prison camp life would have not been so bad if:

    (a) It weren't such an indefinite sentence. At times you couldn't say you wouldn't still be there (or worse) in ten years.

    (b) The Germans didn't keep dropping hints that if they lost, Hitler was going to shoot you anyway, just to even the score.

    (c) You could get enough food to fill your belly again. Just once.


    - Paul Brickhill, Foreword to The Great Escape

    Ron Wanttaja

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by rwanttaja View Post
    After I posted this, I remembered the very first paragraph of the book:

    Prison camp life would have not been so bad if:

    (a) It weren't such an indefinite sentence. At times you couldn't say you wouldn't still be there (or worse) in ten years.

    (b) The Germans didn't keep dropping hints that if they lost, Hitler was going to shoot you anyway, just to even the score.

    (c) You could get enough food to fill your belly again. Just once.


    - Paul Brickhill, Foreword to The Great Escape

    Ron Wanttaja

    Pretty much what my dad said. Plus he said he was always cold and he lost a ton of weight. Other than that, he said it wasn't all that bad, at least in comparison to combat. He was shotdown and bailed out over the Channel on his 72nd mission 2 weeks before D-Day.
    Last edited by Auburntsts; 02-03-2018 at 03:01 PM.
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  4. #14
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    A few years ago I wrote a book (now out of print) about an air crew lost over Japan during the later days of WW2 called "The Crew of the Empire Express and Peace on a Quiet Mountain in Japan. The brother of a friend of mine was on the B29 aircrew and he along with two others were able to bail out, captured by the Japanese and eventually executed on June 20th, 1945. If you "google" B29 Empire Express it should bring up a short synopsis I wrote and posted before I wrote the book.
    If God had intended man to fly He would have given us more money!

  5. #15

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    USA National POW museum is at Andersonville, GA. Worth a trip. And there's a museum at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, MS, which had a section on its use as a POW facility when we visited several years ago. The museum has been remodeled, anybody know if it still has that display? It included info on recreation activities, POW jobs outside the camp, etc.

    https://www.nps.gov/ande/planyourvis....htm/index.htm

    https://armedforcesmuseum.us

  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by rwanttaja View Post
    Eisenhower did, just prior to D-Day, issue an order prohibiting attacking shot-down pilots in parachutes. It's not likely such a specific order would be issued without some history behind it. No one warned people not to eat Tide Pods before people actually started eating Tide Pods.....

    Doing a Google search on "shooting at parachuting pilots" leads to some interesting stories, including interviews with Allied pilots who routinely shot Germans hanging in chutes and saw nothing wrong with the practice. According to one German source, German pilots considered this a common Allied activity.

    Ron Wanttaja
    At least some air commanders were concerned that where there were several chutes in the air, you might end up shooting a friendly and that did happen more than once. The most senior US command, of course, had their own experience with parachutes in WWI. Unlike pilots, balloon observers had parachutes throughout the war and it was standard practice among the WWI Allies to shoot parachuting balloonists whenever the opportunity presented itself. The rationale was that shooting a balloon down, at great risk to the attacking aircraft, accomplished nothing if the balloon observer could parachute to the ground and then simply trot over to the next balloon in line and be back in the air in an hour or less. Thus the standard instructions were to shoot the balloonist in his parachute if time and defenses permitted (which they usually did not, fortunately for the observers). I suspect many pilots would have declined to take the opportunity even if it presented itself.

    Matt

  7. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by rwanttaja View Post
    I think you would have found similar relationships for British and American prisoners in the Wehrmacht and Kriegsmarine (Army and Navy) POW camps. The German Army, Navy, and Air Force were largely led by similar professional military officers. In addition to being punctilious about following regulations (and the Geneva accords were incorporated into their military code) the pre-war officers got to know the officers of their eventual foes pretty well. The navies exchanged port visits and the Air Forces showed off their latest airplanes at international exhibitions. The biography of Robert Tuck (another Stalag Luft III POW) tells a story about how Luftwaffe officers were permitted to crawl all around a Hurricane during a pre-war exhibition, even to the extent of being briefed about how a new refracting gunsight works.

    The exception would be the Waffen SS...the military arm of the SS. The officers there were highly politicized, and generally not professionals in the pre-war sense. If you recall the massacre of American prisoners during the Battle of the Bulge, that was an SS unit. After the war, the Allies attempted to prosecute General Peiper, the commanding officer, but his death sentence was commuted due to alleged misconduct by the American investigators. He was eventually released and went to work at Porche.

    The issue for the Japanese (who had signed the same Geneva Accords) was cultural. They did not accept that a person could surrender and keep his honor.

    Germans vs. Russians was different, too....

    Ron Wanttaja
    Ron- Did they really sign the accords?
    My memory is that they signed the 1907 Hague Convention, and only the portion regarding Sick and Wounded in the 1929 Geneva Convention. My understanding is they agreed to follow it in 1942 although they didn't sign it. Perhaps a pedantic distinction given their actions, and my memory could be very wrong.

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cap'n Jack View Post
    Ron- Did they really sign the accords?
    My memory is that they signed the 1907 Hague Convention, and only the portion regarding Sick and Wounded in the 1929 Geneva Convention. My understanding is they agreed to follow it in 1942 although they didn't sign it. Perhaps a pedantic distinction given their actions, and my memory could be very wrong.
    Good gravy, it looks like you're right. They SIGNED the 1929 accords, but didn't ratify it! And, like you said, they agreed to follow them in 1942 though there wasn't a formal signing (nor was there compliance, for the most part....)

    This reminds me of the US and the Great War, the US signed the treaty that formally ended the war in 1919, but the Senate refused to ratify it.

    Ron "I'm getting more and more eddicated every day" Wanttaja

  9. #19

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    Well, I didn't think they signed the 1929 agreement, so I have some learning too, Ron

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