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Thread: Spitfire Recon Wreckage Found

  1. #1

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    Spitfire Recon Wreckage Found

    A story in the news about finding the wreckage of a Spitfire Mk I, on a mountain top in Norway, By removing the guns and armor and adding more fuel tankage what was an early war short range interceptor became a very long range photo recon plane. The British were desperate to find and confirm the location of the new battleship Tirpitz since it could decimate shipping into England with its speed and heavy long range guns. They sent this pilot into the fiords of Norway to get photos. Lt. Gunn was shot down, likely by ground anti aircraft fire, and bailed out successfully. He was, I think 20 or 22 and was a German POW in Stalag Luft which the movie THE GREAT ESCAPE was based on. He was one of the men who made it out of the tunnel, but not out of the country and was recaptured. Sadly, he was one of the 60 executed, shot by the Gestapo,may have been at Hitler's orders. Brave men, at a time that demanded them. A great movie, even if Stallone wasn't really there.

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    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Greenwood View Post
    ...Lt. Gunn was shot down, likely by ground anti aircraft fire, and bailed out successfully. He was, I think 20 or 22 and was a German POW in Stalag Luft which the movie THE GREAT ESCAPE was based on. He was one of the men who made it out of the tunnel, but not out of the country and was recaptured. Sadly, he was one of the 60 executed, shot by the Gestapo,may have been at Hitler's orders. Brave men, at a time that demanded them. A great movie, even if Stallone wasn't really there.
    Minor historical corrections:

    1. 76 men went through the tunnel on "The Great Escape" at Stalag Luft III, fifty (not sixty) were executed.
    2. The Germans had a policy called "Aktion Kugel" (bullet decree) released in early 1944 that specified that all recaptured POWs would be shot. It originally specified only non-US/British prisoners, but was amended to include them after the Stalag Luft III escape. It may not have been Hitler's direct order, but he was undoubtedly aware of it. There was an earlier decree (the "Commando" order) that led up to this. It specified that all Allied soldiers found behind the lines, even in uniform, were to be shot.
    3. Stallone has not been in any movie depicting the Great Escape. He was in another ("Victory") that was entirely fictional.

    The movie of "The Great Escape" takes some liberties with the actual events, like films usually do. The fifty weren't killed in large groups, as the movie depicts, but in twos and threes. All but one of the non-Britons (Poles, Czechs, etc. in RAF service) who were recaptured were executed. No Americans were involved; the Steve McQueen character was added to make the film more marketable in the US (albeit he was somewhat based on Jerry Sage). The Americans (including Sage) had been taken out of the compound just weeks earlier; they were getting along all too well with their British compatriots.

    Ron Wanttaja

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    Dana's Avatar
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    I would add that the movie, while excellent, took many liberties as movies do, but the book of the same title (written, IIRC, by a prisoner who was there) was excellent. And the proper term is "murdered", not "executed", since the POWS at that point were considered noncombatants and had committed no crime.

    To bring it back to airplanes, the fun scene where James Garner steals a German plane and attempts to fly it back to England is fictional. One of the escaped prisoners did try the same thing but never got off the ground; he was caught by a guard while trying to get the plane started.

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    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dana View Post
    I would add that the movie, while excellent, took many liberties as movies do, but the book of the same title (written, IIRC, by a prisoner who was there) was excellent. And the proper term is "murdered", not "executed", since the POWS at that point were considered noncombatants and had committed no crime.
    It's semantics, I know, but the killings were performed in accordance to the law of the country in which they occurred. Contrary to international law, and agreements Germany had signed, of course. Horrible either way.

    Paul Brickhill, the book's author, had been shot down in Tunisia in 1943, and was a minor cog in the escape organization. After the fifty had been killed, word came down to the POWs that any future escapees would be killed. They kept working on the fourth tunnel, "George", as a potential escape route because the rumor was they'd be killed anyway, if the Germans lost the war. One prisoner decided to escape in a garbage wagon. He was re-captured just a few hours later by "good-tempered Wehrmacht soldiers" and brought back to camp.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dana View Post
    To bring it back to airplanes, the fun scene where James Garner steals a German plane and attempts to fly it back to England is fictional. One of the escaped prisoners did try the same thing but never got off the ground; he was caught by a guard while trying to get the plane started.
    IIRC, this was an anecdote Brickhill provided regarding an earlier escape, not during the Great Escape. Brickhill says that the POWs were trying to start an airplane when a guard came up and asked what the hell they were doing. Nabbed, one of the POWs said, "We were just going to borrow it for the weekend...."

    And, of course, Bob Hoover eventually did manage to escape and steal a German airplane.

    One of the things that baffle me is why the moviemakers changed the "traps" for the three tunnels...the hidden entry points to the vertical shafts. The huts had floors eighteen inches off the ground and were open below so that the "ferrets" (German anti-escape specialists) to examine the dirt to see if digging was going on. There were solid concrete foundations under the stoves and showers.

    "Harry," which was eventually used in the escape, was underneath a stove. "Dickie" was in a shower drain, and Tom, incredibly, was in a flat, featureless stretch of concrete. It was a square of concrete cut out of the middle so closely that only a fine line could be seen; a paste of powder and water was used to hide the line. Incredible workmanship, considering tools available.

    Like in the movie, "Tom" was the first tunnel found. One of the Germans, tapping the floor with a lone spike, happened to catch the edge of the trap. In the movie, "Tom" was under a stove, and the trap for "Harry" was in the shower instead.

    I think they changed it because the real "Tom" would have been difficult to depict; moviegoers would find it hard to be believe they could have gotten away with it. That's the difference between fiction and real life; fiction has to be believable....

    One of my retirement projects is a novel set in a POW camp in Germany, so my brain is kind of full of these sorts of detail right now. The research is the fun part. :-)

    Ron "Mabel...I love ya Mabel..." Wanttaja
    Last edited by rwanttaja; 11-28-2018 at 10:27 AM.

  5. #5
    Mayhemxpc's Avatar
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    “That's the difference between fiction and real life; fiction has to be believable....”

    What a great line, and so true
    Chris Mayer
    N424AF
    www.o2cricket.com

  6. #6
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    Another note not necessarily to the subject above: about 95% of prisoners held by the Germany survived the war. More than 30% of those held by the Japan did not survive for various reasons.
    If God had intended man to fly He would have given us more money!

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