collection of stories, photos, art and information on Stalag Luft I
If you are a former Prisoner of War or a next of
kin of a POW, we invite you to sign and leave your email address so others that
come may find you. Please mention camp, compound, barracks and room numbers if
Major Fred Ford
Bronson of Memphis, TN Pilot - shot down near the town of Honfleur in occupied France on
Stalag Luft I POW -
North II Compound
While at Stalag Luft I he was charged by the Germans with inciting American
officers to disobedience or resistance or else to undermine the discipline
of the German Army. See story of his court martial as told by the
German officer who accompanied him and the official charge report below.
He remained in the Air Force until his death from his second heart
attack in December 1965, at the age of 49. He held the rank of Colonel when
he died. He flew a B 26 in the Korean combat. In the early 1950's his family
joined him in Tokyo during the occupation of Japan. He held various
assignments taking the family to other locations in Europe and the United
States. One assignment in the late 1950's was the War College at Maxwell AFB
in Montgomery, AL where he taught his former enemies, officers of the German
Luftwaffe. One became a longtime family friend.
In April 2000, I went to Barth, Germany to attend
the " 55th Anniversary of the Celebration of the
Liberation of Stalag Luft I POW camp and the Concentration Camp Barth" . While at this
conference I met Fritz Osterman, a
German man that had worked in the administrative offices of Stalag Luft I during
World War II.
He told of
his experience with the camp and the POWs. His contact with the POWs was very
limited but he had a particularly funny story which truly showed the humanity
of man and how enemies can relate on a personal basis even in war. He
stated it began on
January 20, 1945 at roll call when it was so cold the POWs of Block 207 in the North
2 compound, who did not have gloves, did not want to take their hands out of their pockets. After
being instructed to do so several times by the German guards (Oberstl. Jager and
Hauptmann Blohm), an American, Major Fred Ford Bronson, cupped his hands
and yelled across the parade ground to the men of Block 207, "Put your hands
in your pockets!", whereupon all the POWs of Block 207 did so. This was
considered an act of insubordination and Major Bronson was promptly arrested and a
court martial trial was scheduled.
So Fritz Osterman, who
was a private in the German military, was given a gun and assigned to transport the prisoner to
Anklam, Germany where the trial would be held. The trip took a long time because of
the poor conditions of the rail system, due to the Allied bombings. Fritz said that
Major Bronson had a nice Red Cross parcel which contained canned goods,
chocolate and cigarettes. He was impressed and the American shared his
him. They finally reached the location of the trial and Major Bronson was
assigned a German lawyer to defend him. As the trial began, Major Bronson stood
up and said, "I am a citizen of the United States of America and I demand an
American lawyer to defend me." With this his assigned German lawyer was highly
offended and said, "Well then, I refuse to defend you." The judge then declared
that the trial would be postponed indefinitely.
So Fritz and Major
Bronson began their journey back to Stalag Luft I. Along the way they were
to pass through Fritz's hometown. He stated that he really wanted to see his
family, but his English was not too good. So he found another German to explain to
Major Bronson that he wanted to stop by and see his family and asked that Major
Bronson not tell on him. Major Bronson agreed as he wanted to see what a German
household looked like. So they went to Fritz's house and his mother
opened the door. She was very happy to see her son, but soon became very
upset when she realized he had an American "terror flieger" (terror flyer) with
him. She tells her son, "Are you crazy? The local head of the SS lives next door
and if he sees this, he will execute all of us." Her son tells her that the
American has chocolate and cigarettes!! This made her warmly welcome him into her
home. They had a short visit and the American shared some of his Red Cross goodies. They
then continued their return trip to Stalag Luft I. He said he has never seen or
heard from Major Bronson since then and would love to get in contact with him.
He said Major Bronson was about 10 years older than him so that would make Major
Bronson around 85 today.
The official charge report of the incident
Bronson Crew Members
daughter's birth notification
Western Union MIA
MIA notification letter
Western Union POW
notification & newspaper article
Tennesseans Complete Basic Flight Training in 1941
Morris C. Caldwell, William L. Northern, B. M. Tate, G. P. Rye, F. F.
Bronson, V. B. Buchman, F. E. Adkins and R. S. Hamby
POW Identification card
celebration at Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee with fellow Stalag
Luft I POWs from Memphis.
Klim Kriegie by Donald
Ross in Fred's wartime log.