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
I was copilot on the Ketchum crew, 329th Sq 93rd BG, "Ted's Traveling
Circus" based at Hardwick near Norwich. I was on my ninth mission December
1, 1943 when our plane "Iron Ass", a B24 D was shot down on a raid to
Solingen in the Ruhr Valley. Due to mechanical problems with the #3 engine
and propeller, we could not stay in formation and were forced to bail out
after many attacks by Luftwaffe fighters. Our tail gunner S/Sgt Harry
Byerman was killed in his turret during the attacks, but the rest of the
crew bailed out successfully. Iron Ass exploded in the air over the small
town of Eiserscheid, about 20 miles SE of Cologne. I was captured the next
day, and after the usual stay at Dulag Luft, finally arrived at Stalag One
about December 16th. I lived in Room 6, Block 3, in the South (or West)
compound until liberation and fly out on a B17 on May 13, 1945. I returned
to college after separation from service in January of 1946, graduating in
June of 1947. I began a career as a radio broadcaster then, which lasted
until I went to work as assistant director of a science museum in 1965. In
1980, I took a position as Deputy Director of the Oregon Department of
Veterans Affairs, which lasted until retirement in 1987. Since then, I have
enjoyed fishing and the outdoors here in the Great Pacific Northwest, until
physical problems dictated a more indoors lifestyle a couple of years ago.
As a Reserve officer, I stayed in the Air Reserve and Air National Guard,
until retired at the rank of Lt. Col in 1972. I am married to my beautiful
wife Doris, and have one grown son, Dwight. I am a native Oregonian, born in
Portland, grew up on a cattle ranch in Central Oregon, and have lived and
worked here all my life. My email address email@example.com
Alamogordo AAB April
A busy day at POW camp
Per Clint Gruber - a roommate of Lt. Early:
Early drew himself on the left top bunk. On the
bottom is Bob Reid. Middle top is Roy Braly. Bottom bunk is Bob
Wilkins. Top bunk right, Dick Ketchum. And, completely sacked
out (my usual posture) in the bottom bunk, is myself.
The photo below is the last picture of my airplane, "Iron
Ass." The pic was apparently taken very soon after the plane was blown up
by a Luftwaffe pilot over the small town of Eicherscheid SW of Cologne on 1
December 1943. All of the crew except, sadly, tail gunner S/Sgt Harry
Byerman had bailed out successfully before the plane was destroyed.
What you see is a portion of the nose from the cockpit forward, with the
navigator's dome and the right hand pitot tube visible. This was the
largest piece of the plane which landed in and around the village.
The crash of the Iron Ass, a portion of
the nose from the cockpit forward with the navigator's dome and the right
hand pitot tube are visible.
In 1997 a German architect, Wolfgang Meyer, whose hobby is researching WW2
aircraft crash sites, located the spot where a wing portion and an engine
fell in a wooded area northeast of the town. In searching the site with his
metal detector, he located the ID plate from one of the engines. The serial
number on the plate matches an engine number listed on my MACR, proving that
it was Iron Ass! I am deeply indebted to Philippe Dufrasne, a researcher
from Brussels, for the initial investigation and personal interest he has
taken in the search. He made several trips to Eicherscheid and
surroundings for photos and interviews, and made the further contacts
necessary. Eric Mombeek, also of Brussels, was invaluable in making contact
in Germany with other researchers, including Mr. Meyer. Mombeek is a well
known author of several books on the Luftwaffe in WW2. Through him, I even
have a photo of the Luftwaffe pilot who claimed the victory over Iron Ass on
Philippe Dufrasne, a researcher from
Belgium, presents Clint with some of twisted
and torn metal from his plane that
crashed 56 years ago.
And now, thanks to Wolfgang Meyer and Philippe Dufrasne, I have a whole box
full of twisted and torn metal from my airplane, delivered on a personal
visit to my home by Dufrasne and his family in June of '99. I am also
indebted to Mr. Hans Hergarden of Eicherscheid for the photograph. Thanks to
all these people, all of whom have absolutely refused even partial
reimbursement for the significant expenses incurred. My contact with
all of the people involved in this story has been solely through the
Internet and by email. Phil is the only one I have met in person, but our
close ties through email continues.
Plays at Stalag Luft I
The Petrified Forest - a
picture and a cast list of another Kriegie production in the South
Compound. This was "The Petrified Forest" and I have the pics because I
played a small part. The most interesting thing about this pic is the
actor seated on stage in the front row, between the two "girls". He is F/O
Donald Pleasance, RAF bomber crewman, who was shot down early on.
He is the same Donald Pleasance who starred in many, many Hollywood and
British films, and who was an established actor before enlisting in the RAF
with the beginning of WW2. After the war, he resumed his acting
career...very successfully. Most movie goers, and especially ex-kriegies,
will recognize him as "The Forger" in that great POW movie, "The Great
Escape." That was his first real memorable role in Hollywood flicks, and he
went on to make many, many more both here and abroad over his long career.
He was a jewel to watch in the lead role of Alan Squier in our production of
"Petrified Forest". I, in my minimal role, had lots of time to observe the
master of his craft. I did have an on-again, off-again correspondence with
Donald for several years after the war, but never had an opportunity to get
together again with...which I much regret. I just thought you might
like to have another pic or two of some lighter moments at Stalag Luft One.
Hit The Bottle - I am
attaching a cast picture of "Hit The Bottle". I am sorry not to be able to
identify more than two of those pictured...myself, and John Lashly.
Lashly is the bearded fellow relaxing on the stage in front of the table. I
am standing behind the table on the far right, with the big "D" on my
sweater. The story of the musical involves members of the "Dinosaurs",
professional football team. Hence, the D. By the way, I believe that
most costumes for theater productions were rented from a German costumer,
from funds supposedly paid to Kriegies by the Germans. However, the
sweaters for this production were borrowed RAF issue, and highly prized by
those who managed to retain them after capture.
by Clint Gruber
When, ev'ry night, in my tortured dreams,
I try and try to sleep, it seems,
I hear a super natural cry,
Straight out of hell it seems to fly.
And then my
muddled senses make,
A gallant effort to awake.
My trembling body - sunken deep,
In arms of Morpheus; heavenly sleep.
What is this cry? - Oh mournful note,
Some ghostly, mad musician wrote,
Responding to Satan's accolade,
I hear it now - "Parade! Parade!"
Written while a POW at Stalag Luft I
ON REACHING 86 By Clint Gruber
My engines sometimes miss a beat
And the radios just mumble.
My landing gear won’t quite lock down
And my gyros often tumble.
Some say my airframe’s ancient
And should be grounded for repair
But I’ll be damned if that is so
I’m still up in the air.
I need a longer runway
Just to get me off the ground
But I’m a human DC3
And Hey!!! I’m still around!
Written on 80th Birthday
(Title updated from Jan. 80…81…82…83…84…85)
Several years ago, Clint wrote to the National Archives saying that on the
first day of the evacuation of Stalag Luft I ...13 May '45...he was a part
of the first groups loaded on a B17. Having been in Stalag Luft One since
the middle of December '43, he was one of the "first in, first out" people.
In his letter to the Archives he said that on that day, as he was leading a
group of 30 POW's to the airfield, he remembered someone on the route with a
movie camera, taking pictures of them as they arrived. He interest was in
the remote possibility that the film was in the Archives, and the even more
remote chance that he was pictured. Well, he was pleasantly surprised to
find that there was such a film, and was directed as to how to order it.
The cost was pretty steep...about $20.00 per minute...but he went ahead with
it. Anyway, in about out two months, the video arrived. And, wonder of
wonders, he was pictured in it...just as he had remembered! Of course, the
video is a real treasure to him and to any other Kreigie there on that
occasion. This picture at left is of Clint taken from the film he
received. Click here to view the video (in
3 parts available on You Tube)