World War II prisoner of war camp - Stalag Luft I


World War II - Prisoners of War - Stalag Luft I 

A collection of stories, photos, art and information on Stalag Luft I


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Lt. Herbert Markle - WWII pilot and POW escapee

2nd Lt. Herbert Markle
Pilot - B 26 and B-17

Stalag Luft I and Stalag Luft III


Email Bert's family at

I am sorry to inform you that Bert passed away on March 16, 2004.

Escape from Stalag Luft I

   On or about the 6th of March 1944 we crashed our B-17, on fire, on the way to Berlin.  I became a POW and I made up my mind that I would have to try to escape.

    After traveling by boxcar for several days we arrived at Dulag Luft at Frankfort.  We went through a very intense interrogation for a few days and then another trip by boxcar to Stalag Luft I at Barth, Germany.  That was a trip no one will ever forget.  I am certain all Ex-POW’s will agree.  I still dream about those boxcars.

    Stalag Luft I turned out to be the best camp from which to try to escape.  If you were able to get out of the camp you did not have to go far to reach the coast.  The town of Barth was a seaport and was not far from Denmark.  At any other camp you would have to go all over Germany before you could hope to get in friendly hands.

    I first had to come up with an escape plan that the Camp Escape Committee would approve.  Next, I had to find one or two other people that would take the risk of getting caught.  The chance of getting shot was pretty good.  I made friends with Tom Brooks and Bill Clark.

   Tom spoke German.  Bill was from Brunswick, Georgia and knew a bit about boats and thought we could sail to Denmark.  They were the type men I knew I could trust and were brave enough to try the escape.

   At Stalag Luft I there was a little fence (like a guardrail) about a foot or two high around the camp and about ten yards inside the double barbed wire perimeter fence.  The double fences were about ten feet high. Rolls of barbwire about six or eight feet across were between the two fences.  There were guard towers on each corner that were thirty or forty feet tall.  The towers were manned with German guards.  They had machine guns and search lights in each tower.

   If someone failed to catch a football and it went across the guardrail you could get the guard’s attention.  He would point his machine gun at you and let you go get the ball.  We observed that he could not see the fence behind him while he watched you get the ball.  You could walk slowly.

   There was one corner of the camp that the goons had put up a small warehouse building about twenty yards outside the double fence.  We noticed it was not locked.  The barracks close to that point had a bench about ten feet long.  We could get the board off and use it to cross the double fence by laying it from the top of one fence to the other.  After we crossed the people from the barracks could put the bench back together.

   After the afternoon roll call we had about fifteen minutes before we were locked in the barracks.  If we could get across the fence during that time we could hide in the warehouse until after dark.  That way we would not be missed until the next morning.  We could walk all night following a railroad track to a small fishing town.  If we were able to get to the seaport, we could hide someplace until the next night.  We would then try to steal a boat and go to Denmark. 

   To get over the fence we planned to have someone throw a ball over the guardrail in the opposite direction from the point where we wanted to cross.  If we did not get shot going over the fence, the plan should work.

   The Senior American Colonel and the Escape Committee gave their approval but said there were five (as best as I can remember) Captains who had been waiting to escape and they would try the plan first.  We selected people to help. We had to have people get the board off the top of the fence.  There were people used as lookouts all around the compound.  The Captains, two one time and three on another day made it outside the camp.  We were later told they were recaptured in a few hours. 

   When Tom, Bill and I escaped, (probably around the 1st of May 1944) we left about five minutes before lock-up, crossed the fence and got in the warehouse.  We all knew that if anyone had been seen a lot of people would have been killed or wounded.

   We stayed in the warehouse until after dark. We then crawled about thirty or forty yards to get further away from the camp.  While crawling, the search light from the guard tower went right over my back.  I saw the light coming and stopped moving.  I almost felt the bullets hitting me.  A few minutes later a guard and his dog walked about five yards from me.  The wind must have been blowing away from me. 

   We then walked to a single fence about fifty yards away from the camp.  While crossing the fence a man in the dark said something to us.  Tom said a few words to him in German and he went one way and we went the other way.  We did not know who he was but he probably was not supposed to be there.  I doubt if he was as scared as we were.

   The Escape committee had given us maps, escape rations and a compass.  We located the railroad tracks and started walking along them toward the coast.  We arrived at a small seaport just before daylight.  We could see several small sailboats.  We came to a wooded area about fifty yards from the water and decided to hide until night.  We found a big hole someone had dug.  We got into that and covered up with pine bows to wait for dark.  We were very tired and cold.  All three of us fell asleep.

   An old man woke me up with a pistol against my head.  There were several other men with guns standing around.  They took us to the police station and locked us up. 

  They said we were spies.  Tom convinced them we were POWs and asked them to call Stalag Luft I.  They did and the German Intelligence Officer came to get us.

   The Stalag Luft I Intelligence Officer recognized my V.P.I (Virginia Polytechnical Institute) Ring and said he went to VMI (Virginia Military Institute) for two years while I was at V.P.I.  He also said he had worked for Hercules Powder Company at Brunswick, Georgia.  He named some people I knew at VMI and some places Bill Clark knew about in Brunswick.  We would not answer any of his questions about how we escaped so he took us to Stralsund and put us in a Gestapo prison.

   The Gestapo prison was a real hellhole.  I only remember a few things about our stay there.  The building was a real prison; four to five stories high with steel doors.  They put the three of us in one cell that was about eight by twelve feet.  There were no beds, chairs or other furniture.  All we had were a couple of blankets and a bucket for a toilet.  There was no way to wash ourselves.   Once a day we were given a bowl of soup and two slices of bread.  I remember that everyday they made us crawl down the hall to get the soup and bread.  If you spilled your soup you did not get any more.  The soup consisted of water, acorns, leaves and twigs. 

   We did not know what they were going to do with us and no one spoke English.  Every day someone was shot in the courtyard.  A prisoner in the next cell told us through the window that the people shot were Russian and French.  We never knew who was going to be next.  We thought we were the only Americans there.

Lt. Markle's POW identification card

Stalag Luft III ID

   I am not sure how long we were in that prison but I recently read in one of the books about POWs that we arrived at Stalag Luft III on the 28th of May 1944.  We stayed there until January 1945 when we were moved to Stalag 7A at Moosburg.  General Patton liberated us from Stalag 7A.

   I now know how lucky we were to have lived.  We did not know when we escaped that Hitler had said any POW that escaped would be shot.  If that had been known at Stalag Luft I, I am sure they would not have approved our escape plan.  They shot fifty of the British that tunneled out in the “Great Escape”. 

   I have tried to locate Tom and Bill.  I do not know what happened to them when we marched out of Stalag Luft III near the end of the war.  I would like to talk to them.



Bio of Bert Markle

Bert Markle in 3000

Bert Markle - 2000
Click to enlarge

{The following was completed 4 June 2001 by Bert’s son.  It is based on conversations he has had with his Dad and on notes Bert provided in 1999 and in April 2001}


    Herbert (Bert) Markle was born the 2nd of  April 1917 in Bluefield, West Virginia.  He distinctly remembers President Roosevelt’s speech following the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.  At the time Bert was student at Virginia Polytechnical Institute (VPI), now Virginia Tech, at Blacksburg, Virginia. 

    He immediately volunteered for the Army Air Corps and eventually entered pilot primary training at Vernon, Texas.  He next completed Basic and Advance Training in Texas at Randolph Field and Ellington Field, respectively, and then was sent to B-26 Transition Training at Avon Park, Florida.  In/about October 1943 he joined the 9th Air Force in Ireland as a B-26 pilot.  However, while still training in Ireland, the B-26’s were flown on their first mission and none returned.  Bert and the others still in training were asked to transfer to the 8th Air Force for B-17 training.  Due to bad weather he received only eight of fifty hours scheduled B-17 training before he flew his first mission.  They were hit by flak and fighters and someone was wounded on all his missions.  On his fourth mission the Bombardier was killed and two other crewmen were wounded.  On his fifth mission he flew as the Co-Pilot with a new crew on their first mission.  It was the 6th of March 1944 and the first mission to Berlin.  Enroute they were hit by fighters and flak, lost one engine and had another damaged and running poorly.  They were unable to stay in formation and descended to tree top level and attempted to return to England.  Inadvertently they flew over a Luftwaffe base and three fighters took off after them. They shot down two fighters but the third one forced them to crash, on fire, near Quackenburk, Germany.  The Bombardier and Radio Operator were killed but Bert the other seven crewmen received only minor injuries and were captured. 

    They were transported by boxcar to Dulag Luft in Frankfurt, Germany for interrogation.  Bert and the other officers were then sent to Stalag Luft I near Barth, Germany.  There Bert met POW’s Bill Clark and Tom Brooks.  They knew that many tunnels had been and were still being dug at the camp and that the Germans were always alert for tunnel operations.  Bert had the idea that they could escape by going over the fence using a long board from a bench to cross from the tops of the double perimeter fences; something the Germans were not used to.  Bill & Tom agreed and the Camp Escape Committee approved the plan.  Their plan was successful in that they made it to the coastline near Barth by walking all night and arriving just prior to daylight.  They were to steal a boat the 2nd night and attempt to sail to Denmark.   After crawling in a hole to hide during the day, they all fell asleep.  They were awakened at gunpoint by civilians and locked-up in the local jail.  After several interrogations and a couple of weeks in a Gestapo prison at Stralsund, Germany, Bert was eventually transported to Stalag Luft III.  He remained there until they were marched to Moosburg, Germany (Stalag  VII A) where he stayed until liberation by General Patton’s troops in April 1945. 

    After the War, Bert remained in the Reserves until called back to active duty in early 1953 for Korea.  Poor eyesight kept him from returning to flying status and the War soon ended, but he remained in the Air Force as a Supply Officer.  He later became a Special Weapons Officer.  He served tours of duty in Japan (Misawa AFB and an Army radar site in Sapporo), Germany (Ramstein AFB), Louisiana (Bossier AFB and Barksdale AFB), Adana, Turkey (Incirlik AFB), and back to Barksdale AFB where he retired as a Major in 1969.  At 84, he is still “actively” retired (goes to gym at least three days a week) and lives near the “Shore” at Shark River Hills, New Jersey.  It is only within the last few years that he has begun talking about his POW experiences.

His Story

 Off to War

    I entered the Army Air Corps in April 1942.  The pay was $21.00 with some deductions.  I went to Lackland AFB for Preflight.  Then, we went to Vernon, Texas for Primary Flight School.  The next move was to Basic Training at Randolph field, Texas and advanced multi-engine training.  We graduated in February 1943 and received our commission and wings.  Next was to Avon Park, Florida for transition training to twin engine B-26’s.

   As a B-26 replacement crew we went to Ireland for more training.  While there, the B-26’s flew their first mission to Europe.  General Eacker came to Ireland and told us that no planes returned from that mission.  The B-26’s were put on hold until it could be determined what the problem was.  The 8th Air Force had also been suffering great losses.  General Eacker asked us to transfer to B-17’s.  As we were anxious to get into combat most of us agreed to go to the 91st Bomb Group in England. 

    We knew that any crew that completed twenty-five missions would be sent back to the States.  On our first night at the 91st  we were at the Officer’s Club and were shown a plaque for those crews that had completed the twenty-five missions.  There were only four  names on it and those were “Memphis Belle” crewmembers. 

    We were supposed to receive fifty hours training in B-17’s.  Due to bad weather we only received about eight hours training before we started flying combat missions. On all our missions we were hit by flak and fighters and someone was wounded.  On our fourth mission the Bombardier was killed and two crewmen were wounded.  

    For my fifth mission I had to fly with a new crew.  It was the first time to bomb Berlin.  It was the worst mission the 8th AF ever had.  We were hit by fighters and flak and lost one engine and another was damaged and running poorly.  We could not keep in formation.  Before we took off we had agreed that we would not bail out if the plane could not be kept formation.  We thought we should get as close to the ground as we could as quick as possible.  We put the plane in a steep dive for about10,000 feet and were barely able to pull it out.  We thought we would be safer from flak and fighters if we were near the ground.  We then headed for England flying just above the trees.

    Unfortunately, we flew over a Luftwaffe Base and three German fighters, ME 109’s, took off after us.  We shot two of them down and the third one hit us.  We caught on fire and did not have enough power to gain altitude to bail out.  We crash-landed on fire.  Two of the crew, the Bombardier and the  Radio Operator, were killed but the other eight of us escaped with only minor injuries.


    Some civilians captured us almost immediately.  They put us in jail for a couple of days, after giving us a little knocking around.  We received two slices of bread a day but no bed to sleep on.  That was the start of fourteen months of the most horrible existence I could have ever dreamed of.  After a couple of days some Luftwaffe guards walked us through the little town to the railroad yard.  The citizens threw rocks and spit on us.

    In England the British radio and newspapers reported that conditions were so bad in Germany that they would not be able to last another winter.  It was a shock to see that the German people looked very healthy and well clothed.  The women were wearing silk hose.  They looked much better off than the English did.

    The Germans herded us into small boxcars with many other POW’s.  There were about fifty POW’s in one half of the car and four guards in the other half.  It was very cold.  The Temperature was near zero.  There was no heat and we had just the clothes we were wearing when we crashed.  The Germans had taken our Air Force jackets.

    The boxcar was so crowded that the only men that could sit or lie down were the ones that were so badly hurt they couldn’t stand up.  Some were seriously hurt and all were in a state of shock.  If you had to go to the bathroom, you went in your clothes.  Once they stopped the train we were allowed to relieve ourselves beside the tracks.  That was on the second day.  We also had to sleep standing up.

    After several days we arrived Frankfurt, Germany.  By that time there must have been more than a hundred POW’s on our train.  The Luftwaffe guards marched us through the middle of the most bombed city in Germany.  The streets were crowded with people that hit us with sticks and spit on us.  The guards told us to look straight ahead and stay in line.

    Dulag Luft in Frankfurt was the interrogation center for the Luftwaffe.  We were treated pretty well.  They put our crew in one room and gave us some hot food and cigarettes.  We had a chance to wash up a little and they gave us each a blanket, but we had to sleep on the floor.  We thought the room was bugged.  The IG Farber plant was across the street and was always a bombing target.

    The next day we were interrogated individually by a Luftwaffe officer.  I told him my name, rank and serial number and that’s all.  He asked a lot of questions but I always gave the same answer.  He said that if I didn’t answer all the questions I could be a spy.

    After the interview they took me to a room that had a cot and blankets but no one else in it.  I stayed in solitary confinement for several days.  I could only get out to go to the bathroom.

    When the guard took me back to the same officer, he said he wanted to read me the information they had on about me.  He wanted me to correct anything that was wrong so my family could be notified of what had happened to me.  Much to my surprise he knew my father’s and mother’s names and my home address.  He even knew where I attended high school and college, where I had flight training, and when and where I had been stationed.  He also asked me why I was a B-26 pilot and was shot down flying a B-17.  I did not answer that question.

    I was almost speechless.  How could he know all of that about a 2nd Lieutenant?  Later, after I got back to the States, the FBI told me that the Germans had people in the States that would get information from the local papers (maybe when I graduated from flying school and got my commission).

    The next day a lot of us were marched through Frankfurt and again loaded on boxcars.  After a few days, we arrived at Barth, Germany and Stalag Luft I.  It was supposed to be a model POW camp.

    We had about eight men in a room in a barracks.  The room had four double deck bunks, a potbelly stove, a table and chairs.  There was one kitchen in the barracks and each room had to do their own cooking.  We received one Red Cross parcel per person that had to last about two weeks.

 Escape  - See above article for additional details

    After about a month and still feeling pretty strong, I decided that I had to try to escape.  In order to do that, you had to have your plan approved by the Camp Escape Committee.  The POW’s had dug and were still digging so many tunnels that I thought of a plan to go over the fences.  It was a dangerous and complicated plan but along with two other POW’s, Tom BROOKS and Bill CLARK, we decided to pursue it.    Tom spoke German pretty well and Bill, who was from Brunswick, Georgia, knew a lot about boats.

    We worked out the details (see above article for more specifics) of getting over the fence without being seen by using a long board from a bench to put across the tops of the two perimeter fences.  The POW’s in the camp would put the board back on the bench.  We would go over the fence after the evening Roll Call; fifteen minutes before they would normally lock us up in the barracks.  There was a Quonset Hut type of warehouse about twenty yards outside the perimeter fences.  We knew the door was unlocked and we would hide in that building until night.  We would then walk at night down a railroad track to a small fishing town.  The next night we would steal a boat and go to Denmark. 

    The Escape Committee approved the plan.  Due to seniority, five other officers tried it first and they all got out of camp.  Two men went out one time and three the next night.  The “two” men were going to try to steal a German fighter from a nearby base.  Later, after we escaped, we learned that the first two men were caught within a couple of hours of their escape.  The other three were also captured. 

    Before we left, the Escape Committee gave us the necessary maps, escape rations and a compass.  Everything went as planned and we made it to the warehouse building.  After dark we crawled about thirty yards to get farther away from the fence.  While crawling, the search light from the guard tower went right over my back.  I saw the light coming so I had stopped moving.  A few minutes later a guard dog passed about five yards from me.  The wind must have been blowing from the other direction.  I had never been more scared in my life.  After that we were able to walk to a single fence about fifty yards away from the camp.  We crossed that fence and found the railroad tracks we were looking for.

    We walked all night and reached the little seaport just before daylight.  We found a good place to hide in some woods above the town.  We got in a hole in the ground that was about four feet deep and covered ourselves with pine branches.  We were very cold and tired.  All three of us went to sleep.


    I awoke to an old man pressing a  pistol against my head.  He was shaking so bad that I thought the pistol would go off.  There were several people with guns standing with him.  They roughed us up a little, punched us with pitchforks and called us “gangsters”.  Tom talked to them and convinced them we were POW’s , not spies, and to call Stalag Luft I. We just wanted to get back in the hands of the Luftwaffe before the civilians killed us.  Tom was able to talk to the Luftwaffe Intelligence  Officer and he told the Burgomaster to lock us up for our own protection. They took us to the city jail.  We arrived at the jail in a couple of hours.  We were later told that a lady walking her dog had found us.

    The Luftwaffe Intelligence Officer, a Captain, interrogated us in the jail.  He recognized my VPI (Virginia Polytechnical Institute) ring and said he had been in VMI (Virginia Military Institute) at the same time.  He said he had also worked for the Hercules Powder Company at Brunswick, Georgia.  He named people I knew at VMI and places Bill Clark knew about in Brunswick.  He wanted to know how we escaped.  We would not tell him.  He was very mad and made all kinds of threats.  He left us there overnight.

    The next day several Luftwaffe guards arrived and they took us to a large downtown jail in Stralsund, Germany.  Someone told us it was a Gestapo prison.  We were never sure but we think it must have been.   We think we were the only Americans there.  They put the three of us in a cell about eight by twelve feet.  The room had no beds, chairs or any piece of furniture.  They took all our clothes except our skivvies.  All we had were a couple of old blankets, a bucket for a toilet and no way to wash ourselves.  We were given two slices of bread a day and a bowl of hot water with acorns, leaves and twigs that we called “Oak Leaf Stew”.

    No one said what was going to happen to us and no one spoke English.  The Gestapo did not question us.  Every day twelve men were taken to the courtyard and shot.  We saw it once then didn’t watch anymore.  Someone in the next cell told us through the window that the people shot were Russian and French.  We never knew who was going to be next.

    Our conditions grew worse and we lost track of time.  We think we were there for about three weeks.  I did push-ups every day and tried to stay strong.  I had told Bill and Tom that I was not going to let the Germans take me out to be shot.  One morning some guards came to get us and when they opened the door Bill hit me hard on the back of neck.  He probably saved my life.  Luftwaffe guards then took us to the railroad station.  We all took a passenger train to Stalag Luft III.  I will never get over my stay in Stralsund.  I had weighed about 155 or 160 pounds when I went in the prison.  I was 128 pounds when I got to Stalag Luft III.

 Stalag Luft III and the “Walk” to Moosburg

    When we got to Stalag Luft III we were put in South Camp and we began the routine life of a POW.  You had to worry about starving to death, freezing or being shot by the Germans.  The other things, like the lack of showers, clean clothes, shaving, haircuts and getting along with one another just became a way of life.  We walked hundreds of miles around the perimeter of the compound.  It was important to try to keep as healthy as possible because no one knew what was going to happen to us.

    In January of 1945 we knew the end of the war was near.  We did not know if we would be moved out, liberated or massacred.

    We were given one half hour to abandon camp.  We marched out at night in sub-freezing temperatures and about a foot of snow.  We marched continually for about twenty hours.  The suffering was awful.  We stopped for four hours.  At about four o’clock in the morning we were ordered out.  It was windy and colder than the day before.  We marched for about seven hours.  The conditions were awful and our feet and hands were freezing.  A lot more men had to drop out.  Some were picked up by wagons and some must have died. 

    Colonel Goodrich, the Senior American Officer, refused to allow the Germans to march us the next day.  We had a day of rest.  We continued the march and often stayed in barns and covered ourselves with manure and hay to try to stay warm.  One time we were put in an empty barracks for the night.  I had saved four pieces of bread so I could have a “party” the next time I ate.  I put the bread in a box under my bed.  It was pitch black at night due to the black out shutters but I woke up to someone under the bed trying to steal my bread.  We got into a fight but were pulled apart by the other POW’s.  The “someone” turned out to be a Colonel and very well known “Ace”, who I will not name.  Colonel GOODRICH talked to me and told me it was probably good I had not killed the man.  He said he did not think it would happen again but if it did, I knew “what to do”.

    About six days later we got to Spamberg and were crowded into boxcars.  We rode for three days and two nights.  It was very crowded and we could not stretch out.  We arrived at Stalag VII A, Moosburg, Germany, on the 7th of February 1945.

    We were given showers and our clothes were fumigated.  We were fed some hot soup.  The barracks were cold and damp.  Many people had colds and stomach trouble.  Conditions were awful.  Two hundred and seventy of us were put in a tent that was only supposed to have enough room for about sixty.

 Liberation and the Journey Home

    We were liberated on the 29th of April by General Patton's troops.  Before Patton's troops arrived the German SS Troops had replaced the regular army troops.  The regular army troops were prepared to surrender as soon as the U.S. troops arrived.  The SS wanted to fight.  The fight lasted about two hours.  It was a day no POW would ever forget. 

    After the Americans took over they put Military Policemen outside to guard us and keep us there for our own safety.  I didn’t like it there and  convinced another POW that it was not right and that we should leave on own.  He thought the MP’s would shoot us if we tried to leave.  We talked to one of the MP’s.  He was also from West Virginia.  I asked him if he would shoot us if we left.  He said he was “looking the other way”.

    We went into town.  A tank unit came into town and stopped.  A Sergeant came up to us and asked who we were and what we were doing (we were about the only people standing outside).  We told him our story and were talking to him when an old woman (in reality she was probably in her thirties and just looked old to us) came up and offered us hot tea.  The Sergeant punched her in the jaw.  I couldn’t believe it and asked him what he was doing.  He said she was probably trying to poison us and that we should trust no Germans.  We had told him we really just wanted to eat and get a bath.  He took us to a nearby house and kicked out the couple that was inside.  We ate their food and were able to take baths.  The Sergeant said the “Red Ball Express”  truck unit would be coming through soon.

    The Red Ball Express did come and we asked for a ride.  We were taken to Munich.  The driver said we should check in with the American Government Headquarters to make arrangements to get back to the States.  We went to headquarters and introduced ourselves to the CO.  When we walked in I saw an officer working with a radio.  He saw me and said “Bert Markle, I’ve been looking all over Europe for you”.  He was Paul BAILEY, an old friend from Bluefield, West Virginia.  He arranged for us to get new dress uniforms, food, a place to live and transportation.

    Four or five days later we were flown with other POW’s to Camp Lucky Strike.  There were about 75,000 Ex-POW’s  waiting there for ships to take them home.  I didn’t like it there either.  I got with another POW, Quentin GRAY, and  we left on our own and went to Paris.  We had some very good times in Paris but finally left and got a ride on a flatbed truck to the military airport at LeHarve, France, to see if we could get from there to England.

    I sent a telegram to my first Co-Pilot, Bill REED, at the 91st Bomb Group in England;  I hoped he might still be there.  It turned out he had completed twenty-five missions, gone back to the States but had recently returned to the 91st for another tour.  He answered my telegram almost immediately.  He was now a Colonel.  The next day he flew to LaHarve in a B-26 and picked up Quentin, me and two other POW’s and flew us all to an RAF base near South Hampton.  He said he could not take us back to the 91st.

    We landed at the RAF base and walked from the end of the runway.  The British Military Police picked us up.  We easily convinced them we were American POW’s and told them we  thought it would be better if they could take us to the American hospital at South Hampton rather than release us to the British Military.  They agreed and took us to the hospital.

    We were at the hospital a couple of weeks then moved to the Savoy Hotel in London.  There were about forty-eight other POW’s in the Savoy and another sixty, or so, in a different hotel.  We had been there about six weeks waiting for a ship to take us to the U.S.  We were all tired of waiting and I convinced Quentin we should go to the American UK Commander.  I figured we had nothing to loose and since we were POW’s there wasn’t much they could do to us.  We went to his office, by- passed the Secretary and just walked in.  She yelled at us and came in right after us but the General said he would talk to us.  We told him how long we had been waiting and that I had contacted my Senator.  He called in a Colonel and told him he should arrange for us to get out as soon as possible.  The Colonel told him that if we left sooner than the other POW’s, the others would probably riot.  He agreed and told the Colonel to arrange for everyone to go within forty-eight hours.  He asked us to make sure our Senator(s), families, etc. knew what happened.  We said we would.  The Colonel did even better than we expected and we were on a military ship back to the States the next day.


    Seeing the Statue of Liberty after all I had been through was all I could stand.  To talk to the family that I really thought I would never see again was very emotional.

    We went to Lackland Air Force Base to get a physical exam and be processed.  The doctors said that I was in pretty good shape mentally.  We decided that maybe I would be all right once I got home on leave.  They gave me a letter for the nearest Army hospital in case I did not feel I could make it without more treatment for what is now called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    When I arrived home I found out that my wife, who I married about a year before I went overseas, had left home.  She had gone to Hollywood for a screen test that an Army major we knew had arranged for her.  The screen test was a failure.  After that she became an Arthur Murray dance instructor.  She did not write to me for the entire time I was imprisoned.  I thought the Germans were holding mail from her because I’d escaped from Stalag Luft I.  I went to Florida where I was stationed before I went overseas and got a divorce.  It proved to be one of the best things I had ever done.

    I returned home and decided that I needed to be treated in a hospital.  I was not able to talk to anyone about my experience as a POW.  I took my letter and went to the Ashford General Army Hospital at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.  I did receive one and maybe two shock treatments and I believe they did help.  After about three weeks of good treatment I returned home in pretty good shape.

    When I was processed out of the Army I signed up to stay in the Reserves.  They told me that no Ex-POW would ever be called up to active duty.

 Life Goes On

    In 1947 I married a girl that had been my high school sweetheart.  We moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, had a son and were very happy.

    Much to my surprise, about seven years later, I was recalled to active duty for the Korean War.  I could not get out of it.  I had to sell my business in Florida and go to Lackland AFB.  As it turned out I enjoyed being in the Air Force.  However, I failed an Air Force eye exam before I got to helicopter school and was told that since I could not fly they would not keep me on active duty.  Once again I used my Senators and Congressman.  Their involvement resulted in the Air Force reconsidering and keeping me on active duty as a Supply Officer.  The Korean War ended before I could get there. 

    My wife and son also liked the Air Force life and I remained on active duty until I retired in 1969.  We lived in Japan, Germany and Turkey.  While in Germany we adopted a six-year-old German girl.  We made a lot of friends and saw many interesting places.  I became a Special Weapons Officer.  That job required a Top Secret Clearance and my duties became much more interesting and rewarding.

    In 1968 I had a one-car accident and was charged with Driving Under the Influence.  With the help of a very fine Base Commander, who was a close friend, I was admitted to a hospital for treatment of alcoholism.  I stayed there seven weeks.  The treatment was successful and I was able maintain my Top Secret Clearance and return to my previous duties.  I have not had a drink since then.

    Later in 1968 my wife had to have an operation.  She had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She suffered tremendously and died in the base hospital about two months before I retired.  My son and daughter, with the help of some very good friends, brought us through some rough times. 

    A couple of years later my sister introduced me to a very nice lady with whom she worked.  We were married in 1973.  In addition to a wonderful wife I also acquired a great stepdaughter and son.  They turned out to be two of the best children I had ever seen.  Together with my children we have a very loving family.  My son is now fifty-four and my daughter is forty-eight.

    I had a mild stroke last year but have recovered with only minor complications.  I have just started treatment for what appears to be very early stages of prostrate cancer.  I will always regret that I was unable to talk about my POW experiences until just the last couple of years.  I don’t think I would have become an alcoholic if I had not been a POW and maybe talking about it sooner would have helped me avoid that problem.  I now attend two Ex-POW meetings a month at the local VA.  I also go to gym and lift weights at least three times a week and I believe that is helping me  alleviate a hip and knee problem.

    I had no contact with anyone I knew from the POW camps until about thirty years after the war.  I was on the golf course at Patrick AFB in Florida when someone walking behind me said he thought he recognized me.  It was Hank Spino.  He had been one of my roommates at Stalag Luft III and did most of the cooking for our room.  We have kept in touch periodically.  Just this year I have started to try to locate Bill Clark and Tom Brooks, so far without luck.  I have been told that Tom might be deceased.

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This site created and maintained by Mary Smith and Barbara Freer, daughters of Dick Williams, Jr.