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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T/Sgt. James C. Strafford   T/Sgt. Jim Strafford   Portsmouth, Ohio
 Radio Operator
 398th Bomb Group - 600th Bomb Squadron


Shot down November 26, 1944 on a mission to Misburg, Germany

Stalag Luft IV POW



Jim Strafford was the radio operator on our father's plane and they flew 29 missions together before being shot down on November 26, 1944. They last saw each other for a brief moment in solitary at Dulag Luft when the doors were opened for a moment. 

Shortly after we mailed our letters to the men we learned were on the plane with Dad when he was shot down, we received a telephone call from Mr. Strafford.  Below is an email I sent to others in our family detailing what I had learned from that phone conversation.  This was the first information we had learned at all about our Dad's experiences and we were so thrilled to hear from him. 

August 14, 1999

Mr. Jim Strafford called today after he received my letter concerning Daddy. He informed me that he was with Daddy when they were shot down and he knew Daddy well. He said they were very close. He said it warmed his heart to get my letter. Brought back some wonderful memories of Daddy.

They had met in Tampa at training school and flew all their missions together. He told me a great deal that I did not know.

He said that their crew was a hand picked crew - composed of the best in their classes. They were selected to go to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia for additional training. That was where the FBI and CIA were located. He said all the crewmembers were then investigated by the FBI for clearance. As they were going to be the first to fly B-17ís with radar which was highly secretive. He said with the radar they could actually see their targets. He said Dadís crew was one of 10 that had been hand picked to go to Langley and train for this operation.

Their crew often flew with the colonel of the 398th, Col. Hunter, who was killed during the war. They often were the lead plane of the 8th Air Force. He said the radar technology was so secretive that for some reason they couldnít fly it directly to England the had to fly to Ireland first. He flew 29 bombing missions with Daddy, they were shot down on the 29th. After 30 missions you were allowed to go home. The average mission lasted 8 to 9 hours.

He said they had many close calls. He said they were bombing Hitlerís oil refinery in Misburg, Germany when they were shot down. He said it was the primary source of oil for Hitlerís Panzer army and tanks, so it was very heavily guarded. That is why they were probably shot down. He said after they were hit the plane was on fire and he was in charge of detonating the plane so that the Germans were not able to recover the radar technology.  He lit the detonators and ran to the back of the plane only to find Dad and his friend Phern Stout still at the back door. He said he pushed both of them out the door and jumped himself. He said he saw their parachutes open up and met them on the ground, where they were captured by civilians and turned over to guards. He said the Germans knew they had something special.

From there they were put on a train to Frankfurt, where he said they had a close call. The civilians were very angry with them and wanted to kill them. He said they almost lost their lives there in the train station. He said the Luftwaffe guards did a good job of protecting them from the crowds. They pushed them into a donut shop and called for extra guards to help protect them. From there they went to solitary confinement at Dulag Luft. He said in solitary it was Stout, him, and Williams. He knows that because they opened the door once and he was able to see who was on each side of him. He said that was the last he saw of Daddy.

He was sent to Stalag Luft IV.  His section was 90% British. He and 2 Brits managed to escape though and he made it back home 1 day after VE day.

He said Daddyís best friend was Phern Stout, who was a champion boxer from Missouri. They were very close buddies "practically inseparable". 

I had sent Dad's Dulag Luft picture with my letter. He said you didnít have to send that picture, I remember him well. He said Daddy was a really good looking man. He said, "Donít tell your mother, but the girls were always after your Daddy!".  He said there was a very nice and rich man in their crew. He was a 21 year old chemistry PhD, named Joe Spiess ,and Mr. Strafford believed this gentleman was part of the Anheuser-Busch family. Mr. Spiess would often take all the crew out for dinner in Tampa, and he said the ladies would always be looking at Daddy.

Since this initial contact we were fortunate to meet Mr. Strafford and his family in August 2000 at the 8th Air Force Heritage Museum in Savannah, Georgia.

Jim and Ruth Strafford - August 1943

Jim Strafford and Zimmer crew at Drew Field - 1944

Jim and Ruth Strafford
August 3, 1943

Dick Williams, Jim Strafford, Phern Stout and Opher Rumney at Drew Field in Tampa, Florida - 1944.


Flying B-17G   # 42-97740  on November 26, 1944

Capt. Gene Douglas Pilot, CA Washington, DC
1st Lt. Charles Zimmer Co-Pilot Flushing, NY
Capt. Harry Nelson Lead Navigator Milwaukee, WI
1st. Lt. Randy Anderson Check Navigator Worcester, MA
1st Lt. Norman Kottke Lead Bombardier Stewart, MN
2nd Lt. Aaron Kuptsow Mickey (Radar) Navigator Philadelphia, PA
Tech/Sgt. Opher Rumney Engineer Manchester Depot, VT
Tech/Sgt. Jim Strafford Radio Operator Portsmouth, OH
Staff/Sgt. Dick Williams Waist Gunner Eufaula, AL
Staff/Sgt. Phern Stout Tail Gunner Lockwood, MO


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