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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2nd Lt. James B. Walden  of
B-17 Navigator & Bombardier


Shot down on 29th mission over Stuttgart
Prisoner of War at Stalag Luft I

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The crew of Robert H. Brown, Pilot  of the 306th Bomb Group, 369th Bomb Squadron based in Thurleigh, England.  This photo was made in England sometime in July, 1944.   They began their tour on July 24, 1944 to St. Lo, France and were shot down by flak over Stuttgart, Germany on December 9,1944.

Robert H. Brown B-17 crew of World War II

1st Lt. Robert H. Brown, Pilot Wounded by Flak in October and did not fly for a couple of weeks. He was killed on the mission to Stuttgart.  It is believed he stayed with the ship (allowing his fellow crew members to bail-out) and it blew up as it had been on fire.
2nd Lt. William Giglio, Co-Pilot Was on his 35th mission when shot down.  He had flak his his knee and shatter his thigh bone. German doctors tried to save his leg for several days, but finally had to amputate it. He remained in POW hospitals until liberated.
2nd Lt. James B. WaldenBombardier then Navigator Bombardier for several missions and then Navigator for the rest of his 29 missions. 
Sgt. Raymond Ohm, Radio Operator Born in USA but grandmother still lived in Leipzig.
Sgt. J. J. Fann, Engineer and Top Turret Gunner Both hands were frozen when he took off his gloves and tried to open the jammed escape hatch to bail out. The German doctors in the POW hospital managed to save his hands and he didn't lose a single finger.
Sgt. Ed Rosener, Waist Gunner and later made a Bombardier He was hit in the knee cap and never flew again.  The target was Stuttgart. 
Sgt. Ernie Hovey, Waist Gunner Had a piece of flak in his leg in September, but he was soon back flying.
Sgt. Jack Basel, Ball Turret Gunner Had been injured around December 6th during some bad turbulence and he was thrown against the side of the ship and received a bad cut over his eye, so he was not flying on Dec. 9th.
Sgt. Mike Ferrar, Tail Gunner Was killed when hit by flak over Merseburg September 13, 1944.


Thru the efforts of three Germans I found out what I had not known for 56 years.

During World War II  I was a  crew member of the 306th Bomb Group, flying as a Navigator and a Bombardier on the Bob Brown crew in the 369th Bomb Squadron.   We started flying in July 1944   and were shot down on my 29th mission over Stuttgart by flak.  I and most of the crew were sent to Stalag Luft 1, Barth Germany. 

Flak hit in the nose and thru the panel hitting the co-pilot in the knee.  It also hit me in the back of my neck and knocked me to the floor.  A lot of instruments were out, including the bomb bay doors which had stopped half closed.  Bombs had just gone out when we were hit.  The radio and the intercom were out and I doubt if the auto-pilot was working either.  An engine was knocked out and the Pilot tried everything to feather it,  including stalling the ship,  but no oil pressure.  After  heading to France, which was only a few miles away, we caught fire and with the flames blowing back off the wing we had to bail-out.   As we could not get the escape door open, I headed to the back and found the Engineer helping the injured Co-pilot and Bombardier to the back.  I checked on the Pilot and he was still flying the ship with both hands and not injured.  He always said he would never jump.  We had dropped out of formation and out of sight of the group.  The Missing Air Crew Report showed we dropped down out of formation under control and no visible damage which was true.  

We never heard any word about our Pilot or ship until 2001. . .  I got an e-mail from Helga Radau who said she was 4 years old when I was a prisoner in Stalag Luft 1 and she lived then and still does live in Barth.   There was a flak school next to our prison camp which was converted to a school after the war.  She attended the school and later taught in the school, including English.  She became the historian for Barth and became interested in the inmates of the Stalag and got my e-mail address from Roland Geiger, a German who was a hobby historian.  Roland compiled a list of where all the bombers were shot down over Germany during the war.  I wrote and gave the serial no.,  date.  etc and he wrote back giving the facts, including the name of the ship which I had not given him.  He said his records showed we were shot down over Stuttgart and came down  at Wolfach, a few miles from Stuttgart but there was no crash site.   Later he contacted, Ottmar Erber,  another hobby historian who sent me a two page copy of a history book which described what had happened to our Pilot.    Two farmers were in a field and saw a gas tank falling in the east and at the same time saw another object falling in the west which proved to be our pilot.    His chute was not open.  I think the ship blew up as it was a bad fire.  The book had his his dog tag number as well as other things in his pocket book which proved his identity.  The names of the witnesses were in the book.  He later sent me a copy of the book.  The pilot was buried on the spot and the next day was removed and buried in a cemetery in the nearest town.  He was later removed to France by the USA and later to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia  where he rests today.   Thru the efforts of three Germans I found out what I had not known for 56 years

Also thru the efforts of Ottmar Erber I was put in email contact with a then 14 year old German girl who I encountered shortly after landing. 


The Story Of A B-17 Crew Shot Down Over Stuttgart, Germany
James B. Walden, Bombardier and Navigator in the crew on the Robert H. Brown crew of the 306 Bomb Group, Squadron 369 at Thurleigh, England.  We flew our mission July 24,1944 and another on the 25th to St. Lo, France in support of our ground troops in the breakout on the way to Berlin. My crew came from McDill Field in Tampa, Florida where we had to leave our navigator,  Lt. C. Tucker because he broke his arm the day before we were to leave. He was later killed in a crash during a training flight with another crew. 

When we got to England we acquired Lt. A.J. Trelford as navigator. We flew a few missions with Trelford then he was transferred to another crew, as navigators were in short supply. As I had navigator training as well as bombardier I became navigator for the rest of our tour.  Trelford was killed a few days later when his crew crashed on takeoff for a mission.  Our crew flew together for a few more missions and our pilot was hit in the arm by flak (no bones broken) so we individually flew with other crews when needed, not a happy situation.  Our crew trained together for quite some time and knew each other and what to expect in an emergency.  For example I could fly and land a B17 if necessary.  We got our pilot, Bob Brown, back and we flew a good many more missions together. We had our ups and downs as did all crews. 

We went to Merseburg 5 times and we heard that they had more anti-aircraft guns than Berlin. Our tail gunner, Sgt. Mike Ferrar was killed by flak over Merseburg and we came home at 12,000 feet as our oxygen was shot out.  I did not think we would make it that day but we did.  I made Sgt. Rosener our bombardier,  an experienced man for that job, when I became navigator he was a 36 year old career man.  We had our share of lost engines, flak damage, 8 planes lost to fighters and 3 trips home alone.  I guess the last one to Stuttgart where we were shot down was the worst.  Our first flight to Stuttgart, we got a lot of flak and lost Rosener for good with a split kneecap.  Lt. Moore took his place.

The mission to Stuttgart was very cold and cloudy, but when we arrived the clouds opened up and we saw the target. As I recall we were at 28,000 feet.  We were hit hard just after the bombs went out. We lost an engine and the oil pressure went too, so the engine could not be feathered. Flak hit the co-pilot in the knee and shattered his thigh bone. I was hit in the back of the neck and hit the floor. I got up with no helmet on so I didn't know if the flak hit the helmet or the plane first. Lots of blood but not serious. The pilot tried everything to feather the engine, but it was not possible. We were heading to France as there was an emergency field not too far away. We dropped out of formation, and the missing crew report said that we dropped down under control with no visible damage.  We stayed with the plane for several minutes so no one saw what happened to us.  We had had this situation before and an engine that not feathered will shake a plane so bad you have to hold on. At first we thought we were going to have to ditch in the North Sea but at about 50 feet the shaft tore loose and the shaking stopped like turning off a light and we were able to make it home. We did have a hole in the gas tank and as we pulled into our hardstand the crew chief came running out screaming for us to cut off the engines. I don't know why we did not catch on fire or blow up.


On our last trip somewhere between Stuttgart and the Rhine River we caught fire and because the flames were blowing back off the wing we had to jump. The engineer helped the copilot to the escape hatch in the floor of the nose, but he found that it was jammed shut by flak. He took off his gloves and tried his best to open the hatch. Since it was 60 degrees below zero he froze both hands. I got there and saw the problem and pointed to the rear then he and the bombardier helped the co-pilot to jump out of the bomb bay which was jammed open, thank goodness. I went up to check on the pilot and he was flying with both hands (no auto pilot) and did not show any wounds. He always said he would not jump and didn't.
I did a free fall to get down to oxygen and I guess I pulled the cord at about 3000 to 4000 feet. It was snowing and I could not see the ground until I got to about 500 feet. I could not  see any houses, nothing but snow and trees. I thought I had it made. I was a few miles from the Rhine River and the Americans were on the other side, I rolled up my chute and was going to hide it in the snow when I saw the home guard with a huge rifle watching me from about 100 feet away. We walked down the mountain for 15 to 20 minutes to an old farm house, no paint and a wooden plow.  Quickly a crowd gathered, men, women and children all talking to each other, German of course, and I had no idea what it was all about.  

A young girl came up to me and spoke English. She asked if I was an American. It sure was good to hear English and I asked her if I could have some water and a towel to wash my neck. She turned to a woman (her mother) and spoke German. Then she told me to follow her into the house. I went in (not stopped by the guard) and she filled a basin with water and laid a towel beside it . She said I would have to do it for myself. I did because I quickly understood that they could not help a prisoner. She then gave me a strip of cloth that I wrapped around my neck and tied the ends.  I then got back outside as fast as I could. 

In a few minutes a couple of Gestapo, I think,  came in a VW, searched me and took everything I had.  I gave my parachute to the lady beside the girl as I went inside the house.  We then drove for what seemed like 30 minutes to a town where I was put in a jail. Later my bombardier was brought in. That night about midnight a civilian came in with a suit and tie on, speaking perfect English and asked, " How are you boys doing?"  To me this was an American phrase not German.  He asked if we were hungry.  We said yes and that were cold too. There was a ceramic stove in the jail, but no matches or wood.  He said that he would see what he could do. We had no cover, only a wooden shelf just wide enough to lie on and no chairs. About an hour later a guard came in with an aluminum container. We had veal cutlets, potatoes, kraut, black bread and coffee, a full meal. He also brought wood and started a fire.  We told each other that we had better eat as it might be our last meal because tomorrow we might be shot. The next morning we were taken to the office of a bigwig. He was smoking my cigarettes and thoroughly enjoying himself. He asked one question, what a CO cylinder in my life jacket was. We were then sent to Wetzler with two guards.

The Germans were moving out of the building in a hurry as the Americans were just across the river.

We had to walk for 3 weeks and finally ended up in a prison camp, Stalag Luft 1. We hoped that our pilot would show up there but he never did and we heard nothing about him or the plane.
The first of last year I got an e-mail that started off-- I was 4 years old when you were a prisoner at Stalag1 and I lived in Barth where the camp was located.  It was from Helga Radau. I told her my story about our pilot and she said to contact Roland Geiger who gave her my e-mail address. I wrote him that my ship went down at Wolfach, but no crash site was ever found. He then got in touch with another German, Ottmar Erber in the Black Forrest. Mr Erber sent Roland 2 pages of a book about the Black Forrest that described 2 eyewitnesses telling what happened to the pilot. I am enclosing a copy of what Erber sent to Geiger. He sent it in German and Geiger translated it. Brown's name was in English and his serial number matched. I was able to follow the story through to his burial in Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. I have the grave number there.
Later Mr. Erber found the young girl that spoke to me in English when I landed in Germany. I have a letter from her and will enclose a copy.  I wondered about her speaking English. I was shot down and the war was over for me. I didn't know what was coming next.  It certainly was not a little German girl speaking English. The neighborhood watch took my parachute away from her mother. I didn't see hate in any of the people that surrounded me that day. I saw hate in the eyes of a mob that gathered behind us as we walked through a town that was still smoking. The people were screaming and had hanging us on their minds. We understood some of the things that they called us, like SOB and a few others. One guard told another guard for us to start running and he raised his rifle and pointed it at the mob. We ran until we were out of sight and I have no idea what he said to the mob of about 25 people. He caught up with us a little later without them.


The finding of the little girl, now 71, as per her letter would make her about 14 when all this happened. It was good to be able to say thank you to a total stranger who stuck her neck out to help me when I needed it most.
I made 29 missions. My co-pilot was on his 35th and last. He lost a leg and spent the rest of the war in the hospital. The engineer had both hands frozen and was also put in the hospital where German doctors saved his fingers after 6 months on treatment.


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