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. Caleb Reeder - WWII P-47 Flight Leader Lt Caleb L. Reeder  "Whitey"
P-47 Flight Leader

Passed away in 1960

Stalag Luft I - North I Compound


Click here to email his family.

"Roosevelt Made Me"
by Lt. C. L. Reeder

     On March 8, 1944, we were on an escort mission, escorting B-17's from the 8th Air Force into Berlin. My flight of four P-47's was the left flight of the three flights flying cover.

     Escorting fighters meet the "heavies" at prearranged rendezvous points, giving protection to the extent of their gas consumption, at which time they leave, and the other fighters replace the departing cover.

    As our Squadron pulled up on the "heavies" - from their rear and to the right - eight FW-190's, followed by more, came at the bombers in a tail attack.  This was at 22,000 feet.

     I gave the order for a bounce (sudden surprise attack on enemy aircraft) and broke to the left.  However, before we could get in range, the two I'd selected as targets went into a gliding dive, ending in a split S.  Endeavoring to stay on their tail caused my ship to reach such a terrific speed (550 mph) that my controls froze.  It meant temporary loss of control, but hitting the denser air around 10,000 feet I regained control and went into a half-loop, gaining altitude and heading for the bombers and the fight still raging.

     Two 190's saw my approach and attacked me head on , the three of us firing simultaneously.  None of my shots hit them, but my plane jarred from two bad hits.  They passed on my left, going down in a steep dive.  Spiraling to the left and down, I was able to get on their tail, though from a distance.  A P-47 is tops in a dive, however, so my speed when the three of us hit the deck was sufficient to assure my catching them.  While diving, I checked over the ship carefully, finding everything in order - so I thought.

    On my left near the ground an FW-190 was being chased by a P-47.  Direct hits by the P-47 caused the 190 to explode and crash into ruins.  A similar scene met my eye on the right.  (I learned later that thirty victories were recorded that day in our Group - a record performance!)P-47 shooting down a FW-190

     After about two minutes, the two FW-190's I was chasing came just within firing range.  Knowing that the lead pilot of the two could not accurately gauge my proximity and wouldn't "break" until I fired, I withheld my fire until they were only about 150 yards away.  A five-second blast of my eight guns finished one of the Jerries.  He exploded and splattered into a small clump of trees below.

     Simultaneously with this attack, the remaining Jerry (300-400 yards away ) chaundelled to the right for a complete circle and an attack on my tail.   As he swung up, I met him in my sights and let go.  He disintegrated!

     I started climbing and my engine missed, causing me to level off.   A slow climb to 9,000 feet, in which I alternately checked the instruments and looked for my squadron, ended when I spotted the Squadron Leader.  Via radio, he learned of my trouble and swung off to escort me home; but the loss of altitude and air speed from then on convinced me I couldn't make it back to the Base.

     At 3,000 feet, with a dead engine, I pulled the nose up to lessen the speed, jerked off helmet and headgear, opened the canopy and tried to leave.  The nose had dropped, and the consequent speed and pressure held me in.  Pulling up again, I turned the ship over and left it around 900 feet.  The thought of delaying the pull of the rip cord was dispelled when I heard the ship crash and realized how low I was.  Swinging only once, I landed on the outskirts of a small German town.

     The crash, and my parachuting, had drawn a small mob, composed primarily of middle aged men.  Man, were they mad!  They attacked me with anything and everything available - rocks, fists, clubs.  One particular "character" had the darnedest knack of waiting until my left ear was unguarded --and then smack!   I thought his fist would eventually deafen me.  I caught him off guard and was able to knock him down, but this urged the others on.

     One of the group sent for more weapons.  A lad ran up with a rope, and then the fun began.  After wearing it smooth by beating me, they tied my arms and made me run, walk or crawl in a southerly direction toward a small forest a mile or so away.  Every time I wavered they started their tattoo of clubbing and beating.  One favorite stunt, practiced by two cyclists, was that of gathering speed and literally riding me down.  As I'd fall, the kicking would start again.

     During the entire procedure there was a nicely dressed elderly man, seemingly of local importance, who endeavored to quiet the mob.  About a quarter of a mile from the forest -after a cycling episode - he was able to ask a direct question of me.  "Why you bomb Germany?"

     By that time, I was desperate, tired and ready for anything, so I replied, "Roosevelt made me!"

     That quieted things down a bit, but again we marched off- headed for the trees.  I could occasionally hear, "Roosevelt! Ya! Ya!" I began to hope.  The mob had lost some of its violence by then, the cyclists had stopped, and it was possible for the elderly man to induce them to stop and discuss the situation.  The same question was asked again, with the same answer.  With gestures and loud guttural noises, the impromptu meeting carried on for a few minutes, at the end of which time my protector approached me, smiling.  We altered our course and marched off in the direction of the village.

    The relief I felt is impossible to describe.  Even the sight of German uniforms worn by the local military authorities didn't bother me.  Lynching wouldn't be a pleasant way to die.

* From the book "Behind Barbed Wire" by Morris J. Roy

Per Cal's son Craig Reeder:  " My dad did have a great sense of humor, he was always very cheerful, but I
suspect his story about Roosevelt was motivated more by fear and survival than by humor.  My friend Mike Quirk (also a POW at Stalag Luft I) told me something that I found very interesting.  He said that when the Americans encountered the German people, the Germans  were mystified as to why Americans were involved in their European war. The Roosevelt story might have been an attempt  to come up with a simple answer to that question."

He also wrote : "He was known in the prison camp as "Whitey" and participated in the boxing matches there.  One story I had heard as a child from my mom was that the prisoners, having lots of cabbage in their diet, entertained themselves with farting contests, and that my dad was a keen competitor, but in later years when I asked Col. Quirk about it, he said he'd never heard of anything like that at all."  Did any of you hear of these contests?


P-47 Pilots In A Briefing
Front Row left to right - Sy Burke, Mike Quirk, Cal Reeder 

This photo was sent to Cal Reeder's son Craig by Mike Quirk.  On the back of it he wrote "this was taken during a actual briefing prior to an air strike on Germany.  From our faces it must have been one of the larger raids with deep penetration of Germany."



Cal Reeder


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