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


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 possible.

 Sign or view our Guestbook

Visit our
Online Store




If you would like to
  help us keep this website online, please click on the above PayPal link, where you may make a monetary contribution to this site using your credit card.  Thank you.



Stalag Luft I - E-mail us

Click to send us e-mail


From the Wild Blue Yonder to Kreigesgefangerenlager (POW Camp)

  The final flight, evasion, capture, beatings and trip to a World War II German prisoner of war camp.
Written while a POW in the camp - 1944- 1945.

by :  Bruce K. Bockstanz - Navigator with the 96th Bomb Group

     Our B-17 crew had left East Anglia, England in the early morning hours of July 19, 1944 to attack the ball bearing complex at Schweinfurt, Germany. Moments after we had released our bombs (on the target), an anti-aircraft shell (flak) crashed through the bomb bay and out the top of the plane, where it exploded. Had the bombs still been in the plane, this story would not have been written! A second shell knocked out two of the four engines. With greatly reduced power and damaged controls, we dropped out of formation. Chuck Quinby, the pilot managed to keep us on course for about an hour. Finally, unable to control the plane, he gave the order to bail out. 

      It was 10:23 am BDST (British daylight savings time).  Actually it was BDDST - Double D. S. T. - in July, it was still daylight at 1:00 am.) When I bailed out of my B-17 type aircraft (over Germany). Despite the fact that it was my first experience at parachuting, I had been well prepared for such an eventuality through the medium of well-experienced lecturers. Consequently, it was not a case of doing something entirely new, but rather of putting into practice knowledge I had already gained. - Bailed out head first (better your feet should hit something!) - caught in the slip stream and turned over and over - came out with feet above my head - had altitude of 14,000 feet (originally) - tried gymnastics to note effect and to get feet down - when half-way down (feet), finally pulled handle - slight jolt (different from R. A . Mc Cormick’s experience. He disregarded instructions to always keep your leg straps tight. His dangled around his knees. When the chute opened the straps suddenly snapped up! It was a painful experience. In the German hospital, a nurse pointed at the affected area, and commented “Allus kaput”.) -  took good look at the ground (had seen snatches of it in my whirling before opening chute) and saw I was coming down into trees - no sign of life - looked up and saw only one chute above me and saw no plane - looked back at ground and saw that it was coming up fast - crossed legs - flexed legs - pulled leather flying helmet over my eyes and face - expected worst - came to a gentle stop - looked around - parachute draped over a single pine tree - I was hanging two feet from the trunk of the tree  - feet a yard from the ground - no scratches, no bruises - semi-steep hill - perfect quiet - path a couple of yards away - looked at watch - 10:27 -  

    Change of noise remarkable - after several hours of listening to the roar of engines and flak bursts, rush of air in slip stream, diminishing sound in minute or less of floating with the chute, then perfect stillness after landing - utter stillness as I hung close to ground - in perfect comfort - wondered if I had delayed jump (pulling the rip cord to open the chute) long enough to escape detection - knew I could not safely have waited any longer, for I am sure that I floated under the parachute less than a minute-

    Began to think about all the escape devices that I had been told about - first task was to get out of the chute harness - attempted to get out by undoing straps - great difficulty - finally got one undone - unable to get other undone - dropped backwards, placing hands on ground, grasped tree trunk - removed heavy boot from imprisoned leg (while hanging upside down), also electric boot - slipped leg through harness (did shoulder roll to ground) - replaced boot - attempted to pull chute from tree to bury same - unsuccessful - decided to go uphill and away from France - first went several yards eastward and placed Mae West (floatation vest) under a tree - had been told that Jerries would stand and look into tree for minutes at a time if they suspected that someone was in it - then took off along path, eastward for several hundred yards, running (away from France and possible assistance) - then ran and scrambled uphill for some distance - (wonder if I fooled anyone?)

     Very hot with all the equipment - removed helmet, summer flying suit, heavy boots, electric flying suit - also wearing O.D. (olive drab) shirt, green pants, green tie, insignia, woolen underwear, long wool socks and electric flying boots (it was July, but it got very cold in an unheated plane at 30,000 feet) - removed items from pockets - O.D. handkerchief, several small British coins, escape kit, map and money kit, a green comb, John’s compass (brother had given it to me, just in case I would need it.), black pocket notebook, a piece of aluminum, which flak had knocked out of plane two missions before - also wearing dog tags and silver name bracelet and G.I. watch (navigator’s) - buried helmet, summer flying suit, electric flying suit and heavy boots (these were lambs wool, like slippers and not suitable for walking) - also had in pockets a pair of leather gloves and a pocket book, Daymon Runyon’s “The Best of D. R.”.

     Ran uphill for several minutes till I found a well concealed spot - had tried to rip out the heavy tongues from the heavy boots, to pad the electric flying boots, which were large - failed - came to regret that I had no shoes - flying boots had rubber soles (thin, with wires running through them - very uncomfortable)

     Broke branches, covered legs - natural camouflage in green shirt, pants boots & handkerchief - opened escape kit - rationed food tablets for 6 days - contents: needle & thread, file, compass, water purifying tablets, Benzedrine tablets, gum, matches and water bag - opened map case - contents: cloth maps of Germany, France, Spain and N. Africa, 20,000 francs and a compass (I was well stocked with compasses!) - checked position - uncertain  - we had changed our heading a few minutes before over Ludwigshaven-Manheim and were on a direct course to our base in England maps were not detailed enough to determine exact position knew that we had flown for 45 minutes from the target (Schweinfurt).

     Decided to go to France and not Switzerland (Allied Armies were still contained near the Normandy beaches, but it seemed to offer the best chance) - took epaulets & pockets off shirt (to look more ‘civilian’ and avoid being noticed by Germans. I kept my insignia in my pocket)

    No wind - warm - spent afternoon there - no noticeable shock from the experience - worry over crew - had seen only one chute - probably Finnegan’s (waist gunner) - regret losing ship - relief that shooting was over - wondering and worrying over affect of news at home.

     Wondering how close to a village I was - planned, slept and read D. Runyan - buried most British coins - also had in pocket a yellow GI language book and some gum - practiced German phrases.

     Left hiding place a 2200 hours - decided to head SW to France - climbed tree to look over land - down hill - stream at bottom - already warm - climbed opposite hill - thick trees - took path which turned into dirt road - close to river - road began to follow river westward - passed village in valley - grape vines on all sides all along valley - filled water bag from a rain reservoir used by the grape growers - used water purifying tablets - passed through several villages - the first few, I skirted carefully - no sign of life, so I went directly through them later on - very thirsty - several times I tried to get down to the river to drink - each time, I found long stretches of garden before reaching bank - swampy ground - feet soaked - usually failed to get water - heard paddling and youthful voices on river - guitar and singing - stopped to listen for awhile - always looking for a place to cross river - no luck - river began to swing north - contemplated swimming, but decided against this - once trying to get drink, heard human-like sound - dropped to ground in swampy area - heard no more, but lost gloves, which had been a great help to me - also lost matches and water bag - disliked the taste of food tablets - tried to steal a row boat - was chased away - - pulley type boat here.

     Beginning to get light - looking for a place to hide - captured by farmers - taken to office in the village center - threw away yellow phrase book - few early risers attracted and they watched through windows - Hitler & Bismarck pictures - also some of officers in Luftwaffe - feet soaked - friendly at first - took my possessions - boy pointed out location - called and 45 minutes later a policeman (or an army sergeant? arrived) - indignant because I didn’t come to attention when he entered room - much delay - boy to act as translator - asked where plane, chute, etc. were - declared that I would give only my name, rank and serial number - confusion - he became indignant - hit me in face - I was greatly surprised - hadn’t expected them to use force - I yelled something about the Geneva Convention and International Law - hit me twice more with him yelling at me and vice-versa in different languages - as fourth blow came, raised hands to protect face - officer reached for my throat - used hands to protect myself - pandemonium broke loose as six or seven men, who had been sitting around room, joined officer in attack - we fell all over the room, knocking over furniture - knees and blows fell all over me as I struggled to cover up - can still picture one peasant aiming a knee at my groin! - after several minutes, I was on the floor and officer ordered others away from me - he had a fireplace poker and proceeded to strike me over the head several times (over eye and left side of head- almost passed out - dragged to feet, bleeding - handcuffs put on, at least two notches too tight - nearly went out from pain - they took watch at this time - had retained one of my escape compasses by dropping it in chair before being searched - asked more questions - taken out in bright sunshine and placed with face against wall - nearly out again - expected to be shot on spot - instead, they took me to a cart under a tree next to the river - gave me a drink of water (they took drink of wine) - crowd gathered in semi-circle - curious children & several spiteful, bitter old people snarling oaths in German - young girl (looked like my cousin, Eleanor Coulter) now acted as interpreter - asked name, home address and where and when I went down - also why we bombed and strafed women and children! Man asked if I spoke French or Spanish - original boy interpreter asked what effect the “V-1” (German rockets that were bombing London) - replied that I didn’t know.

     River at back - sat there for about three hours - car arrives - two party men - handcuffs still on - forced to back seat - taken on tour to a larger town - taken to police headquarters - tall man with limp - office half full of women workers - dog tags, crash bracelet, notebook, comb and handkerchief taken - a Mae West life jacket, unopened parachute & A-10 jacket in office - hoped that these items didn’t belong to one of my crew - world map on wall - taken to cell - a bed, table & bench - stove in corner - stand with urinal container in other corner - told that I could not lie on bed until night - still no food or water - rusty pan of water - strained & drank that through handkerchief when they would not give me fresh water - worn out & slept on bench - they took handcuffs off in office - great relief, but hands still numb - tried to restore circulation while in room - man who had beaten me came up with ‘Limpy’ & two or three party men - looked at cuts on face & head - when I thought that it was nearly dark, finally went to bed - ‘Limpy’ came in and swore at me for getting into bed before ‘dark’ - got up for another hour or so - after falling asleep, was awakened by a policeman - swore at me, calling me gangster, etc. - sat up in bed - was hit in mouth three times - he then left

     Next morning was taken to office where policeman & ‘Limpy’ worked - stood there for an hour and a half while they worked on reports - asked no questions - policeman threatened me with a 50 mm shell - looked at map - ‘Limpy’ pointed at U.S. & made some crack - young woman with baby came in - ‘Limpy’ played with kid - boy of five brought in a pencil that he had found - he popped to on entering with the ‘Heil Hitler’ routine - taken back to room - air raid alarm while in street - going up steep steps to jail cell, received a hearty kick plus curses - finally received some food about 6 o’clock - introduction to German bread - had sour, white spread - burned mouth, but finally got it down - also cup of ‘coffee’ - later, a kindly, old woman brought soup - noted that the prisoner across hall looked like an American - window overlooked residential flats - saw several people, including a good-looking babe - raining in morning - taken out with the American and a youth who later turned out to be a Belgium - American and I carried belly tanks (evidently dropped by American fighter planes) through town to the railroad station - slippery - tried to drain the second tank - no luck - too slippery to carry - borrowed street cleaner’s wagon - we were taken back to office - American in one corner and I in another for a couple of hours - package of bread, cheese, etc. Brought in - looked to be an escape package - handcuffed to boy who looked like American - long tiresome train ride - changed trains - small station - stood with faces to wall - people would gather in railroad station and wait for trains, never knowing when to expect them - plenty of passenger cars, but they had to wait for engines - got on train and was seated across from policeman (same one who had struck me in the mouth in the room) - two girls in same compartment - policeman taunted my companion and I for their benefit - followed Mosel to Koblenz - RR yard recently hit - much damage - noticed movie house - crossed bridge (float type) - buildings throughout town hit - crossed long park - had been dug up and a large air raid shelter constructed - came to a building with ‘Statz Police’ above the door - Gestapo Headquarters - taken to room with companion - sent down two flights of stairs, past several steel doors - stripped - clothes searched - taken to cell.

     Herb Jackson (co-pilot), Dupe (Joe Duplechain engineer), Paul Nulton (waist gunner) & Jones, (John, radio) were in cell - first that I had seen of them since bailing out - tried not to let on that I knew them until I was sure my companion was an American and that there were no microphones hidden in the room - boys had been there two or three days - Joe (Bernstein, bombardier) and Finnegan (Walter, tail gunner) had been moved out to make room for us - my companion turned out to be from S. Dakota - cell crowded, evil-smelling and poorly lighted - bedding taken in morning and returned in evening - three board beds - food: jerry bread, sometimes with spread, soup and ‘tea’ - Sunday dinner was potatoes with gravy! - Spent time with stories, checkers, ‘salvo’ - got to go to latrine only three times a day - Frenchman distributed food - he was a prisoner himself - gave us ‘V’ sign and smile - strange gnome-like guard, constantly jabbering - Poles or Russians exercised once in the yard above us - sad looking - official-looking individuals constantly checking our bars - night of the 26th (one week after shot down day), marched through the streets of Koblenz, up-hill to camp on outskirts - placed in individual cells - kept overnight - next day, marched back through streets to railroad station -saw first German airplane, a ME-110, when it flew low over city - waited in station - saw a lot of Hitler youth girls in uniform - had some of our clothes and belongings returned - escape kit returned, except for compass, file, etc. - maps! Were included with my leather notebook and Daymon Runyan book - taken to Wetzler, NW of Frankfurt/Main.

Return to POW Stories
Next story by Bruce






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