The Untold Story of Allied Prisoners in the Great War

The Untold Story of Allied Prisoners in the Great War

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During First World War, a total of around 7 million prisoners were held by both sides, with Germany imprisoning some 2.4 million.

Though information on World War One prisoners of war is scarce, there are some historical records.

For example, there are around 3,000 reports on British and Commonwealth prisoners, including officers, enlisted, medical officers, merchant seamen and in some cases civilians.

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Human rights conventions regarding war

It is generally accepted that the rules of the Geneva Convention, or at least those pertaining to prisoners, were more or less followed by all belligerents except the Ottoman Empire.

The Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions define the human rights of wartime prisoners, including those who are wounded and non-combatant.

Prisoners of war are in the power of the hostile Government, but not of the individuals or corps who capture them. They must be humanely treated. All their personal belongings, except arms, horses, and military papers, remain their property.

—From Chapter 2 of the Hague Convention, 1907

Officially, the exception to the treaties outlining the fair treatment of prisoners during the war is the Ottoman Empire, which did not sign at the Hague Conference in 1907, though it did sign the Geneva Convention in 1865.

Yet simply signing a treaty was no guarantee that it would be followed.

While Red Cross inspections in Germany sought to ensure liveable conditions at camps, many prisoners were used as forced labour outside of the camps and kept in unhygienic conditions.

They were often treated harshly, poorly fed and beaten.

From the start of the war, Germany found itself in possession of over 200,000 French and Russian soldiers, who were housed in poor conditions.

Things improved by 1915, even as the number of detainees more than tripled, growing to include prisoners from Great Britain, the USA, Canada, Belgium, Italy, Montenegro, Portugal, Romania and Serbia. There were even Japanese, Greeks and Brazilians among their ranks.

Austrian prisoners of war after the Italian conquest of Forcella Cianalot in the Val Dogna. Credit: Italian Army Photographers / Commons.

By November 1918, the amount of prisoners held in Germany reached its height, with a massive 2,451,000 prisoners held captive.

To cope in the early stages, the Germans had commandeered private public buildings to house POWs, such as schools and barns.

By 1915, however, the number of purpose-built camps had reached 100, often with POWs building their own prisons. Many contained hospitals and other facilities.

Germany also had a policy of sending French and British prisoners for forced labour on the Western and Eastern Fronts, where many died from cold and starvation.

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Germany also had a policy of sending French and British prisoners for forced labour on the Western and Eastern Fronts, where many died from cold and starvation.

This practice was in reprisal for similar actions by France and Britain.

While prisoners of various social backgrounds were kept together, there were separate prisons for officers and enlisted ranks. Officers received better treatment.

For example, they were not required to work and had beds, while the enlisted worked and slept on straw sacks. Officers’ barracks were generally better equipped and none were located in East Prussia, where the weather was decidedly worse.

POWs in Turkey

As non-signatories to the Hague Convention, the Ottoman Empire treated its prisoners more harshly than the Germans did. In fact, over 70% of POWs held there died by the end of the conflict.

This was not however, exclusively down to cruelty against the enemy, as Ottoman troops only fared marginally better than their prisoners.

Turkish prisoners captured at Ramadi being marched to a concentration camp, escorted by men of the 1st and 5th Royal West Kent regiment. Credit: Commons.

Food and shelter were lacking and prisoners tended to be kept in private houses rather than purpose-built camps, which there are few records of.

Many were also forced to do hard labour, regardless of their physical condition.

A single 1,100 km march of 13,000 British and Indian prisoners through the Mesopotamian area around Kut in 1916 resulted in some 3,000 deaths due to starvation, dehydration and heat-related illnesses.

29% of Romanian prisoners held in Germany died, while 100,000 of a total 600,000 Italian detainees died in the captivity of the Central Powers.

Personal accounts of Australian and New Zealand POWs survive, painting grim pictures of harsh work building railways and suffering from brutality, malnutrition and waterborne disease.

There are also accounts of Ottoman camps with where prisoners were treated well, with better food and less strenuous working conditions.


One notorious Austro-Hungarian camp was in Mauthausen, a village in north central Austria, which later became the location of a Nazi concentration camp in World War Two.

Conditions there caused a reported 186 prisoner deaths from typhus each day.

Serbs held in prisons in Austria-Hungary had very high death rates, comparable to British POWs in the Ottoman Empire.

29% of Romanian prisoners held in Germany died, while 100,000 of a total 600,000 Italian detainees died in the captivity of the Central Powers.

In contrast, Western European prisons in general tended to have far better survival rates. For example, only 3% of German prisoners died in British camps.

Remembering “The Great Escape,” 70 Years Ago

Around 10:30 pm. on the cold, moonless night of March 24, 1944, Johnny Bull slowly peeked his head out of the ground and filled his lungs with freedom as he breathed in the frigid air. The sweat-soaked prisoner of war had just poked away at the last nine inches of grass and dirt atop a vertical shaft at the end of a tunnel that ran more than 30 feet below the oblivious Nazi guards patrolling the Stalag Luft III camp, which held thousands of Allied airmen captured by German forces in World War II.

The flyboys who bravely soared the skies had demonstrated courage and ingenuity below ground as well in toiling for nearly a year to construct a tunnel that would allow them to flee from captivity. The secret plan had been led and organized by Roger Bushell, a Royal Air Force pilot who had been shot down over France while assisting with the evacuation of Dunkirk. After Bushell, nicknamed 𠇋ig X,” escaped twice from German prisoner of war camps, he was sent to what the Nazis believed to be one of their most secure facilities—Stalag Luft III. At this camp, 100 miles southeast of Berlin, the Nazis had taken measures to prevent tunneling, such as raising prisoners’ huts off the ground and burying microphones nine feet underground along the camp’s perimeter’s fence. In addition, the camp was built atop sandy ground through which it would be extremely difficult to tunnel. Still, Bushell would not be deterred.

In the spring of 1943, he and others began work on an audacious plan to construct three tunnels with the code names of Tom, Dick and Harry that would stretch over 300 feet to outside the camp’s perimeter fence. Under the rules of engagement of the Geneva Conventions, the penalty for being caught, generally 10 days in solitary confinement, was worth the risk.

Inside Hut 104, the prisoners of war building the Harry tunnel—who included many British airmen as well as Americans, Canadians, Australians, French and other Allied pilots—toiled for days chipping away at the building support columns to avoid being seen working underneath the huts. From a trap door concealed below a heating stove always kept lit to discourage the Nazi guards from getting too close, they burrowed down 30 feet in order to be out of the range of the microphones. Working in claustrophobic conditions, the prisoners excavated 100 tons of sand, which they stuffed bit by bit into concealed socks and discreetly sprinkled into the garden soil being raked by other prisoners. The diggers stripped to their long johns or took off all their clothes so that the bright golden sand wouldn’t stain them and raise the suspicions of the German guards.

The prisoners scavenged and stole materials for the operation. They stripped 4,000 wooden bed boards to build ladders and shore up the sandy walls to prevent collapse. They stuffed 1,700 blankets against the walls to muffle sounds. They converted 1,400 powdered milk tin cans provided by the Red Cross into digging tools and lamps in which wicks fashioned from pajama cords were burned in mutton fat skimmed off the greasy soup they were served. Eventually, some prisoners stole a wire that they then hooked up to the camp’s electrical supply to power a string of light bulbs in the tunnel. They fashioned a crude air pump system built in part with hockey sticks and constructed an underground trolley system pulled by ropes to transport the sand with switchover stations named after two London landmarks—Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square.

By March 24, 1944, Harry was complete and all that was left was for Bull to break through the last piece of earth. One by one, the prisoners, dressed in civilian clothes and carrying forged documents, lay down on the rope-operated wooden trolley and were pulled through the 2 foot square tunnel to their escape. The process was tedious. Fewer than a dozen men made it through every hour, and a 1-hour blackout during a midnight air raid also slowed the operation.

Around 5 a.m. a German soldier on patrol nearly fell into the exit shaft and discovered the tunnel. The prisoners inside scrambled back to the hut and burned their forged documents, while the Nazis mobilized a massive manhunt. They erected roadblocks, increased border patrols and searched hotels and farms. Within two weeks, the Nazis had recaptured 73 of the escapees. Only three men successfully fled to safety—two Norwegians who stowed away on a freighter to Sweden and a Dutchman who by rail and foot ended up in Gibraltar.

A furious Adolf Hitler personally ordered the execution of 50 of the escapees as a warning to other prisoners. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, the Gestapo drove the airmen, including Bushell and Bull, to remote locations and murdered them. 𠇎scaping from prison camps has ceased to be a sport,” read posters the Nazis put up in the POW camps to warn future escapees that they would be shot on sight. In 1947, a military tribunal found 18 Nazi soldiers guilty of war crimes for shooting the recaptured prisoners of war, and 13 of them were executed.

Hollywood immortalized the breakout in the 1963 blockbuster “The Great Escape,” which starred Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson and James Coburn. However, the real-life heroes are the ones being honored this week on the event’s 70th anniversary. Yesterday, hundreds gathered in Zagan, Poland, to remember the victims and place wreaths at the exit point of the tunnel. Today, 50 serving Royal Air Force officers began a four-day, 105-mile march from the site of Stalag Luftig III to the British war cemetery in western Poland where the executed airmen are buried.


The day after the mass escape from Stalag Luft III, Hitler initially gave personal orders that every recaptured officer was to be shot. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, head of the Luftwaffe, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, chief of state security, and Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, head of the German High Command, who had ultimate control over prisoners of war, argued about the responsibility for the escape. Göring pointed out to Hitler that a massacre might bring about reprisals against German pilots in Allied hands. Hitler agreed, but insisted "more than half" were to be shot, eventually ordering Himmler to execute more than half of the escapees. Himmler fixed the total at 50. Keitel gave orders that the murdered officers were to be cremated and their ashes returned to the POW camp as a deterrent to further escapes. [1] : 56–57 Himmler set up the logistics for actually killing the men, and passed it down through his subordinates in the Gestapo. [2] The general orders were that recaptured officers would be turned over to the Criminal Police, and fifty would be handed to the Gestapo to be killed. [1] : 57

As the prisoners were recaptured, they were interrogated for any useful information and taken out by motor car, usually in small parties of two at a time, on the pretext of returning them to their prison camp. Their Gestapo escorts would stop them in the country and invite the officers to relieve themselves. The prisoners were then shot at close range from behind by pistol or machine pistol fire. The bodies were then left for retrieval, after which they were cremated and returned to Stalag Luft III. [ citation needed ]

British Military Intelligence was made aware of the extraordinary events even during conditions of wartime by letters home and as a result of communications from the protecting power, Switzerland, which as a neutral party regularly reported on conditions in prisoner camps to both sides. Notices posted in Allied POW camps on 23 July 1944 that "THE ESCAPE FROM PRISON CAMPS IS NO LONGER A SPORT" in the wake of the Stalag Luft III escape, as well as the suspicious deaths of fifty officers during their recapture, led the British government to suspect a war crime had occurred. [ citation needed ] The Judge Advocate General originally placed the blame on Field Marshal Keitel, feeling publication of the notices linked him to the notice to shoot the prisoners. [ citation needed ]

The British government learned initially of 47 deaths after a routine visit to the camp by the Swiss authorities as the protecting power in May Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden announced this news to the House of Commons on 19 May 1944. [3] Shortly after the announcement the Senior British Officer of the camp, Group Captain Herbert Massey, was repatriated to England due to ill health. Upon his return, he informed the Government about the circumstances of the escape and the reality of the murder of the recaptured escapees. With the information received from Massey along with the official notification of the 50 deaths from the German Government, Eden updated Parliament on 23 June, promising that, at the end of the war, those responsible would be brought to exemplary justice. [4]

Name Rank Nation Unit Date of death/
Last seen alive
Birkland, Henry J. [5] Flying Officer CAN No.72 Sqn RAF 31 March 1944 Liegnitz
Brettell, E. Gordon [6] [7] [8] Flight Lieutenant GBR No.133 Sqn RAF 29 March 1944 Danzig
Bull, Leslie G. "Johnny" [9] Squadron Leader GBR No.109 Sqn RAF 29 March 1944 Brüx
Bushell, Roger J. [10] [11] Squadron Leader GBR [12] No.92 Sqn RAF 29 March 1944 Saarbrücken
Casey, Michael J. [13] [14] Flight Lieutenant GBR No.57 Sqn RAF 31 March 1944 Görlitz
Catanach, James [15] [16] Squadron Leader AUS No.455 Sqn RAAF 29 March 1944 Kiel
Christensen, Arnold G. [17] Pilot Officer NZL No.26 Sqn RAF 29 March 1944 Kiel
Cochran, Dennis H. [18] Flying Officer GBR No.10 OTU RAF 31 March 1944 Natzweiler
Cross, Ian E. K. P. [19] Squadron Leader GBR No.103 Sqn RAF 31 March 1944 Görlitz
Espelid, Halldor Lieutenant NOR No.331 Sqn (Norwegian) RAF 29 March 1944 Kiel
Evans, Brian H. [20] Flight Lieutenant GBR No.49 Sqn RAF 31 March 1944 Liegnitz
Fuglesang, Nils Jørgen [21] Lieutenant NOR No.332 Sqn (Norwegian) RAF 29 March 1944 Kiel
Gouws, Johannes S. Lieutenant ZAF No.40 Sqn SAAF 29 March 1944 München
Grisman, William J. [22] Flight Lieutenant GBR No.109 Sqn RAF 6 April 1944 Breslau
Gunn, Alastair D. M. [23] [24] Flight Lieutenant GBR No.1 PRU RAF 6 April 1944 Breslau
Hake, Albert H. [25] Flight Lieutenant AUS No.72 Sqn RAF 31 March 1944 Görlitz
Hall, Charles P. [26] Flight Lieutenant GBR No.1 PRU RAF 30 March 1944 Liegnitz
Hayter, Anthony R. H. [27] [28] Flight Lieutenant GBR No.148 Sqn RAF 6 April 1944 Natzweiler
Humphreys, Edgar S. [29] [30] Flight Lieutenant GBR No.107 Sqn RAF 31 March 1944 Liegnitz
Kidder, Gordon A. [31] Flying Officer CAN No.156 Sqn RAF 29 March 1944 Mährisch Ostrau
Kierath, Reginald V. [32] [33] Flight Lieutenant AUS No.450 Sqn RAAF 29 March 1944 Brüx
Kiewnarski, Antoni [34] Flight Lieutenant POL No.305 Sqn (Polish) RAF 31 March 1944 unknown
Kirby-Green, Thomas G. [35] [36] Squadron Leader GBR No.40 Sqn RAF 29 March 1944 Mährisch Ostrau
Kolanowski, Włodzimierz A. Flying Officer POL No.301 Sqn (Polish) RAF 31 March 1944 Liegnitz
Król, Stanisław Z. Flying Officer POL No.64 Sqn RAF 12 April 1944 Breslau
Langford, Patrick W. [37] [38] [39] Flight Lieutenant CAN No.16 OTU RAF 31 March 1944 Liegnitz
Leigh, Tom [40] [41] Flight Lieutenant AUS No.76 Sqn RAF 31 March 1944 Görlitz
Long, James L. R. [40] [42] Flight Lieutenant GBR No.9 Sqn RAF 12 April 1944 Breslau
Marcinkus, Romas [43] Flight Lieutenant LTU No.1 Sqn RAF 29 March 1944 Danzig
McGarr, Clement A. N. [44] Lieutenant ZAF No.2 Sqn SAAF 6 April 1944 Breslau
McGill, George E. [45] Flight Lieutenant CAN No.103 Sqn RAF 31 March 1944 Liegnitz
Milford, Harold J. [46] [47] Flight Lieutenant GBR No.226 Sqn RAF 6 April 1944 Breslau
Mondschein, Jerzy T. [48] Flying Officer POL No.304 Sqn (Polish) RAF 29 March 1944 Brüx
Pawluk, Kazimierz [49] Flying Officer POL No.305 Sqn (Polish) RAF 31 March 1944 unknown
Picard, Henri A. [50] [51] Flight Lieutenant BEL No.350 Sqn (Belgian) RAF 29 March 1944 Danzig
Pohe, John [52] [53] Flying Officer NZL No.51 Sqn RAF 31 March 1944 Görlitz
Scheidhauer, Bernard W. M. [54] Lieutenant FRA No.131 Sqn RAF 29 March 1944 Saarbrücken
Skanzikas, Sotiris [55] Pilot Officer GRC No.336 Sqn (Greek) RAF 30 March 1944 unknown
Stevens, Rupert J. Lieutenant ZAF No.12 Sqn SAAF 29 March 1944 München
Stewart, Robert C. [56] [57] Flying Officer GBR No.77 Sqn RAF 31 March 1944 Liegnitz
Stower, John Gifford [58] [59] Flying Officer ARG No.142 Sqn RAF 31 March 1944 Liegnitz
Street, Denys O. [60] [61] Flying Officer GBR No.207 Sqn RAF 6 April 1944 Breslau
Swain, Cyril D. [62] Flight Lieutenant GBR No.105 Sqn RAF 31 March 1944 Liegnitz
Tobolski, Paweł Flying Officer POL No.301 Sqn (Polish) RAF 2 April 1944 Breslau
Valenta, Arnošt [63] Flight Lieutenant CZE No.311 Sqn (Czechoslovak) RAF 31 March 1944 Liegnitz
Walenn, Gilbert W. [64] Flight Lieutenant GBR No.25 OTU RAF 29 March 1944 Danzig
Wernham, James C. [65] [66] Flight Lieutenant CAN No.405 Sqn RCAF 30 March 1944 unknown
Wiley, George W. [67] [68] [69] Flight Lieutenant CAN No.112 Sqn RAF 31 March 1944 Görlitz
Williams, John E. A. [70] [71] Squadron Leader AUS No.450 Sqn RAAF 29 March 1944 Brüx
Williams, John F. [72] [73] Flight Lieutenant GBR No.107 Sqn RAF 6 April 1944 Breslau

A detachment of the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Air Force Police, headed by Wing Commander Wilfred Bowes, was given the assignment of tracking down the killers of the 50 officers. The investigation started seventeen months after the alleged crimes had been committed, making it a cold case. Worse, according to an account of the investigation, the perpetrators "belonged to a body, the Secret State Police or Gestapo, which held and exercised every facility to provide its members with false identities and forged identification papers[] immediately they were ordered to go on the run at the moment of national surrender." [1] : 7

The small detachment of investigators, numbering 5 officers and 14 NCOs, remained active for 3 years, and identified 72 men as guilty of either murder or conspiracy to murder, of whom 69 were accounted for. Of these, 21 were eventually tried and executed (some of these for other than the Stalag Luft III murders) 17 were tried and imprisoned 11 had committed suicide 7 were untraced, although 4 of these were presumed dead 6 had been killed during the war 5 were arrested but not charged 1 was arrested but not charged so he could be used as a material witness 3 were charged but either acquitted or had the sentence quashed on review and 1 remained in refuge in East Germany. [1] : 261

Despite attempts to cover up the murders during the war, the investigators were aided by such things as Germany's meticulous bookkeeping, such as at various crematoria, as well as willing eyewitness accounts and many confessions among the Gestapo members themselves, who cited that they were only following orders.

High command Edit

Name Position Fate
Hitler, Adolf Führer Suicide, 30 April 1945
Keitel, Wilhelm Head of OKW "Supreme Command of the Armed Forces" Executed 16 October 1946
Himmler, Heinrich Reichsführer-SS and Chief of the German Police [74] Suicide 23 May 1945
Göring, Hermann Luftwaffe and enemy Air Forces POWs Suicide 16 October 1946

RSHA leadership Edit

Name Position Fate
Kaltenbrunner, Ernst Chief of RSHA Executed 16 October 1946
Nebe, Arthur Chief of Kripo, RSHA Executed by Gestapo February 1945
Wielen, Max Kripo, Breslau Sentenced to life imprisonment 3 September 1947
released October 24, 1952
Müller, Heinrich Chief of Gestapo, RSHA Unknown – vanished after April 1945
Scharpwinkel, Wilhelm Gestapo, Breslau Died in Soviet prison, October 1947

Gestapo field officers Edit

Name Office Fate
Absalon, Gunther Breslau Died in Soviet prison May 1948
Baatz Reichenberg Prematurely released from Red Army camp
Boschert, Heinrich Karlsruhe Sentenced to death 3 September 1947, commuted to life imprisonment
Breithaupt, Walter Saarbrücken Sentenced to life imprisonment 3 September 1947, released October 24, 1952
Bruchardt, Reinhold Danzig Sentenced to death 6 November 1948, commuted to life imprisonment upon Britain's abandonment of the death sentence experimentally, released 1956 [75]
Dankert Breslau Untraced
Denkmann, Artur Kiel Sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment 3 September 1947
Dissner, Max Strasbourg Suicide 11 May 1948
Ganninger, Otto Karlsruhe Suicide 26 April 1946
Geith, Eduard München Executed at Hameln 27 February 1948
Gmeiner, Josef Karlsruhe Executed at Hameln 27 February 1948
Hampel, Walter Breslau Arrested 1 September 1948, charge not proceeded with in accordance with British government's new war crimes policy
Hänsel, Richard Breslau Acquitted 6 November 1948
Herberg, Walter Karlsruhe Executed at Hameln 27 February 1948
Hilker, Heinrich Strasbourg Prematurely released from French custody, charged but case dismissed 23 December 1966
Hug, Julius Danzig Untraced
Isselhorst, Erich Strasbourg Executed at Strasbourg 23 February 1948 for other atrocities
Jacobs, Walter Kiel Executed at Hameln 27 February 1948
Kähler, Hans Kiel Executed at Hameln 27 February 1948
Kilpe, Max Danzig Arrested 27 August 1948, charges not proceeded with
Kiske, Paul Breslau Killed during Siege of Breslau
Kiowsky, Friedrich Brno/Zlín Executed in Czechoslovakia 1947
Knappe, ? Breslau Killed during Siege of Breslau
Knippelberg, Adolf Brno/Zlín Prematurely released from Red Army camp 1945
Koslowsky, Otto Brno/Zlín Executed in Czechoslovakia 1947
Kreuzer, ? Breslau Untraced, probably killed 1945
Kuhnel, ? Breslau Killed during Siege of Breslau
Lang, ? Breslau Untraced, probably killed 1945
Läuffer, ? Breslau Suicide reported, not confirmed
Lux, ? Breslau Killed during Siege of Breslau
Nölle, Wilhelm Brno/Zlín Arrested 10 June 1948 charge not proceeded with
Pattke, Walter Breslau Untraced, probably killed 1945
Post, Johannes Kiel Executed at Hameln 27 February 1948
Preiss, Otto Karlsruhe Executed at Hameln 27 February 1948
Prosse, ? Breslau Died 1944
Romer, Hugo Brno/Zlín Untraced
Sasse, Walter Danzig Escaped from internment camp
Schäfer, Oswald München Acquitted 11 December 1968
Schauschütz, Franz Brno/Zlín Executed in Czechoslovakia 1947
Schermer, Martin München Suicide 25 April 1945
Schimmel, Alfred Strasbourg Executed at Hameln 27 February 1948
Schmauser, Ernst Breslau Captured by Red Army
Schmidt, Franz Kiel Suicide 27 October 1946
Schmidt, Friedrich (Fritz) Kiel Sentenced to two years' imprisonment May 1968
Schmidt, Oskar Kiel Executed at Hameln 27 February 1948
Schneider, Johann München Executed at Hameln 27 February 1948
Schröder, Robert Breslau Not charged, used as material witness
Schulz, Emil Saarbrücken Executed at Hameln 27 February 1948
Schwartzer, Friedrich Brno/Zlín Executed in Czechoslovakia 1947
Seetzen, Heinrich Breslau Suicide 28 September 1945
Spann, Leopold Saarbrücken Killed in air raid, Linz, 25 April 1945
Struve, Wilhelm Kiel Sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment 3 September 1947
Venediger, Günther Danzig Sentenced to two years' imprisonment after four years of appeals, 17 December 1957
Voelz, Walter Danzig Untraced, believed killed
Weil, Emil München Executed at Hameln 27 February 1948
Weissman, Robert Reichenberg Held by French authorities but not transferred
Wenzler, Herbert Danzig Arrested 1948, charge not proceeded with
Weyland, Robert Reichenberg Refuge in Soviet zone
Wieczorek, Erwin Breslau Sentenced to death 6 November 1948, conviction quashed on review
Wielen, Max Breslau Sentenced to life imprisonment 3 September 1947
Witt, Harry Danzig Arrested September 1948, charge not proceeded with
Wochner, Magnus Karlsruhe Sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for atrocities at Natzweiler-Struthof
Zacharias, Erich Brno/Zlín Executed at Hameln 27 February 1948
Ziegler, Hans Brno/Zlín Suicide 3 February 1948

SS-Gruppenführer Arthur Nebe, who is believed to have selected the airmen to be shot, was later executed by the Nazis for his involvement in the 20 July plot to kill Hitler.

American Colonel Telford Taylor was the U.S. prosecutor in the High Command case at the Nuremberg trials. The indictment in this case called for the General Staff of the Army and the High Command of the German Armed Forces to be considered criminal organizations the witnesses were several of the surviving German Field Marshals and their staff officers. [76] One of the crimes charged was of the murder of the 50. [77] Luftwaffe Colonel Bernd von Brauchitsch, who served on the staff of Reich Marshal Hermann Göring, was interrogated by Captain Horace Hahn about the murders. [78]

The first trial specifically dealing with the Stalag Luft III murders began on 1 July 1947, against 18 defendants. The trial was held before No. 1 War Crimes Court at the Curio Haus in Hamburg. The accused all pleaded Not Guilty to the counts indicated on the table below names in the final column are the victims that they were accused of murdering. The verdicts and sentences were handed down after a full fifty days on 3 September of that year. Max Wielen was found guilty of conspiracy and sentenced to life imprisonment. The others were found not guilty of the first two charges, but guilty of the individual charges of murder. Breithaupt received life imprisonment, Denkmann and Struve ten years' imprisonment each, and Boschert eventually received life imprisonment. The other 13 condemned prisoners were hanged at Hamelin prison [de] in February 1948 by British executioner Albert Pierrepoint. [1] : 252–257

Accused Charge 1: Committing a war crime in that you at divers places in Germany and German-occupied territory between 25 March 1944 and 13 April 1944 were concerned together and with SS Gruppenführer Müller and SS Gruppenführer Nebe and other persons known and unknown in the killing in violations of the laws and usages of war of prisoners of war who had escaped from Stalag Luft III. Charge 2: Committing a war crime in that you in divers places in Germany and German-occupied territory between 25 March 1944 and 13 April 1944 aided and abetted SS Gruppenführer Müller and SS Gruppenführer Nebe and each other and other persons known and unknown in carrying out orders which were contrary to the laws and usages of war—namely, orders to kill prisoners of war who had escaped from Stalag Luft III. Charge 3: Committing a war crime in that you between (place) and (place) on or about (date) when members of the (place) Gestapo, in violation of the laws and usages of war were concerned in the killing of (victim(s)), both of the (force), prisoners of war.
Boschert, Heinrich x x D. H. Cochran
Breithaupt, Walter x x R. J. Bushell and B. M. W. Scheidhauer
Denkmann, Artur x x J. Catanach, H. Espelid, A. G. Christensen, N. Fuglesang
Geith, Eduard x x J. R. Stevens, J. S. Gouws
Gmeiner, Josef x x D. H. Cochran
Herberg, Walter x x D. H. Cochran
Jacobs, Walter x x H. Espelid, A. G. Christensen, N. Fuglesang
Kähler, Hans x x J. Catanach, H. Espelid, A. G. Christensen, N. Fuglesang
Post, Johannes x x J. Catanach, H. Espelid, A. G. Christensen, N. Fuglesang
Preiss, Otto x x D. H. Cochran
Schimmel, Alfred x x A. R. H. Hayter
Schmidt, Oskar x x H. Espelid, A.G. Christensen, N. Fuglesang
Schneider, Johann x x J. R. Stevens, J. S. Gouws
Schulz, Emil x x R. J. Bushell, B. M. W. Scheidhauer
Struve, Wilhelm x x H. Espelid, A. G. Christensen, N. Fuglesang
Weil, Emil x x J. R. Stevens, J. S. Gouws
Wielen, Max x x N/A
Zacharias, Erich x x G. A. Kidder, T. G. Kirby-Green

A second trial began in Hamburg on 11 October 1948, with verdicts and sentences being reached by November 6. In the interim, however, Ernest Bevin, the British Foreign Secretary, announced a Cabinet decision not to prosecute any more war criminals after 31 August 1948. [ citation needed ]

Burchhardt, Reinhold
Hänsel, Richard
Wieczorek, Erwin

The murders were shown (as a single massacre rather than individuals or small groups being murdered) in the 1963 film The Great Escape.

The search for the culprits responsible for the murder of the 50 Allied officers was depicted in The Great Escape II: The Untold Story.

A dramatisation of the investigation, written by Robin Brooks and Robert Radcliffe, was featured in the BBC Radio 4 "Saturday Drama" series, first broadcast on 13 April 2013.

The great escape ii: the untold story full movie

Get the freshest reviews, news, and more delivered right to your inbox! Since, after reading some of the other reviews, I find I am not the only one who feels this way. 1 of 3 people found this review helpful. Coming Soon. Copyright © Fandango.

Why would anyone want an edited edition of this event. Sign in to see videos available to you. The Great Escape II: The Untold Story (TV Movie 1988) cast and crew credits, including actors, actresses, directors, writers and more. Cast:

There are no featured audience reviews for The Great Escape II: The Untold Story at this time. Title: This spectacular drama cuts between life at home, Gallipoli and Egypt. A married Wisconsin teacher fears a Los Angeles lawyer who has mistaken her for his long-lost wife.

Picture Quality B. Allied prisoners tunnel out of a stalag, then return to avenge fellow escapees executed by the Nazis.

The ending also fails to make clear that there were 2 UK-mounted war crimes trials of the murderers of the 50 escapees.

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AAA+++ , Great seller AAA+++, Reviewed in the United States on December 21, 2017, Reviewed in the United States on May 15, 2005, Apparently D. Brown never saw the original release on TV. 90 minutes of a 3 hour movie.

90 minutes of a 3 hour movie.

The Best Of Hollywood - Hosted By TAB Hunter, Academy Award Winners: The First 50 Years, The Dean Martin And Jerry Lewis Collection: Colgate Comedy Hour, Unauthorized Biographies With Peter Graves. Christopher Reeve . Maj. John Dodge All rights reserved. (as Karl-Heinz Knaup). Why would anyone want an edited edition of this event.

I would suggest the seller make it more plain this is NOT the unedited original.

This sequel to the 1963 Original is Based on a true story. It also analyzes reviews to verify trustworthiness.

IN THOSE SCENE IHE PRESENTATION MADE ON SENCE. I'm a real history buff, especially for WWII related subjects & I saw the original mini-series The Great Escape the Untold Story.

View production, box office, & company info, Walter Halsey Davis, Screenwriter And Playwright, Dead At 76. Three teams of 2 people are put to the test to see if they can escape elaborate traps and mazes without being caught. Picture Quality B. Allied prisoners tunnel out of a stalag, then return to avenge fellow escapees executed by the Nazis.

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Also Burchardt in real life was sentenced to death by hanging at the 2nd trial, but was reprieved. It's all cut up. A former POW leads a special task force to hunt down the culprits responsible for carrying out the orders to murder 50 of the 76 escapees from Stalag Luft III. Coming Soon. The American had nothing to do with the Great Escape and definitely nothing to do with the investigation at the end of the war. But when it came out on video I was dissapointed with the extreme editing which essentually ruined it. Please try again. thanks a million.

Watch The Great Escape II: The Untold Story Full Episodes Online. You can also watch The Great Escape II: The Untold Story on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon online. With Christopher Reeve, Judd Hirsch, Tony Denison, Charles Haid. (as Anthony John Denison), Max Wielen We want to hear what you have to say but need to verify your account. S.G.K, Top subscription boxes – right to your door, © 1996-2020,, Inc. or its affiliates. There's a problem loading this menu right now. and the Terms and Policies, They won't be able to see your review if you only submit your rating. A serial killer confesses to a priest, who becomes a suspect and a sleuth because he cannot tell the police.

I would suggest the seller make it more plain this is NOT the unedited original. This true story is a great addition to the original movie because it completes the whole saga that took place during & after the war & definitly needed to be told.

This made-for TV movie, features the struggle of a group of English and American soldiers as they attempt to escape their World War II prison and hunt down the men who captured them.

I hope that they release it on DVD fully unedited.

A former POW leads a special task force to hunt down the culprits responsible for carrying out the orders to murder 50 of the 76 escapees from Stalag Luft III.

Select the department you want to search in. Cinemark All rights reserved.

This sequel to the 1963 Original is Based on a true story.

The second half of the film is based on the post-war investigation into the murders of fifty of the escapees by the Gestapo, conducted by Dodge and two fictional Americans filling the historical role played by the Royal Airforce. Please enter your email address and we will email you a new password. Would but from this seller anytime. AAA+++ , Great seller AAA+++, Reviewed in the United States on December 21, 2017, Reviewed in the United States on May 15, 2005, Apparently D. Brown never saw the original release on TV.

A . See full summary ». Regal The film features the exploits of Major Johnnie Dodge (Christopher Reeve), an American-born British Army officer and follows his journey to freedom after the escape.

Your recently viewed items and featured recommendations, Select the department you want to search in. Reviewed in the United States on September 4, 2010, HAVING SEEN THIS PROGRAM ON TV I WAS SURPRISED TO SEE SOME OF THE BEST PARTS HAS BEEN ELIMINATED.THEY ADDED A LOT TO THE UNDERATANG OF THE FILM.
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I'm a real history buff, especially for WWII related subjects & I saw the original mini-series The Great Escape the Untold Story. This true story is a great addition to the original movie because it completes the whole saga that took place during & after the war & definitly needed to be told. Anthony John Denison . Lt. Mike Corery

and to receive email from Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango. Sound Mix: Stereo The first team to win gets a cash prize. Sign up here. adventure, Because of the scarcity of these hard to find features (in most cases transfers from 16mm film prints), quality may vary from title to title, usually from about a 7 all the way up to a 9/10.

It also analyzes reviews to verify trustworthiness. (TV Movie 1988). Reviewed in the United States on July 20, 2019, Great movie. The percentage of users who rated this 3.5 stars or higher. Please reference “Error Code 2121” when contacting customer service.

After one large movie and this made-for-TV version, why can't someone stop messing around with the true story of the "Great Escape" and present it as it actually happened. Somehow i got the 3 hr.

Coming Soon, Regal The Great Escape II: The Untold Story 1988. on DVDR OR DOWNLOAD.

MacKenzie, Runtime: Germany: 178 min (2 parts) | USA: 178 min Grisly strangulations in London alert Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard to the possibility of the fiendish Fu Manchu may not be dead after all, even though Smith witnessed his execution. Video availability outside of United States varies.

I am a long time WW-2 history buff, and was severely disappointed this was edited with so many scenes omitted.

Forgot your password? Available on a region free DVDr with printet disc.

It's ok, just wish it was full length. You're almost there! A former POW leads a special task force to the Nazi concentration camp where several of his comrades were executed. Coming Soon. IN THOSE SCENE IHE PRESENTATION MADE ON SENCE. Check out some of the IMDb editors' favorites movies and shows to round out your Watchlist.

Union detective Allan Pinkerton falls in love with an aristocrat caught spying for the Confederacy. Just confirm how you got your ticket. The Great Escape II: The Untold Story is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (1 episodes).

Where did all the American come from . Keep track of everything you watch tell your friends.

A former POW leads a special task force to hunt down the culprits responsible for carrying out the orders to murder 50 of the 76 escapees from Stalag Luft III. But for Allied . See full summary ». Top subscription boxes – right to your door, © 1996-2020,, Inc. or its affiliates.

A sequel to the original Great Escape, this describes the daring return to Germany to pay back those responsible for heinous crimes. Quickly browse titles in our catalog based on the ones you have picked. To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in. The Great Escape II: The Untold Story 1988.

I have collected more than 2000 war movie.

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It held 10,000 Allied airmen of all nationalities during the Second World War, and was escape proof.

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Hall, however, had no intention of letting Cuthbert stop her from playing her part in the Allied war effort, as journalist and author Sonia Purnell reveals in an electrifying new biography, A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II. Born to a wealthy Maryland family, Hall was clever, charismatic and ambitious—traits that were not always appreciated by her contemporaries. Before the outbreak of the war, she had travelled to Europe with dreams of becoming a diplomat, but was consistently assigned to desk jobs that failed to satisfy her. Following the amputation of her leg in 1933, when she was just 27 years old, Hall’s application to a diplomatic position with the U.S. State Department was explicitly rejected due to her disability. Spying for the SOE offered a way out of what Hall considered a “dead-end life,” Purnell writes. She was not going to squander the opportunity.

Hall didn’t just survive the wartime years under constant threat of capture, torture and death she also played a crucial role in recruiting large networks of resistance fighters and directing their assistance to the Allied invasion. Among the secret operatives who adored her and the Nazis who hounded her, Hall was legendary for her gutsy, cinematic feats. She broke 12 of her fellow agents out of an internment camp, evaded the treachery of a double-crossing priest and, once her pursuers began to close in, made an arduous trek over the Pyrenees into Spain—only to return to France to resume the fight for its freedom.

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

And yet, in spite of these accomplishments, Hall is not widely remembered as a hero of the Second World War. spoke to Purnell about Hall’s remarkable but little-known legacy, and the author’s own efforts to shine a light on the woman once known to her enemies as the Allies’ “most dangerous spy.”

In the prologue to A Woman of No Importance, you write that you often felt as though you and Hall were playing a game of “cat and mouse.” Can you describe some of the obstacles you encountered while trying to research her life?

First of all, I had to start with about 20 different code names. A lot of the times that she is written about, whether it’s in contemporary accounts or official documents, it will be using one of those code names. The other thing was that a lot of files [pertaining to Hall] were destroyed—some in France in a fire in the 1970s with a lot of other wartime records. That made things pretty difficult. Then the SOE files, some 85 percent of those had been lost, or are still not opened, or are classified or just can’t be found.

Virginia was posted to Tallinn in the late 1930s and loved hunting in the huge forests of Estonia, but otherwise her life was a series of cruel rejections. Her lifelong ambition to become a diplomat was repeatedly thwarted, and she was frustrated by the limits of her role as a State Department clerk. (Lorna Catling Collection)

There were a lot of dead end alleys. But there was enough to pull this all together, and I was particularly fortunate to find this archive in Lyon, put together by one of the guys that Hall fought with in the Haute-Loire [region of France]. He was able to look at a lot of these files before they disappeared, and he had contemporary accounts of a lot of the people that she fought alongside. So I was extremely lucky to find that, because it was an absolute treasure trove.

You quote Hall as saying that everything she did during the war, she did for the love of France. Why did the country hold such a special place in her heart?

She came [to Paris] at such a young age, she was only 20. Her home life had been quite restrictive . and there she was in Paris, the great literary, artistic and cultural flowering during that time. The jazz clubs, the society, the intellectuals, the freedoms, the emancipation of women—this is quite heady, quite intoxicating. It really opened her eyes, made her feel thrilled, and stretched and inspired. That sort of thing in your 20s, when you’re very impressionable, I don’t think you ever forget it.

Virginia proved her exceptional courage under fire in 1940 by volunteering to drive ambulances on the front line for the French army’s SAA, or Service de Santé des Armées. (Lorna Catling Collection, held by the Spy Museum, Washington, D.C. )

Operating in a war zone with a mid-20th century prosthetic could not have been easy for Virginia. What was life like with “Cuthbert” on a daily basis?

I managed to find a prosthetics historian at one of the museums here in London who was incredibly helpful. He explained to me exactly how her leg would have worked, what the problems were, what it could do and what it couldn’t do. One of the problems was the way it was attached to her, with these leather straps. Well, that might be OK if you’re just walking a short distance in mild weather, but when it’s really hot and you’re climbing up or down steps, the leather would chafe your skin until it was raw and the stump would blister and bleed.

It would have been very difficult in particular going down steps because the ankle doesn’t work in the way that our ankles do, and it would be quite difficult to lock. So she would always feel very vulnerable to falling forward. That would have been a very big danger for her at all times, but then magnify that for crossing the Pyrenees: the grinding, relentless climb and then the grinding, relentless descent. She herself said to her niece that this was the worst part of the war, and I can believe that. It was just phenomenal that she made that crossing.

Hall pulled off so many incredible feats during the war. What, in your opinion, was her most important accomplishment?

That’s a difficult one, it’s a competitive field. I suppose the one that you can grab as being standalone, understandable and also spectacular was how she managed to break those 12 men out of a prison camp: the Mauzac escape. The cunning, and the organization and the courage—just the sheer chutzpah that she had in springing them out . It is quite an extraordinary tale of derring-do. And it was successful! Those guys made it back to Britain. We hear about a lot of other wartime escapes that ultimately ended in a failure. Hers succeeded.

Virginia was the only civilian woman in the Second World War to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, for extraordinary heroism against the enemy. She received the medal in Washington, D.C., from “Wild Bill” Donovan in a low-key ceremony on September 27, 1945. (Courtesy of Loran Catling and John Hall)

Another of Hall’s feats was pioneering a new style of espionage and guerilla warfare. Does her influence continue to be felt in that realm today?

I spent a day at [CIA headquarters at] Langley, which was really fascinating. Talking to people there, they pointed to Operation Jawbreaker in Afghanistan, and how they drew on the processes that really she pioneered: How do you set up networks in a foreign country, bringing in locals and perhaps preparing them for some big military event later on? They took Hall’s example. I’ve heard from other people involved in the CIA who said she still is mentioned in lectures and training there today. Not that long ago they named one of their training buildings after her. Clearly, she has an influence to this day. I’d love to think she knows that somehow, because that’s pretty cool.

Today, Hall is not particularly well known as a war hero, in spite of her influence. Why do you think that is?

Partly because she didn’t like blowing her own trumpet. She didn’t like the whole obsession with medals and decorations it was about doing your duty, and being good at your job and earning the respect of your colleagues. She didn't go out of her way to tell people.

But also, a lot of other SOE female agents who came in after her died, and they became these quite well-known tragic heroines. Films were made about them. But they achieved nothing like what Hall did … It was difficult to pigeonhole her. She didn't fit into that conventional norm of female behavior. In a way she wasn’t a story that anyone really wanted to tell, and the fact that she was disabled as well made it even more complicated.

When I was thinking of doing this book, I took my sons to see Mad Max: Fury Road with Charlize Theron, and I noticed that her [character’s] forearm was missing, and yet she still was the great hero of the film. And I thought, “Actually, maybe now that Hollywood is doing a film with a hero like that, finally we’re grown up enough to understand and cherish Virginia’s story and celebrate it.” It was that night really that [made me think], “I’m going to write this book. I really want to tell the world about her, because everyone should know.”

Cowra prison break: The biggest, bloodiest prison breakout in WWII

Nearly 400 men made it out while 231 others were killed. But, what many don’t realise is that they didn’t want freedom. It was something else.

In August 1944, 1104 Japanese prisoners of war at the Australian POW camp at Cowra stage a mass breakout. Four guards are killed in the escape, and 231 prisoners die by wounds.

In August 1944, 1104 Japanese prisoners of war at the Australian POW camp at Cowra stage a mass breakout. Four guards are killed in the escape, and 231 prisoners die by wounds sustained or suicide, while 334 prisoners are recaptured over the subsequent nine days.

The burial of Japanese POWs who lost their lives in the mass breakout from Cowra. Picture: AAP/Australian War Memorial … Source:AAP

It was the biggest and bloodiest prison breakout in WWII.

Close to 2am on a cold moonlit night on August 5, 1944, more than 1,000 Japanese prisoners of war overpowered their Australian guards and escaped from a prison camp in the NSW central west town, Cowra.

Nearly 400 men made it out while 231 others were killed in the following days. But, what many don’t realise is that the Japanese were not escaping because they wanted freedom.

They escaped because they wanted to keep fighting.

For them, being captured was a shame greater than death. These men felt they were like “ghosts” because, in captivity, they couldn’t be warriors and if they returned home, they𠆝 be shunned by families and communities, so great was the shame in being a prisoner.

It was 75 years ago this week that Cowra, a town in the “middle of nowhere” became a battlefield. It’s a snapshot of history that will always be known as the infamous “ Cowra breakout.”

The POW camp in Cowra. This August marks 75 years since the breakout. Picture: AAP/Australian War Memorial. Source:AAP

In 1941, Australia’s 6th, 7th, and 9th Divisions joined Allied operations in the Mediterranean and North Africa which resulted in the capture of tens of thousands of Italians.

Under the terms of the Geneva Convention, Australia had to find somewhere to keep the men, so the Australian government decided Cowra was the ideal place.

It had a road connection to Sydney and, most importantly, it was isolated. That was the psychological element: if prisoners realise they’re in the “middle of nowhere” then they won’t try to escape. It was also an ideal location for the POWs because there was already an established army training camp in Cowra, next door to the prison camp.

But, in 1942, as the camp was getting bigger as more prisoners arrived, Australia started taking Japanese POWs — even though the camp was only intended to be used by the Italians.

By the time of the tragic prison breakout, there were already 1,100 Japanese in the camp and many were close to breaking point.

Japanese prisoners attending the camp clothing parade. These photographs were taken for the Far Eastern Liaison Office as a basis for propaganda leaflets to be dropped over Japanese-held islands and the Japanese mainland. Picture: Supplied. Source:News Corp Australia


According to historian Mat McLachlan, most of the Japanese were infantrymen who had been captured in New Guinea, who were wounded or ill when captured so they couldn’t resist. There were also several sailors, as well as aviators from the Japanese army and navy.

McLachlan told the airmen tended to be the most �natical” of them all.

“They were better educated and higher in rank than the lowly private. They were also very heavily fanatical about the idea of dying for the emperor,” he said.

“The soldiers who had been sleeping in the mud with leeches and starving in the jungle, trying to stay alive, tended to be less fanatical because I believe they were more philosophical and pragmatic about the concept of dying for the great war.

𠇋ut, at the time of the Cowra breakout, the real trouble was caused by the Japanese airmen,” McLachlan said.

A survivor of the Cowra breakout, circa 944-1946. Picture: Supplied. Source:Supplied

It’s been said that, for the Japanese, there was a great sense of shame in being a POW. But McLachlan claims the truth is much deeper than that.

“When Japanese men were conscripted to fight, it was considered they were going away to die a great noble death. In Japan, when they said goodbye to their families and communities, they𠆝 have a huge send-off parade, with flags and banners, so there was a feeling that they were sacrificing their lives for Japan and the concept of capture wasn’t part of the plan,” McLachlan said.

𠇋ut not all the Japanese were fanatics. Plenty of them, when they knew they were caught, would surrender. But the issue was that many were captured when they were wounded or sick and they had no choice.”

“Japan had said that no soldier will ever surrender. So, if a man is missing in battle, the official word back home is that he must have been killed and families were notified. So the captured Japanese men are in a difficult position where they𠆝 once been great warriors but are now in a prison camp doing manual jobs. So they referred to themselves as ‘ghosts’. Their families think they’re dead and they𠆝 be shunned if they returned home.”

The burial of Japanese Prisoners of War who lost their lives in the mass breakout in Cowra. Picture: AAP/Australian War Memorial. Source:AAP


It was a different story for the Italian POWs in Cowra who, according to McLachlan, enjoyed being out of the war and looked forward to going back to Italy. Seen as model prisoners, the Italians were allowed to work at local farms before returning to the prison camp at the end of the day.

“The Italians were harmless and docile. There are lots of stories about Italians hooking up with farmers wives! One of my favourite stories is about some Italian prisoners who went out to the farms one day then headed back to camp but got a flat tyre and by the time they got back to camp it was locked so they had to bang on the gates to be let back in!” McLachlan said.

“In comparison, the Japanese were dangerous, broody, difficult prisoners and not put on work detail. Imagine what it means to you as a person when you see yourself as a ‘ghost.’ Many believed they should have died in battle. Instead they were stuck in a prison camp. So, it wasn’t long before they had an idea that they had to do something drastic.”

Italian POW's grading tomatoes at camp kitchen at Yanco, NSW. Picture: Migrants or Mates … Italian life in Australia. Source:News Limited


According to McLachlan the major misconception about the Cowra breakout is that it was about freedom. But the desire by the Japanese to escape was all about continuing to battle.

“The Japanese wanted to fight again. They felt that they were warriors who were not fighting, they felt they brought great shame to Japan and they wanted to fight and hopefully die fighting,” McLachlan said.

As the war dragged on, word reached Australia that Japanese POWs in New Zealand had rioted. According to McLachlan, this should have sounded very loud warning bells at Cowra.

“Then, a Korean POW who could speak Japanese told the Australians he𠆝 overheard Japanese plans to take over the camp. The Australians knew it was likely the Japanese were planning something dangerous, so they made a decision to split the Japanese up and send all the non-commissioned officers (NCOs) to a camp at Hay.”

Then, according to McLachlan, they made a fatal mistake.

“On the morning of Friday August 4, they told the Japanese they𠆝 be sending the NCOs to Hay on the Monday. They were just being nice, allowing the men to say goodbye to their friends. But they shouldn’t have given the men two days warning. What they should have done was tell the men on the Monday and leave immediately.”

“They knew there was a riot in New Zealand, they had an informant warning them something will happen, they had all these signs and the Australians should have been able to intervene. Also, the Japanese had been hoarding weapons, but the Australians weren’t doing adequate searches of the camp.

“It was very poor on the part of the Australians and the Cowra breakout should never have happened.”

Japanese prisoners who attempted to escape from Cowra. Picture: Supplied. Source:Supplied

It was Friday night when the Japanese went into their huts and decided democratically to break out of the prison.

According to McLachlan, each man got a square of toilet paper and wrote either a cross or a circle (a circle meant 𠇋reak out” and a cross meant 𠇍on’t break out.”) The majority voted with a circle.

“The plan was that, at 2am, one of the prisoners would blow a bugle to signal the start of the breakout. But it actually started at 1:50am because one of the Japanese prisoners lost his nerve and went running up to the guards to let them know it was about to happen. And so they blew the bugle, the Japanese came swarming out of their huts, and set fire to their huts,” McLachlan said.

“They wanted to take over the camp and get hold of the two machine guns that were guarding the camp. One group of men ran to the centre of the camp known as 𠆋roadway’ to open up the camp and let other prisoners out. There were four compounds in the camp and only one compound was involved in the breakout. The plan was to open the gates while another group went to climb the fence to provide support from outside the camp. Others charged at the machine guns and that’s when the majority of casualties occurred. The group that climbed over the fence mostly survived as there was just one Australian there with a gun who couldn’t do much to stop hundreds of Japanese.”

A collection of knives recovered in and around B Camp at Cowra after the mass escape attempt. Picture: Supplied. Source:News Corp Australia

“Two Australian guards ran out in their pyjamas — it was literally a race to the guns. They managed to get the guns in action first and fired at the Japanese, killing more than 100. Two Australian guards were stabbed to death by the Japanese. The guards disabled the machine guns so the Japanese weren’t able to turn the guns on the other Aussie guards. The Japanese plan was to launch a big attack on the army base next door and kill as many Aussies as they could but once the machine gun was put out of action, the Japanese just ran out of the camp and took off into the bush.”

It took nine days to round up the surviving Japanese prisoners and bring them back to camp. According to McLachlan, they were said to be fairly calm.

“They𠆝 done all they could do. The fight was out of them and they were sent to the prison camp in Hay. There were 231 Japanese men killed by gunfire and suicide, as well as other bodies found in the huts but it’s not known if they had been killed by their comrades or by suicide,” McLachlan said.

A soldier stands with a local next to a rope that one Japanese POW used to hang himself. His boots still sit on blocks of wood he stood on. Picture: Supplied. Source:News Limited

“The official death toll of the Australians is four but, during my research, I’ve discovered a fifth man who should be included. His name was Thomas Hancock from the Volunteer Defence Corps. The volunteers were usually older men who𠆝 fought in WWI who had been asked to help guard the train lines. Hancock was accidentally shot by another volunteer and he died of his wounds.”

“He’s never counted and I think that’s a terrible oversight. He’s buried in the Blaney cemetery with a military headstone and yet his name is not on the roll of honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. He was part of the military and he’s not counted as one of the men killed during the Cowra breakout, just because he wasn’t killed by the Japanese.”

“I’ve been petitioning the war memorial to put his name on the roll of honour and I hope they will eventually do that for his family.”

Japanese POW Marekumi Takahara (L) with one of his Australian guards Walter McKenzie on the 60th anniversary of the Cowra breakout, back in 2004. Picture: Sam/Ruttyn. Source:News Limited

McLachlan is adamant that the Cowra breakout should never have happened, given that the Australians had fair warning they knew what had happened in New Zealand and had had an informant telling them plans were underway.

“It was a massive failure of intelligence and process and subsequently covered up. The breakout should never have happened and errors and oversights from the Australians contributed significantly to the death toll.”

Historian Mat McLachlan also hosts a history podcast where you can get further information about the Cowra breakout.

LJ Charleston is a freelance historical writer. Continue the conversation @LJCharleston


Targets for United States Bombing Edit

After the successful Allied invasion of Sicily, Italy capitulated in the autumn of 1943, the Allies occupied the whole of southern Italy. In late 1943, the 15th Air Force of the United States Army Air Forces, under the command of General Nathan Twining, was transferred from Tunisia to an airfield near Foggia. This airfield became the largest American air base in southern Italy, and was used for attacking targets in southern and Eastern Europe. The 15th Army Air Force also used the nearby airfields of Bari, Brindisi, Lecce and Manduria.

The 15th Air Force bombed targets in Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, the Independent State of Croatia, the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. Some of the most important targets were sources of petroleum and petroleum refineries in Romania. These installations were the driving force of Hitler's war machine and the main targets in the Oil Campaign of World War II. The Ostro Romano refinery in Ploiești, provided one quarter of the Third Reich's fuel needs and was one of the priority targets. All flights targeting the oil-fields and refineries in Romania, near the town of Ploiești north of Bucharest, passed over the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia.

Flight path Edit

From October 1943 to October 1944, the 15th Air Force conducted about 20,000 sorties with fighters and bombers. During this time it lost almost fifty percent of its aircraft but only about ten percent of its personnel. To carry out combat missions, the Fifteenth Air Force had at its disposal 500 heavy bombers (B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators) and about 100 fighter escorts.

The flight path from southern Italy to the targets in Romania was repeated every day from the spring of 1944, (over the Adriatic Sea, Montenegro, Serbia and Bulgaria to Romania). Two-thirds of these flights were carried out against objectives in Bulgaria, Romania and the German-occupied zone of Serbia. The Germans had at their disposal a limited number of fighter aircraft whose most frequent targets were Allied planes that had already been damaged by Axis anti-aircraft defenses in Bulgaria and Romania, planes that because of such damage had to fly slowly at low altitude.

In the spring of 1944, the USAAF intensified the bombing of targets in Bulgaria and Romania, with the result that American aviators were being forced to bail out of damaged aircraft over Yugoslavia in increasing numbers. Some crews fell into the hands of Romanian, Bulgarian, Croatian or German troops and were sent to prisoner of war camps. By August 1944, 350 bombers had been lost. Many of the crews survived: some came down in territory held by Marshal Tito's Partisans, while others found refuge in Serbia with Draža Mihailović`s Chetniks. [8]

The first American airmen bailed out over the German-occupied zone of Serbia on 24 January 1944. That day two Liberators were shot down, one of them over Zlatibor, the other over Toplica. One bomber, damaged by German fighter planes, made an emergency landing between Pločnik and Beloljin. [9] A crew of nine were rescued by the Chetnik Toplica Corps under the command of Major Milan Stojanović. The crew were placed in the home of local Chetnik leaders in the village of Velika Draguša. Another bomber was shot down that same day, the crew bailing out over Mount Zlatibor. They were found by members of the Zlatibor Corps. A radiogram message on the rescue of one of the crews was sent by Stojanović to Mihailović on 25 January. Major Stojanović wrote that the previous day about 100 bombers flew from the direction of Niš towards Kosovska Mitrovica, and that they were followed by nine German fighter aircraft. After a half-hour battle, one plane caught fire and was forced to land between the villages of Pločnik and Beloljin, in the Toplica River valley.

By early July 1944, over one hundred airmen were in areas under Chetnik control. [10] The German and Bulgarian occupation forces in Serbia that had spotted the damaged aircraft and open parachutes pursued the airmen [ citation needed ] . However, Chetniks under the control of Mihailović had already reached them. The Germans offered cash to the local Serbian population for the capture of Allied airmen. The peasants accepted the airmen into their homes and fed them for months without Allied help. Hospitals for sick and wounded airmen were established in Pranjani village.

Office of Strategic Services officers already had secured Marshal Tito's cooperation to retrieve downed airmen. In January 1944 Maj. Linn M. Farish and Lt. Eli Popovich had parachuted into Partisan HQ at Drvar to arrange assistance in rescuing American flyers. Following a meeting with Tito on 23 January 1944, orders went out to all partisan units to do everything possible to locate downed airmen and conduct them safely to the nearest Allied liaison team. [11]

Efforts to retrieve aircrews from Chetnik controlled areas ran afoul of the tangled web of Balkan politics. The British, who considered that part of the world within their sphere of interest, had shifted their support to Tito and were determined to sever all ties with Mihailović lest they offend the Communist leader. American attempts to maintain contact with Mihailović had been rebuffed by London. [11] Nonetheless, General Nathan F. Twining, Commander of the 15th Air Force, was determined to rescue his downed airmen. On 24 July 1944, thanks to the efforts of Twining and several OSS officers, General Ira C. Eaker (from April 1945 Deputy Commander of the Army Air Forces) directed the 15th Air Force to establish an Air Crew Rescue Unit (ACRU). This independent organization of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces, attached to the 15th Air Force would be responsible for locating and evacuating Allied airmen throughout the Balkans.

Selected to head the ACRU was Col. George Kraigher of the AAF Transport Command. Kraigher had flown for the Royal Serbian Air Force in World War I. Prior to World War II Kraigher played a key role in developing Pan American Airways air route from Miami to the Middle East via Brazil and West Africa. Taking over the rescue unit, Kraigher formed two parties. One would work with Tito's partisans the other would go to Mihailović's Chetniks. [2]

Lt. George Musulin, an OSS officer who had led a liaison mission to Mihailović and one of the foremost advocates of maintaining contact with the Chetniks, was named commander of ACRU 1 (known as the Halyard Mission). Musulin, as Lt. Nelson Deranian, chief of OSS Special Operations Branch (SO) Bari suggested, possessed "the rugged character required to meet the hardships involved". M/Sgt. Michael Rajacich, borrowed from OSS Secret Intelligence Branch (S1) for this particular assignment, and Navy Specialist 1st Class Arthur Jibilian, the mission's OSS radio operator, rounded out Musulin's team. [3]

On the night of 2–3 August 1944, after several abortive attempts, the Halyard Mission team parachuted into Mihailović's headquarters at Pranjani. [14]

Airman Richard Felman (415th Bombardment Squadron, 98th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force), who was at Pranjani, recalls the scene when the mission arrived at the airfield: "The one who was in the lead was the of a mob of Chetniks—they were kissing him and cheering him with tears in their eyes. He was in an American uniform and was one of the biggest chaps I'd ever seen. He walked over to us and put out his hands. 'I'm George Musulin', he said. [15]

Lt. Musulin arranged a meeting with a committee of the airmen to discuss the preparations that would need to be made before evacuation could take place. He discovered that there were approximately 250 airmen divided into six groups and housed within a ten-mile radius of the airstrip at Galovića polje (Galovica field) near Pranjani. Musulin established a courier service between the mission and the various groups in order to provide daily news on the progress being made towards the evacuation. He also distributed funds to enable the airmen to purchase needed supplies. At the same time Mihailović assigned the First Ravna Gora Corps to provide security for the operation.

According to Professor Kirk Ford, the airmen assembled at Pranjani awaiting evacuation represented a potential source of intelligence, particularly concerning Serbia. "They had witnessed the civil war between Chetnik and Partisan forces and had experienced the full range of Chetnik-German relations, from open hostility to wary tolerance and at times accommodation. They had seen Chetnik soldiers give their lives to save them from capture and had been protected and well-treated by Mihailović's forces and by the Serbian peasantry. Their very presence at Pranjani under Chetnik was itself a clear evidence that Mihailović remained a well-disposed toward the United States and was no collaborator in the true sense of the word." [16]

To some, it may be difficult to understand how the Chetniks could rescue American Airmen from the Germans, as they did in at least one instance, and, at the same time, collaborate with these very same forces. The answer rests in the Chetniks' perception of who was really the enemy. The Chetniks considered the Partisan communist movement a far greater threat to Yugoslavia than the German occupation forces. Renewed Allied support was Mihailovic's only means of reversing the Partisan takeover. There was absolutely nothing to be gained by turning American airmen over to the Germans. In fact, evacuated Americans were a significant source of first rate public relations on behalf of the Chetniks. In late 1944, only Americans displayed any outward concern for what might happen to the Chetniks when the Partisans gained control. To do anything except rescue and protect American airmen would mean the loss of their last source of support and salvation. [17]

According to statistics compiled by the US Air Force Air Crew Rescue Unit, between 1 January and 15 October 1944, a total of 1,152 American airmen were airlifted from Yugoslavia, 795 with the assistance of the Yugoslav Partisans and 356 with the help of the Serbian Chetniks. Serbian-American Lt. Eli Popovich, part of the Halyard Mission attached to partisan HQ, kept in radio contact with Arthur Jibilian to co-ordinate the rescue of all US and foreign airmen in Yugoslavia from Mihailović's HQ (where radio operator Jibilian was attached).

In early-March 1944, 25 rescued pilots were brought to Pranjani. Captain Zvonimir Vučković of the First Ravna Gora Corps was responsible for their security. Mihailović ordered Vučković to build an improvised airstrip from which the aviators could be evacuated. Vučković selected a field near Pranjani. Construction of the airstrip was managed by Captain Nikola Verkić. Vučković stated:

More than a hundred diggers and as many ox-drawn carts were used to build. Because of the greater secrecy we worked mostly at night. The digging, leveling and cutting-down of trees created blisters on hands. In late March I sent a report to General Mihailović that the jobs around the airport were completed. [19]

British authorities thought the airstrip was too short. Eleven airmen, including John P. Devlin, wanted to go on foot to the Adriatic Sea. Mihailovic provided supporting units and they started out on 19 April, after a ceremonial send-off in Pranjani. The remaining aviators were unable to walk due to injuries and illness. A few dozen more airmen reached Pranjani in late-April. Vučković divided them into two groups. The first, from the Takovo district, was guided by Sergeant Bora Komračević. The second group from the Dragačevo district was guided by Mihailo Paunović, who did not speak English. [19]

Due to the collection of rescued aviators near Pranjani, fighting occurred between the Chetniks and German and Bulgarian occupation forces. On 14 March 1944 the Germans moved into the village of Oplanić, near Gružа, looking for the crew of a downed Liberator. Captain Nikola Petković's 4th battalion of the Gruža brigade opened fire on the German armored vehicles to lure them away from the portion of the village where the aviators were hiding. Three Chetniks were killed and two more captured during the firefight. After the war, the communists destroyed their gravestones. [20] [ need quotation to verify ]

The 1st Dragačevo Brigade of the First Ravna Gora Corps engaged German forces attempting to capture an American aircrew bailing out over the Čačak - Užice road. Vučković reported the deaths of a few Chetnik soldiers in the fight. The fallen Chetniks were buried in a cemetery in Dljin village. [19]

Lieutenant Colonel Todor Gogić, commander of the Morava group Corps sent a radiogram to Mihailović on 17 April, "On 15 April at about 11 hours, due to engine failure, a B-24 Liberator with a crew of 10 made an emergency landing near the village of Drenovac south of Paraćin. We managed to rescue nine crew members from the Germans and Bulgarians, but one airmen was captured. The crew is from the 861st Squadron, 460th bomber group." [21]

The British SOE military mission led by Brigadier Charles Armstrong was ready for evacuation by late-May 1944. Following agreement with their Bari headquarters, three Douglas Dakota cargo aircraft (C-47s) landed at Pranjani on 29 May. In addition to the SOE mission, 40 rescued Allied airmen were also evacuated. Mihailović had decided to send a political mission to London using the same evacuation. The mission was led by the President of the Socialist Party of Yugoslavia, Živko Topalović. Topalović had been a member of the Labour and Socialist International party before the war. He intended to meet with British political leaders to influence them to change Winston Churchill's decision to abandon Mihailović and support Josip Broz Tito. Topalović's mission was a failure. The British did not allow him to leave southern Italy.

The Democratic Yugoslavia news agency bulletin reports Edit

Reports about the rescued airmen were sent to the "Democratic Yugoslavia" news agency, which belonged to the High Command of the Yugoslav Army in the fatherland of Mihailović. This agency had an office and radio station in New York City. A report was received by the Yugoslav Embassy in Washington, DC. Staff headed by the Ambassador Konstantin Fotić, forwarded the report to the US Army, so that the families of airmen, especially their mothers, who were in some cases previously notified that their offspring were "missing in action". The reports almost always contained the names and addresses of the airmen.

Mirjana Vujnovich was working at the Yugoslav Embassy in Washington when she learned of reports that Serbian guerrillas were sheltering Allied airmen. She passed the information on to her husband, George Vujnovich, who put together a rescue plan. [22] Lieutenant George Vujnovich, worked for the OSS in Brindisi, in southern Italy. He received a letter from his wife which mentioned the American airmen's plight: "there are hundreds. can you do something for them? It would be great if [they] are evacuated". [23] It was the turning point which led to the planning and execution of Operation Halyard. [23]

Evacuation Edit

In late-May 1944, for the first time since 1941, there were no Allied liaison officers with the Chetniks. Mihailovich's headquarters had attempted to establish direct radio contact with the Allied Mediterranean Command, but failed.

On 15 July 1944, while returning in a severely damaged airplane (B-17G, 840th BS, 483rd BG,15th AF, Sterparone, Italy) on a mission to an important enemy oil refinery in Ploesti, Captain Leo C. Brooks [West Point, June 1943] was forced to bail out over Yugoslavia (Ljig, Serbia). Immediately on landing he was approached by members of the Chetnik army who offered him assistance. At Captain Brooks' request to see their commanding officer (Kapetan Marko Muzikravić), he was led through the mountains for several days. On 26 July 1944 he reached a British landing strip (Pranjani, Serbia) that had been prepared for the evacuation of escapees. In the villages surrounding this field there were already some 150 American airmen who were awaiting an expected evacuation, and more were coming in every day. As the ranking American officer, he took command of the Americans present. In conjunction with the Chetnik area commander he determined the best policy to follow in quartering and protecting the men and in effecting a high degree of camouflage discipline. Due to his careful planning, tact, and diplomacy, Captain Brooks obtained maximum aid and assistance from the Chetnik Army. Two entire army corps totaling 3,000 men were provided him to insure ample defense against possible German interference. At Captain Brooks' suggestion, all men to be evacuated were split into six groups with an American officer in charge of each. The first of these groups was composed of all the sick and injured who were quartered near a hospital so that they could receive medical attention. The rest of the groups were dispersed in the neighboring mountains, the most distant being two hours walking distance away. Keeping with him a staff of six officers to handle staff work, Captain Brooks then directed that, to insure the most orderly and expeditious evacuation possible, a list be drafted by name, rank, and serial number of all Americans in the area together with the date of their being shot down. Meanwhile, two men (one was 1st Lt. Tom Oliver (West Point, June 1943, B-24, 756th BS, 459th BG, 15th AF, Giulia, Italy and, ironically, academy roommate of Captain Brooks) who had been sent to contact General Mihailovic's headquarters, brought back word that on one of three specified nights friendly planes would land to evacuate those present. Captain Brooks inspected the airfield, improvised a night-lighting system with several kerosene lamps and then set up a watch to signal the planes when they came over. Only one plane arrived, however, and it did not land, dropping supplies and three men by parachute instead. These three men (OSS team, 1st Lt. Musulin, Master Sergeant Rajacich, and Navy Petty Officer Jibilian) had been sent in as an Allied mission from Italy and had brought along a radio. The officer in charge of the mission brought word that the landing strip was not considered usable by 15th Air Force and that no landing would be made until a great amount of work had been done to it. After setting up an improvised radio station with the new equipment, Captain Brooks left one officer in charge of the construction work necessary at this particular field, gave him detailed instructions on how to complete the project, and procured for him through the Chetnik Army Commander a large number of Yugoslav laborers. The remaining six officers, including himself, he divided into two-man teams to investigate possible sites for another field. In this manner two better locations were discovered, and work was immediately begun on those fields as well. In the meantime, radio contact with 15th Air Force was reestablished. A request was made for urgently needed supplies and a message sent regarding the work that was being done on the first field. Two transports came shortly thereafter and dropped a considerable quantity of needed supplies. Acting under instructions previously issued by Captain Brooks, the group quartered nearest the dropping site successfully brought in all these supplies. Several days later when construction on the first field had progressed to the point where it was usable, the 15th Air Force was notified. A message came back from headquarters that eight aircraft would arrive that evening, each with a capacity of 12 men. Captain Brooks then sent runners to alert the first 96 men scheduled to go. The field was cleared and signal fires built. One officer was put in charge of the men and ordered to have each group of twelve men leave the woods only when its plane was ready. During this time no one else was to be on the field. Another officer was detailed to meet the planes as they landed and park them for loading. A third officer was detailed to guide them out for takeoff. Only four aircraft (C-47A, 60thTCG, 12thAF Brindisi, Italy) came in that night, the first carrying a doctor, several assistants, and medical supplies. These four airplanes were landed, unloaded, loaded with evacuees, and successfully dispatched. Captain Brooks learned from the pilot of the first plane to land, that the operation was to continue throughout the following morning with friendly fighter cover. He immediately sent runners to all the different groups. By 07:00 on 10 August 1944 all the remaining evacuees had been assembled in the woods adjacent to the field. To assist the aircraft, Captain Brooks had had the field marked with strips of parachutes. As each airplane came in that morning 20 men were dispatched to it and it took off. Only after all the other evacuees had been loaded did Captain Brooks get aboard the last airplane. After this last airplane had been loaded, the pilot counted 21 men aboard, one more than the maximum. Assuming that one would have to be left on the ground Captain Brooks immediately left the airplane as the volunteer who would stay behind. A recount by the pilot, however, brought out that he had only 20 passengers instead of 21. After reassuring himself that the safety of the others would not be imperiled, Captain Brooks did board again. A total of 240 Americans, seven British, 12 Russians, five French, and five Italian officers and men were evacuated in this operation.

Airlift from Pranjani to Bari Edit

At midnight on 2 August 1944, an American plane flew over Pranjani, near Mihailovic's headquarters in central Serbia, where a fire burned as a previous agreed signal. Three parachutes opened just behind and below the aircraft, they supported OSS intelligence agents Captain George Musulin, Lieutenant Michael Rayachich, and Sergeant Arthur Jiblian and their radio equipment they were there to set the operation up. Captain Musulin's first task was to request from Mihailović that all the rescued airmen be gathered in the area for the forthcoming evacuation. Musulin was assured that the Chetniks had done everything possible for the airmen, including medical care. They were to have armed escorts to the evacuation point. In the meantime, to allow for a possible German attack on Pranjani, Mihailović was instructed to build a reserve airstrip in the Dragačevo district. [24]

Mihailović decided to send additional representatives to Italy to assist Topalović with his mission. They were [25] the president of the Independent Democratic Party Adam Pribićević, Supreme Court judge Dr. Vladimir Belajčić, Captain Zvonimir Vučković, and Ivan Kovač, a Slovene who taught King Peter II before the war.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, 6 August 1944, The New York Times published an interview with Mihailović by journalist Cyrus Leo Sulzberger.

Near Pranjani, Chetnik sentries detained a civilian identified as Ivan Popov one sentinel had his suspicions aroused because he thought he had seen Popov leave a Gestapo building in Belgrade in a German officers' uniform. Captain Vučković ordered the man to be executed. However, the civilian was reprieved at the last minute when he showed Vučković a letter signed by Mihailović. The incident was reported to the general, who ordered that he be sent to his headquarters. Popov was a double agent for the Yugoslavs and British in the Gestapo. He was also Dušan Popov's brother. [26] Popov (British codenamed Dreadnought, Yugoslav (Chetnik) codenamed Eskulap), was evacuated along with American airmen to Italy. The young aviators had no idea that one of the passengers was a former Gestapo officer.

The largest evacuation from Pranjani began at 03:00 on 10 August. Four C-47s flew in they were followed by a further six. Other sources give twelve [27] or fourteen US transport aircraft used. [28] These aircraft may have been protected by 50 (P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning) fighters of the Fifteenth Air Force, [29] but one source indicates they were protected by six Royal Air Force Spitfires. [28] Ground security was provided by the Morava group under Captain Aleksandar Milošević. A total of 237 men were evacuated. [ citation needed ] [30]

The operation was repeated on 12, 15, and 18 August a further 210 airmen were evacuated. [ citation needed ] A new OSS unit, under Operation Ranger, was led by Colonel Robert H. McDowell. Musulin flew out of Pranjani on 29 August, in the same aircraft that McDowell had arrived in. Musulin's replacement was Captain Nick Lalich, who flew to Pranjani on 10 August.

Evacuation from Koceljeva Edit

On the eve of the invasion by the Red Army in September 1944, the supreme command of the Yugoslav Army, along with the Halyard and Ranger missions, left Pranjani and transferred to Mačva. Another improvised airstrip at Koceljeva had been built. The runway was 400 meters long. It was constructed between 15–17 September. Twenty airmen, a Frenchman, a few Italians, and two US medical officers were evacuated on 17 September. [24]

Evacuation from Boljanić Edit

A third improvised airstrip was built between 22 October-1 November at Boljanić near Doboj in eastern Bosnia. It was used to evacuate the Supreme Command of the Yugoslav Army and 15 US airmen on 27 September. These aviators had jumped from two damaged aircraft in June 1944 into Milino Selo, in eastern Bosnia. They were accommodated in the houses of Luke Panić and several prominent farmers in the village Boljanić, and rescued by the Chetniks Ozren Corps Major Cvijetin Todić. [ citation needed ] Two C-47s, covered by seven fighters, landed. The evacuees, including Captain John Milodragovich and Lieutenant Michael Rajachich (both OSS), were taken to Bari. McDowell tried to persuade Mihailović to accompany him to Italy, but he refused, saying: "I prefer to lose my life in my country, than to live as an outcast in strange land. I'll stay with my soldiers and my people to the end, in order to fulfill duty that my King gave to me. For King and Fatherland – Freedom or Death!"

Two C-47s, one piloted by Colonel George Kraigher, (a pioneer in the development of Pan American World Airways ), [31] the other by First Lieutenant John L. Dunn, left Italy at 11:00 on 27 December 1944. Escorted by 16 P-38s, they reached the emergency landing field at Boljanić at 12:55. Spotting a hole in the overcast, Kraigher led the way in, to land on a 1,700-foot strip that was frozen just enough to support the weight of a C-47. The transports were met by Captain Lalich. The aircraft were quickly loaded with 20 American airmen, one US citizen, two Yugoslavian (Chetnik) officers, four French, four Italian army personnel, and two remaining Halyard team members, Lalich and his radio operator, Arthur Jibilian. Lalich tried once more to persuade Mihailović to accompany them to Italy. Mihailović remained consistent in his intention to stay with his soldiers. The aircraft took off at 13:15.

  • 237 men evacuated from Pranjani on 9–10 August
  • 210 men evacuated from Pranjani on 12, 15, 18 August
  • 20 men evacuated from Koceljeva on 17 September
  • 15 men evacuated from the village of Boljanić on 1 November
  • 20 men evacuated from Boljanić on 27 December

A total of 417 Allied airmen were airlifted from Chetnik territory during Operation Halyard, of which 343 were Americans. [5]

  • Captain George Musulin (Head of Mission from 2–19 August 1944) - Legion of Merit. , helped organize and supervise the mission - Bronze Star Medal. [32]
  • Lieutenant Michael "Mike" Rayachich (member of mission from 2–19 August, then a member of the Renger mission to 1 November 1944) - Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster.
  • Radio operator Navy Specialist 1st Class Petty Officer (the equivalent of Staff Sgt.) Arthur Jibilian (member of mission from 2 August-27 December 1944) - Silver Star
  • Captain Nick Lalich (member of mission from 10–28 August, Head of Mission from 29 August-27 December 1944) - Legion of Merit.
  • Captain Jack Mitrani, MD, with two medical assistants (Dr Mitrani headed the medical team mission of Halyard from 10 August-17 September 1944).

This operation took place between August and December 1944 from a crudely constructed forest airfield created by Serbian peasants in Pranjani. It is little known today, and largely unknown to most Americans. It is the subject of the 2007 book The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All For the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II, by author Gregory A. Freeman. In his book, he describes it as one of the greatest rescue stories ever told. It tells the story of how the airmen were downed in a country they knew nothing about, and how the Serbian villagers were willing to sacrifice their own lives to save the lives of the air crews.

The OSS planned an elaborate rescue involving C-47 cargo planes landing in enemy territory. It was an extremely risky operation, involving the planes not only entering enemy territory without being shot down themselves, but also landing, retrieving the downed airmen, then taking off and flying out of that same territory, again without being shot down themselves. The rescue was a complete success, but received little to no publicity. This was partly due to the timing, the world's attention being focused on the conflict in northern France.

Because of this operation, and due to the efforts of Major Richard Felman, United States President Harry S. Truman posthumously awarded Mihailović the Legion of Merit for his contribution to the Allied victory during World War II. Initially, this high award and the story of the rescue was classified secret by the U.S. State Department so as not to offend the-then Communist government of Yugoslavia. Such a display of appreciation for the Chetniks would not have been welcome as the Western Allies, who had supported the Chetniks early in World War II, switched sides to Josip Broz Tito's Partisans for the latter part of the war. The award was presented to Mihailović's daughter Gordana Mihajlovic by the US State Department on May 9, 2005.

Authority to erect a monument to Mihailovich was given in 1989 by the National Committee of American Airmen in Washington, District of Columbia, in recognition of the role he played in saving the lives of more than five hundred United States airmen in Yugoslavia during World War II. [33]

On September 12, 2004, five years after the NATO armed conflict against Yugoslavia, four American veterans, Clare Musgrove, Arthur Jibilian, George Vujnovich and Robert Wilson, visited Pranjani for the unveiling of a commemorative plaque. [34] A bill introduced in the US House of Representatives by Bob Latta on July 31, 2009, requested that Jibilian be awarded the Medal of Honor for his part in Operation Halyard.

On Veterans' Day, 2007, the U.S. Ambassador to Serbia, Cameron Munter, visited Pranjani and presented the citizens of the area with a proclamation signed by the Governor of the State of Ohio expressing gratitude to the Serbian families that rescued hundreds of U.S. airmen whose aircraft had been shot down by Nazi forces in World War II.

On October 17, 2010, George Vujnovich was awarded the Bronze Star in a ceremony in New York City for his role in the operation. [35] [36] Vujnovich trained the volunteers who carried out the rescue, teaching them how to blend in with other Serbians, by mastering mundane tasks conforming to local custom, such as tying and tucking their shoelaces and pushing food onto their forks with their knives during meals.

Dresden Was Known as the &aposGerman Florence&apos on the Elbe

The ruins of Dresden Frauenkirche, a Lutheran church. In the background is the dome of the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. 

Deutsche Fotothek/Picture Alliance/Getty Images

Observers noted early on that the bombing of Dresden did not only mean the death of civilians, but the destruction of a center of European culture and Baroque splendor. Since the rule of August the Strong (1670-1733), the “German Florence” on the Elbe, was home to famous collections of art, porcelain collection, prints, scientific instruments, and jewelry.

Many Germans perceived a particular injustice in the late bombing of Dresden in February in 1945𠅊 sentiment that gained some international traction in the postwar years. Dresden was a densely crowded city in the winter of 1945, filled with refugees fleeing the advancing Red Army. For most of them, the end of the war looked near and inevitable and a full-scale attack unnecessary.

Allied strategists, however, were afraid of allowing the Wehrmacht to regroup within Germany’s border if they eased on their pressure. The U.S. Army alone had suffered almost 140,000 casualties from December to January 1945 and 27,000 in the week prior to the Dresden bombing alone—the heaviest losses in the Western Allies’ war against Hitler.

So while the Dresden bombing was a terror campaign that dealt a devastating assault on civilians and cultural sites, it was part of a war in which such tactics had been widely𠅊nd grimly�ployed. Less than three months later, and eight days after Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his underground bunker, the German High Command signed the unconditional surrender of all German forces. 

Watch the video: Prisoners of War During World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special