From Interrogation to Liberation
A Photographic Journey
Stalag Luft 111 – The Road to Freedom
by Marilyn Jeffers Walton and Michael C. Eberhardt
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About the Book
During World War II, 300,000 United States Army Air Corps airmen were shot down. Of that number, 51,000 were prisoners of war or listed as missing in action. Bombardiers, positioned in the vulnerable bombardiers’ compartment at the front of the aircraft, were in high demand. The authors’ fathers were two such bombardiers, one on a B-17 and the other on a B-24.
Like so many of the post-war generation, the authors traveled on their own emotional journeys to reconstruct their fathers’ WWII experiences. Their fathers fought in the flak-ridden “blue battlefield,” and like thousands of other airmen shot out of the sky, became prisoners of war. They would endure deprivation, loneliness, and great peril. Held at Stalag Luft III, where the Great Escape of movie fame took place, they, along with the British, were eventually force marched 52-miles in the dead of winter to Spremberg, Germany, and loaded onto overcrowded, filthy, boxcars, the Americans to be taken to Stalag VIIA in Moosburg, Germany, or to Stalag XIII-D in Nürnberg. Languishing until their liberation in barbaric conditions with nearly 120,000 international POWs, they witnessed the death throes of the Third Reich.
With many sons and daughters trying to explore the wartime histories of their loved ones, the authors supply crucial information and insight regarding the World War II POW experience in Europe. Often times, by necessity, that experience reflects the co-existence and tenuous relationship with the Germans holding them. In this book, there are stories that up until now have not been heard, and there are hundreds of pictures, many previously unseen, illustrating the prisoners’ plight. This book is a documentation of riveting history and a chance to vicariously live the war, told through their voices –echoes now fading with time. Their sacrifices to ensure precious freedom should never be forgotten.
The stories in this book are surprisingly evenhanded despite its main theme of World War II. The authors’ ability to garner source material from all over the world is utterly amazing. I thoroughly endorse this book to be read by not only World War II history buffs, but by the general reading public for a little human insight into one of the greatest calamities of the twentieth century.
Hanns-Claudius Scharff, Son of Hanns Joachim Scharff, Master Interrogator of Germany
– There was no such thing as a milk run. Every mission was fraught with danger. The first flight into enemy territory frequently was the last. This book reflects the danger of my generation’s experiences flying missions in Europe and our lives as captives of the Germans. Once a prisoner of war, our greatest morale booster was receiving a letter from our loved ones. The authors have accurately demonstrated an understanding of the personal nature of captivity as I experienced it.
POW # 3850
Stalag Luft III
– The history of Stalag Luft III has been revealed by numerous writers. This publication is the most accurate, emotional, sensitive one ever written as read by one of the survivors involved.
POW #8928 – Buchenwald #78361
Stalag Luft III/Buchenwald survivor
– The story of The Great Escape made the Stalag Luft III POW camp a household name, but many more stories tied to that camp equal it in scope and heroism. There’s the Swedish lawyer, who risked his life, crisscrossing war-torn Germany to keep the POWs connected to the outside world. There are the Allied POWs who were originally imprisoned at the infamous Buchenwald Concentration Camp. And there are the numerous heart-pounding firsthand accounts of doomed missions over German skies, as airmen narrowly escaped their burning aircraft, and the brave defiance and resistance against their German captors that followed. Hollywood should take notice; each one of these exhaustively-researched personal stories could be its own film.
Filmmaker, Lost Airmen of Buchenwald
– The stories in this book are surprisingly evenhanded despite its main theme of World War II. The authors’ ability to garner source material from all over the world is utterly amazing. I thoroughly endorse this book to be read by not only World War II history buffs, but by the general reading public for a little human insight into one of the greatest calamities of the twentieth century.
Son of Hanns Joachim Scharff
Master Interrogator of Germany
– The US Air Force Academy is the official repository for the papers of the Association of Former Prisoners of War at Stalag Luft III. The collections inspire cadets who learn about the courage and resourcefulness of airmen. This book represents an excellent effort to expand on this history though photos, sketches, and individual POW stories never published before.
Dr. Mary Elizabeth Ruwell
Chief of Special Collections Branch McDermott Library
United States Air Force Academy
– When my father, then Lt. Col. A.P. Clark, crash landed his shot-up Spitfire on the coast of France in 1942, little did he dream that 33 months as a POW lay ahead of him. His time at Stalag Luft III would deeply affect him and his family for the rest of his life. I was not quite three years old when he left, and nearly seven when he finally came home. I longed to know what had happened to him. These remarkable photographs tell his story and that of his fellow POWs. Many of the photos were taken with clandestine cameras and brought back by my father after liberation. He ultimately donated the collection of photos and his scrapbook to the Air Force Academy Library. I am deeply grateful to Marilyn and Mike for making the photos widely available, along with others they discovered through their own tireless efforts. This book is a moving tribute to the thousands of allied airmen who, even as POWs, carried on the fight in World War II in Europe. I am thrilled that the sale of this book will benefit the museum at the site where so many brave airmen were imprisoned near Zagan, Poland.
Carolyn Clark Miller
Daughter of Lt. Gen. Albert P. Clark
Author of 33 Months as a Prisoner of War
in Stalag Luft III
– Here is a splendid set of stories, hard to put down. The stories are true. They raise vivid memories for those of us, who, in some parts, are familiar with the events, pictures, and persons featured. Of greater import, the two authors, Walton and Eberhardt, were personally and emotionally involved in all of their research, making their great effort doubly meaningful.
The readers of this book are bound to be deeply moved as they share the stirring accounts about American and British POWs–about genuine heroes who fought and died for our freedom.
John E. Dolibois
Ambassador to Luxembourg – 1981-85
Captain, U.S. Army 1942-46
Interrogator of POWs
Nürnberg War Crimes Commission
Author of Pattern of Circles—
An Ambassador’s Story
– These wonderful and astounding stories of life behind the wire of the infamous German prisoner of war camp, Stalag Luft III, have moved me more than any fiction, more than any movie, because they are the raw truth told as it was experienced. This book is a beacon of human resilience and hope in the darkness of endless confinement, and it made my spirit soar. Stripped of heroics and cinematic bravado, this is the honest, personal truth—and it deserves to be read from cover to cover.
Son of RAF POW
L/Cdr Peter Butterworth
Stalag Luft III
– Marilyn Walton and Mike Eberhardt artfully blend broad scope and exhaustive research with meticulous, respectful, attention to accuracy and meaningful detail. Readers glean extensive and compelling insight into the human dimensions of WWII and life behind the wire. Their inspirational work underscores to all heirs of “The Greatest Generation” the importance of retrieving, preserving, and sharing freedom’s stories.
Pamela Sconiers Whitelock
Niece of 1st Lt. Ewart T. Sconiers
Stalag Luft III
– The generation that embraced its freedom as a birthright of the end of the Second World War, has often been labeled as complacent and guilty of short memory. Marilyn Walton and Michael Eberhardt, both children of fathers imprisoned at Stalag Luft III, have not taken this gift lightly. Indeed, they have returned to the scene, dug deep to find personal views of prison hardship – as witnessed by both captive and captor – and gathered a definitive collection of original images from inside the wire. They treat the opportunity to tell their fathers’ stories as seriously as their fathers treated service in the air war over Europe.
Author of The Great Escape: A Canadian Story
– The style of the prose presents a picture of young men who suddenly find themselves in the world of the enemy. For almost all, there was never any prior exposure, nor was there heavy thinking that this could occur. Each had their own background, but there was one common denominator. The transition from freedom to life being on a perilously thin thread was instantaneous. What transition in life can match that speed? The event and the environment (especially the people) were cause for losing one’s sense of balanced thinking. Marilyn and Mike approach this phenomenon in a manner that holds on to you and does not let the reader forget it. No shouting, complaining, or shocked reaction, but the reader (if not a former kriegie) is absolutely influenced to learn how the subject(s) coped with this revolutionary change. As a former kriegie, the smell of stoves in winter, the welcome greeting of the mail man, and the heretofore socialization was replaced for the almost desperate need for privacy, whether in the bunk bed or on the walk around the perimeter fence, or just before falling asleep. That unique kriegie feeling has been fully developed and accurately translated throughout this remarkable book. Did the authors actually experience this? Actually no, but only because they told you so.
Stalag Luft III
– In this impressive compilation of well written narrative series of “There I Was” stories and photographic illustrations, the authors have produced an extraordinary work on the history of the prisoner of war experience of Allied airmen in occupied Europe during World War II. The work covers many aspects of that experience and constitutes a major contribution to existing literature. As the former custodian of the Stalag Luft III historical collection at the United States Air Force Academy, I welcome this important contribution. “Lest We Forget”
Duane J. Reed
United States Air Force Academy
– By combining factual records, anecdotal accounts, diaries, interviews and pictures, the authors have created a succinct and fascinating account of the brave aviators who became Prisoners of War (POWs) in World War II. With views from both sides of the “wire,” the book provides a new historical perspective of the camps; the men in them, the men who ran them and the governments behind each. It is a very readable, instructive and important resource book.
RCAF Prisoner of War
POW # 2570
Stalag Luft III
Author of Goon in the Block
– This book created by Walton and Eberhardt goes a long way in revealing the personal recollections of all of us on both sides of the wire who spent long days at Stalag Luft III. In particular, the experience of the Tuskegee Airmen is told with memorable and significant detail. We, who were shot down and lived as prisoners of war so far from our homes, are grateful to the authors for giving insight into our days in that camp and other camps until our final day of liberation. We are further grateful to them for allowing our stories to provide a monetary gift to the museum in Zagan that so well preserves our wartime experiences so no one will ever forget.
POW #7538 Stalag Luft III
Author of Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free
– No matter how much you’ve read about Stalag Luft 3, you’ll still find something new here. This is a wonderful collection of anecdotes and vignettes concerning the remarkable men who found themselves guests at Sagan during the Second World War. The dedication, the determination, the humour, the perseverance, the spirit – they all come through in these beautifully told stories.
Jonathan F. Vance, PhD
Distinguished University Professor and J.B. Smallman Chair
The University of Western Ontario
Author of A Gallant Company
We are extremely grateful to Marilyn Walton for contacting us about her beautiful, moving and very inspiring book. If you’d like to order a copy, please click on the cover photo at the top of the post to be directed to the Amazon Bookstore.
Marilyn and Michael have also just finished another book – From Commandant to Captive: The Memoirs of Stalag Luft III Commandant Col. Friedrich Wilhelm von Lindeiner genannt von Wildau With Postwar Interviews, Letters, and Testimony
By Marilyn Walton, Michael Eberhardt
At 6:30 a.m. on 27 January 1945, Col. Friedrich von Lindeiner, the court martialed and exiled “gentleman” ex-Commandant of Stalag Luft III, sat in the waiting room of the Görlitz train station hoping to return to Sagan, Germany, to fight the approaching Russians. The distance from Görlitz to Sagan was 28.5 miles. He arrived fifteen hours later as 10,000 Allied prisoners of war were evacuating his former camp. Like them, he would soon view the war from both inside and outside the barbed wire. Later, as a prisoner of war, he was held by the British for two years before returning to a devastated and divided Germany.
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