|Lt. Delbert E Harris Jr. Captured in August, 1944|
|Stalag Luft III, see blue star, right, is the camp my dad was in after being shot down in Aug, 1944. He had been a test pilot at a repair depot since the winter of '43/44, but after about 20 request chits, finally got assigned to a P-47 outfit and flew his first combat mission on the day after D-day. He had 21 missions when he was shot down by AKAK over occupied France. He probably could have gotten back to an emergency field near the beach, but the radar controllers got his plane and another mixed up and gave him an incorrect heading that left him within sight of the allied lines, but on the wrong side when he finally had to bail out of his flaming plane. Tunneling activities in camp were still going on when he got there, and he was one of the guys with the sacks of dirt in his pant's legs, who would distribute it out on the athletic field. His escapes did not come, however, until the final month of the war. As the Russians advanced from the East, all the POW's at Sagan were moved West from one camp to another in terrible conditions of snow, bitter cold, no or little food and water. Three times dad stepped out of the line||
Click map to see German Prisons and ESCAPE MAPS
|of march during the snow storms and headed off in another direction. Twice he was recaptured and returned to his fellow prisoners (after a sundry beating or two), but the third time he managed to walk west for several days (the worn and rag-tag outfits worn by the POW's were not unlike the clothing worn by the huge numbers of displaced persons already on the roads, so he was not as conspicuous as one might imagine.) until he encountered one of Patton's tank spearheads. He was given a rifle and rode along with them for several days before they finally linked up with a supply column and he was repatriated to France and finally England. He weighed less than 100 pounds at that point.|
|One of my
dad's buddies from the camp was shot down over France and picked up by
the French resistance. He, and a dozen other allied fliers, were
being handed from one resistance "cell" to another as they were moved
south towards Spain. In Paris, they were handed over to a bogus
cell that was, in truth, run by the SS. They were all handed over
to the Gestapo, convicted as spies (all were in civilian clothes at
this point) and shipped off to Buchenwald, one of the Nazi death
camps. They were there for about 4 months (the first month living
outside, and absolutely naked, in the chilly fall of 1944) before
enough of the other inmates died (or were killed) that there were
vacant bunks and unused clothing for them.
Somehow the Luftwaffe got wind of the plight of these guys and snatched them out of Buchenwald just days before they were scheduled to be gassed.
Stalag Luft III was in the Berlin area.
|They were all moved
to Stalag Luft III, near Sagan, now
Żagań in Poland, 100 miles southeast of Berlin; but were all sick, weak
and starved nearly to death
after just 4 months in Buchenwald. Quite a story. At Stalag
Luft III, dad reports
that, while the German captors were very stern, they were not sadistic
or inhumane. In truth, the German guards did not have much more
to eat or better living conditions than the POWs. Certainly,
compared to Japan, Korea or Viet Nam, this was a cake walk.
Best wishes, Lary 11/21/2004
See Dad's Plane