THE FAUSTBALL TUNNEL: German POWs in America and Their Great Escape by John Hammond Moore

THE FAUSTBALL TUNNEL: German POWs in America and Their Great Escape

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Of the 371,000 German POWs who spent time in US detention centers during World War II, Moore picks up on the exploits of 25 U-boat officers and NCOs held at Papago Park, in the Arizona desert. Segregated into a special compound for troublemakers and hard cases, they decided to take action: ""The Geneva Convention, you know, recognizes escape as a legitimate sport,"" one of the runaways said to Moore. And it's as sport that Moore treats the tunneling operation that penetrated 178 feet of earth and rock, freeing 25 POWs who would try to make it to Mexico. . . . Though Moore has been meticulous about gathering the facts of how the tunnel was dug and disguised as a faustball (volleyball) court under the very eyes of American guards, his interpretation of the breakout as a lark prompted by sheer boredom comes from 30-years-after-the-fact discussions with German vets when bonhomie could flow freely. At the time, as Arizona press accounts and high-level military investigations make clear, the matter was regarded as anything but a joke. Civilians were especially outraged to learn that ""Nazi"" POWs were being fed and clothed better than the rationed home folk. For all the detail, the story of the Great Escape German-style never builds much drama but it's a useful vehicle for Moore to look at an unusual and infrequently-discussed aspect of the war. For a more complete and less sanguine picture of WW II POWs in the US, see Judith M. Gansberg's Stalag: USA (1977).

Pub Date: May 4th, 1978
Publisher: Random House