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One of the war's most fantastic episodes, the escape of nearly one hundred prisoners of war, was engineered and executed by the allied P.O.W.'s at Stalag Luft III in German Silesia on a cold and windy March night in 1944. Frustrated by three years of unsuccessful, small-scale attempts at tunneling their way to safety, the men decided that this time they would create so vast an escape mechanism that no necessary detail would be overlooked. I organization soon swung into action, papers and passports were forged, a tailor shop was set up to convert allied uniforms into rough facsimiles of civilian dress, fat lamps to light the tunnels were made from tin cans, margarine and pajama cord for wicks, shovels were turned out from pieces of old stoves, air-pumps from old kit bags and air pipe-lines from empty powdered milk can securely joined together. Three tunnels, each 30 feet deep and nearly 200 feet long, were begun and two reached completion. Yet unlike fictional escapes, this one ended in grim tragedy when all save a few were caught and murdered in cold blood by the Gestapo. An unusual war story, which has many of the elements of The T Horse but not the literary quality, and it is to be remembered that that book did not reach a wide public in spite of its press.

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 1950
Publisher: Norton