Stalag Luft III
Part IV – The Americans
The officer airmen who were POWs in the German camps at Stalag Luft III arrived there through an accident of war. They varied widely in age, military rank, education, and family background, but had several common experiences:
- They all volunteered to go to war as airmen.
- They all completed pilot training.
- They all engaged in aerial combat.
- They all were survivors of a traumatic catastrophe in the air.
This unique selection process seemed to give these men some common characteristics. They had an uncommon love of country and a loyalty to each other. They were very resourceful and applied great skill to improve their living conditions and to conduct escape and other clandestine activities. They indeed became a band of brothers.
In retrospect, most later acknowledged that their experience as prisoners was not simply an unpleasant waste of time but that they came out of it with, among other things, a clearer sense of values, a strengthened love of country, improved leadership skills, and an improved ability to live in harmony with others under difficult circumstances.
After the war the majority continued their comradery by staging many heart-warming reunions and by establishing at the Air Force Academy Library a central location for the preservation of their memorabilia and the records of their incarceration. Many went on to complete successful and distinguished careers in the Air Force, or in civilian life, some as political appointees in government, others in the professions, including the ministry.