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The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III: The Full Story of How 76 Allied Officers Carried Out World War II's Most Remarkable Mass Escape Paperback – August 2, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 1944 breakout of 76 Royal Air Force officers from a German POW camp, immortalized in the classic war movie The Great Escape, gets a vigorous retelling in this absorbing historical study. Journalist and television producer Carroll follows the exploits of the irrepressible airmen throughout the war, recounting their colorful backstories and their many escape attempts from several German camps. The climactic breakout from the supposedly escape-proof Stalag Luft III proves a logistical epic. The POWs had to engineer and build three huge tunnels, hide thousands of tons of excavated dirt, tailor civilian outfits and German army uniforms, forge identification documents and even manufacture compasses for the escapees, all under the noses of their guards. Carroll is even-handed in noting the usually gentlemanly relations that prevailed between the opponents; one German commandant sent a case of champagne to some escaped POWs after their recapture in a sporting nod to their ingenuity. But by 1944, German attitudes had hardened, and 50 of the Great Escapees were executed on Hitler's orders, an atrocity that Carroll reconstructs, along with a judicious assignment of blame to the various German officials involved. Given that only three POWs eluded recapture, it seems that this most romantic of World War II adventures was also one of the most tragic.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The POWs in Stalag Luft III, near Sagan, Germany, were Allied Air Force officers captured by the Germans during World War II. The prisoners involved in the escape eventually dug 100 tunnels, and of the 76 who escaped on March 24, 1944, 50 were caught and murdered by the Gestapo. Carroll describes in graphic detail Hermann Goring's "escape-proof" camp, the early attempts to flee via tunnels, the so-called wooden-horse escape plot, the experiences of the escapees (including their interrogations by the Gestapo), Hitler's fury over POW escapes, his order to shoot those who were recaptured, and the prisoners' role in Allied intelligence operations. Carroll interviewed the seven men still living who took part in the escape and has written a fascinating story of one small episode in World War II history. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (August 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416505318
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416505310
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #806,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on April 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
Most of the information presented herein has already been presented by earlier authors writing about the Great Escape. One unique feature of this book is the testimony of those 7 of the original 76 escapees who were still alive at the time of publication of this book (2004). Most of them believed, in retrospect, that the Great Escape had been worth it. But one of them opined that it was not worth the lives of the 50 who had been murdered by the Germans. The book has some unique photographs, and contains an extensive bibliography of books and other materials on the Great Escape.

Carroll provides good detail about the construction of the three openings (traps) of the tunnels Tom, Dick, and Harry. A group of Polish RAF officers who were engineers designed and built the traps. So cleverly were the traps constructed that the Germans found only one of them (Tom), and then only by accident and after numerous unsuccessful intensive searches.

The author Carroll makes some biased statements that detract from the otherwise excellent quality of the book. He claims, for instance, that the escaped POWs were engaging in espionage because the information they obtained was not all entirely related to their escape prospects, as they necessarily observed objects of military significance during their traverses through Germany and Germany-occupied territories. But, using such a loose definition of espionage, how could escaped POWs not be engaging in espionage? He also makes the ridiculous statement that Churchill wanted to "flatten every acre" of Germany, and brings up the destruction of Dresden in this regard.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Slim on February 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a truly fascinating story. Unfortunately the author leaves out so much. For example, how did the men actually dig the tunnel? What did they use to dig? How did they estimate the distance of the tunnel? What was the process of making fake papers, uniforms, etc? Unfortunately the author provides no insight on these details. Given that these were amazing feats their exclusion is disappointing. But the biggest problem with the writing is the author's occasional interjections of his own (at times absurd) opinions. For example, near the beginning of the book he chides other writers who in his view took a "mawkish pose" regarding the 50 soldiers who were shot. He then goes on to conjecture that those men were still treated fairly well and "would be the last to complain about their treatment." That seems a blantantly presumptous thing to say. And in the last line of the book the author gets preachy in his suggestion that younger generations could learn a thing or two from the Bible. Also throughout the book the author makes very pompous observations. For example, he refers to "amateur" escape attempts! This makes one wonder if Carroll has any idea at all what it must have been like to be imprisoned during the war...and what it must have been like to attempt any kind of escape. So while I'm fascinated with the story, I'm disappointed with Carroll's telling of it--primarily his lack of detail and his frequently arrogant tone. I'd recommend looking for another account of the escape.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By aeb430 on March 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
I grew up watching the Great Escape with my father. I always liked the movie and considered it one of my top 10 favorite war movies. After reading Ghost Soldiers (about POWs in a Phillipine camp), I found this book.

The author starts out stating that he is merely attempting to tell the full story of the Great Escape and is in no way trying to discredit the movie version.

His approach is to use the information he gathered from many, many sources including survivors of the ordeal who are still living. He simply tells the real story and at no time criticizes the movie version.

As we all know, Hollywood has a tendency to distort an original story in an effort to increase profits. Its nice to know what really happened in Stalag Luft III and the events leading up to and after the Escape.

The author adds a reprint of the transcript of the war crimes trials where Herman Goring denies ever knowing about an order to kill escaped prisoners. Its a nice touch.

If you liked the movie and have any interest in WWII history, I recommend reading the full story about the Greatest Escape of all.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the most fascinating books on a subject that has always fascinated me -- the 1944 "Great Escape" from Stalag Luft III.

The details are well-known to most World War II students and movie fans -- although the movie took considerable liberties with the facts to provide Steve McQueen with a ripping good motorcycle chase scene.

But the real story of the "Great Escape" is more complicated than people realize. The British, Commonwealth, American, and Allied PoWs behind the wire are often portrayed in books, films, and TV shows as being clever, high-spirited pranksters pulling one over on their buffoonish, humorless, square-headed captors on a daily basis. This book shows that it was not so -- escape from PoW camps was a difficult enterprise, waged against a fairly determined and intelligent enemy, and that it was not a case of schoolboy hijinks -- it was serious operations. The British officers who headed the Escape Committees and "X Organizations" regarded escaping as being part of fighting the war -- using escaped PoWs to distract German forces, make them mobilize increasingly scarce assets to hunt them down, and thus drain the Nazi economy and war effort.

The X Organization also realized that it was the planning and working on escape attempts that boosted PoW morale -- not merely getting home. Working on escape attempts gave PoWs purpose and energy in life, instead of whiling away their captive time in inertia.

Mr. Carroll takes a slightly different approach to telling this familiar story -- we hear directly from many PoWs and relatives, learning about such things as how they communicated by code to MI 9 in London, and their interrogation by the Gestapo.

There are some holes...
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