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.
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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 CohenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved