Saturday 15 October 2022

Guest Review:Don’s Great Escape: Life in a German POW Camp By Donald E Phillips Edited by Theresa M Ripley

Don’s Great Escape is one man’s story of being in a German POW camp in WWII. Don’s plane went down over occupied France in 1943. He was captured and sent to Stalag Luft III made famous by the 1963 movie The Great Escape. On January 28, 1945, Stalag Luft III was evacuated so the camp would not be captured by the Russians. After several days of walking and being transported by boxcars, the prisoners eventually ended up in Stalag VIIA at Moosburg. Don was liberated on April 29, 1945. His story is told by letters written home to his parents. 

Review: During World War 2, Donald (Don) Phillips, brought up on a farm in Illinois, enlisted in the the United States Army Air Force. Trained as a navigator, he was posted to England and became operational with the US 8th Air Force in 1943. This eBook is an account of his wartime experiences based on his letters compiled, edited and published after his death by his niece Theresa Ripley.

In September 1943, Don’s aircraft was on a bombing mission over Germany. Due to difficulties caused by adverse weather conditions in locating the primary target, the ‘plane continued to the secondary target. Returning to base, the aircraft encountered more adverse weather conditions and was running out of fuel as it crossed France towards the English Channel. The crew decided to bale out and Don was captured and sent to the prisoner of war (POW) camp Stalag Luft III. The name of the book is a slight misnomer since Don did not attempt to escape. However, Stalag Luft III was the site of a mass breakout of 76 Allied prisoners, as depicted in the film “The Great Escape”, which explains the book’s title. The camp was divided into five separate compounds, and the escape occurred from a different compound from Don’s and he only found out about it after it had occurred.

POWs were allowed to write three single page letters home per month. The letters were kept by his parents and the book is a compilation of these letters interspersed with commentaries on major events occurring during the War, together with information gathered from other POWs, by his niece. The letters are mainly upbeat, but do give an impression of the boredom of a POW’s life, when letters from home and Red Cross parcels were major highlights. Throughout his captivity, Don was looking forward to his release and return home, and kept an optimistic view of when the war might end, aided by reports the prisoners managed to hear on their illicit radio set.

In January 1945, as the Soviet Army advanced through Eastern Germany, Stalag Luft III was evacuated and the prisoners were marched southwards in freezing conditions for four days before being taken by train to Stalag VIIA. Here they remained until liberated by the American Army at the end of April. Don was freed and finally arrived home in June 1945.

Although the format of the book, by the very nature of the limited correspondence Don was permitted during his time in captivity, is unusual and does not flow easily, it is essentially an uplifting story. It is a very personal history of one man’s war experience and offers a different perspective from the more familiar escape stories.

To order your copy now, just click here!

No comments:

Post a Comment