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11 May 2012

The Great Escape

Stalag Luft III, as seen from a 1944 Allied reconnaissance image shortly after the escape.

RAF image (1944)

Same image as Google Earth overlay.

Marked are the three tunnels "Tom, Dick and Harry" (plus, the later and lesser known, "George").
  • "Tom" was discovered by the guards. 
  • "Dick" was abandoned when the treeline for which it was intended was cleared for a new section of the POW camp to be built 
  • One night in March of 1944, seventy-six Allied POW's escaped the Nazi camp using the 336 foot long tunnel, "Harry." 

Three made it to safety, 73 were ultimately captured, and of those, 50 were executed. Despite the depiction in the film, no Americans took part in the escape, but had been a part of digging the tunnels. In fact, when the prisoners learned the Americans were to be moved to a separate section of the camp, tunneling efforts were increased in hopes of finishing one of the three in time for them to participate in the attempt.

"George," by the way, was begun near the end of the war, but the camp abandoned before it was completed.

The true story of heroism is both tragic and inspiring-- as is the film version.

When the acts of man have been extraordinary, I believe the places associated with those acts become "more" and take on a special significance in and of themselves. I spent a few hours researching, compiling and marking for that reason.

The geographic location is just south of the town Żagań, Poland (formerly, Sagan, Germany).

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