Stalag Luft III
Camps NORTH, SOUTH, & WEST
A WWII German Prisoner Of War Camp located at Zagan, Poland
<-Click map twice to view full size.
This web page is created for
Lt. Delbert E Harris Jr. 352nd Fighter Squadron.
Delbert helped dig in the George tunnel.
The YELLOW, outlines the aerial
photo taken after the Great Escape
My dad, Lt. Delbert E Harris Jr. was in Stalag Luft III. When he got there it was very crowded (August 1944) and he was put in the British side, as the American side was full. He said that this was very much better for him, as the Brits had been there a lot longer and had figured out how to do things more efficiently and that by sharing everyone did better. Dad worked on "GEORGE", he was one of the guys with dirt bags in his trouser legs spreading around the spoils from the tunnel operations.
In February / March of 1945 Stalag Luft III was evacuated, as the Russians were advancing from the East. All of the prisoners (some 10,000 plus) were put on a forced march to the West, staying in barns and conscripted houses, churches, bombed out factories or what ever was available at night, eating only what food they had carried from the camp. All were very week from lack of food, many had dysentery. It was also the coldest and snowiest winter in many years. The guards were all either very old men, or very young boys, and many were not in much better shape than the prisoners. Three times, while marching through the snow and rain, my dad just stepped out of line and hid in buildings, hay stacks, etc. Twice he was re-captured and returned to the line of prisoners, but the third time he was successful in evading recapture and "took it on the lamb". He was dressed in a rag-tag mixture of uniform articles and civilian garb, so he pretty much blended in with the large number of displaced civilians who were also on the roads at the time. After about a week he was able to link up with one of Patton's tank spearheads. After he was able to convince the army types that he was indeed an American, he was fed, given a rifle and rode around in a jeep for several more days until the spearhead connected with the advancing allied army. So he "escaped" about two or three weeks earlier than the rest of the prisoners were liberated. At the time of his escape he weighed less than 100 pounds (he was 5' 10" tall).
He was put into a Red Cross camp in preparation for being sent state-side, but was impatient with the bureaucracy and delay, so he once again "escaped", wangled a ride in a C-47 returning to England and hitched a ride back to his fighter base. He found his shaving kit was still on the counter in the latrine where he had left it, 10 months earlier when he departed on his last mission. His fighter outfit shipped him home on survivor's leave. Unfortunately, the Red Cross had lost track of him and feared he was once again a guest of the Germans. He was home with his parents in Riverside, California when a Western Union telegram from the war department arrived for his dad with the message "We regret to inform you that your son Delbert Harris is once again missing in action." Dad had that telegram framed.