Opened in April 1942 at Sagan, Poland, Stalag Luft III was designed to be an escape-proof POW camp. The first successful breakout occurred in October 1943, when three British RAF pilots escaped through a tunnel whose entrance had been concealed under a wooden vaulting horse. All three made their way back to Britain.
In result of their success, on the night of March 24, 1944, 76 men managed to escape through three tunnels (affectionately nicknamed Tom, Dick and Harry) in what the Allies and the public would come to know as the “Great Escape.” However only three of the 76 men reached safety through luck and the French resistance. Fifty of the men were caught and executed on Hitler’s personal orders, violating the Geneva Convention of 1906. Seventeen of the men were sent to Stalag Luft III. Four were sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where they succeeded in tunneling out under electric fences and doubled guards. Persistent escapees were sent to Colditz Castel near Leipzig, though several successful escapes were from there too, despite German efforts. There were other mass breakouts as well, but most escapees were recaptured, many of the men were then executed or sent to concentrations camps to die.
Despite the risks soldiers on both sides of the war faced several successful breakouts succeeded in diverting enemy forces from the front. German prisoners escaped from camps in both Canada and Wales, but were recaptured shortly afterward while Down Under, four Australian soldiers and 231 Japanese POWs died during an uprising in Cowra, New South Wales.
April 27, 2012, 3:01pm / 14