The Other Great Escape

One of my favorite WWII movies is The Great Escape, depicting the true story of an elaborate escape of American and British prisoners from a German POW camp. The prisoners dug a long tunnel out of their prison, devising a number of ingenious methods to get rid of the dirt they dug out.

Less well known to history is an almost identical escape of German prisoners from an American POW camp, just outside Phoenix, Arizona. Ronald H. Bailey tells the story of how the German prisoners used many of the same tricks as their Allied counterparts to spring 25 of their number to freedom. Of course, even in December and January, the Arizona desert can be quite unforgiving, so the escapees didn’t get far. Many of them voluntarily turned themselves in after a few days.

In the end, all the escaped prisoners landed back in the camp, sentenced to several weeks on a bread and water diet. They were luckier than the Allied escapees, many of whom were shot.


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