"The true story of one of the most heroic feats of World War II...the daring prison camp breakout that inspired the classic film The Great Escape.
Stalag Luft III was one of the Germans'' "escape-proof" prison camps, specially built to hold Allied troops. But on March 24, 1944, in a courageous attempt by 200 prisoners to break out through a series of tunnels, 76 Allied officers managed to evade capture -- and create havoc behind enemy lines in the months before the Normandy Invasion.
This is the incredible story of these brave men who broke free from the supposedly impenetrable barbed wire and watchtowers of Stalag Luft III. Some of them were involved in other daring escape attempts, including the famous Wooden Horse episode, also turned into a classic film, and the little-known Sachsenhausen breakout, engineered by five Great Escapers sent to die in the notorious concentration camp on Hitler''s personal orders. Tragically, fifty of those involved in the Great Escape were murdered by the Gestapo. Others were recaptured; only a few made it all the way to freedom. This dramatic account of personal heroism is a testament to their ingenuity and achievement -- a stirring tribute to the men who never gave up fighting."
This was a great read, every bit as lively and entertaining as the movie. No motorcycle chases, no stolen planes (the movie did get the plane idea from another escape made in this story but the plane never got off the ground) ... just told the way it happened. The true story needs no embellishment.
The book was written in 2004 and at that time there were only 7 men living who made their escape that night. It is interesting in the Prologue, that each gave a short version of their escape and each commented on looking back whether it was worth it or not, knowing that 50 of their friends were executed. Five said it was worth it, one said it was not, that the war was close to being over, and one did not even wish to think back to that time but concentrate on the present. The five that said it was worth it knew their job was to "harass, confuse and confound the enemy". That they did!
My dad fought in World War II and his father in the First World War. I always wondered if I would have the courage and fortitude of that generation had should I have had to go to war. I am forever thankful that I never had to find out.
Tim Carroll does a great job of telling the story the way it happened. It's a book worth reading.