The 'Great Escape' directed by John Stugers is based on a true escape attempt which is unimaginable even in an hollywood plot or any escape attempted with such secrecy known to so many people from a prison camp.
Year - 1943
Location - Sagan, Poland
Prison Camp - STALAG LUFT III
Tunnels - Tom (shortest tunnel)
- George (attempted even after great escape was foiled)
Organization - X commitee
Organizer - Roger Bruschell
- Albert Clark was incharge for interviewing prisoners elligble to participate
- Wally Floody incharge for mining the tunnels
Construction - began on April 1st 1943
Escapees - initially attempted 200
- who made it outside the prison 75
- captured 72
- Actually escaped 3 ( two by swedish frieghters, 1 to holland by train)
Stalag Luft was considered to be a no breakaway prison because the prison was built over a loose sand , which would not permeate a steady tunnel and the germans believed there cannot be any escape route. But as history would tell us they were totally wrong, against all odds and with complete determination and total secrecy 600 men organization called X organization headed by Roger Bruschell (who had the repute of trying to escape three times from other POW camps) using miners, tailors, planners, forgers, gardeners , theatrists and many many talented people devised the plan from start to finish with absolute probability to escape.
They consctructed the tunnel in the loose sand by sacrificing their wooden beds to support the tunnel at every feet and built their own trolleys , fed air into the tunnels using empty milk cans, stole electricity from germans using wires, used utensils as digging tools, tailors made inner garments to remove the dirt out of the tunnel that can be carried out undetected and spread in the garden outside, forgers were preparing passports , official seals were made out of souls of rubber boots etc..
Till Aug 1943 everything went undetected and they thought the first set of 200 prisoners would be back home that christmas. They selected the first 30 who were fluent in German and the remaining were hat picked by lottery. They had to be prepared for the date of escape, which was Mar 24 1944, for their forged passports had to be stamped for that day.
The unfortunate thing happened when one german soldier playing with a steel pipe on the sand dropped hard and found the tunnel TOM completely by accident. Four months all work stopped and work was resumed with Tunnel Harry the longest of them. A series of problems started as americans were moved out of the camp and thus lost the oppurtunity to participate in the Great Escape, winter set in and dirt from tunnels could no longer be thrown out undetected.
Finally the escape was planned as on Mar 24 1944 by 9 pm , a team already moved in but found they couldnt open the trap door at the exit end of the tunnel as the outer layer was covered with thick ice and quite unexpectedly the trap door was to be closer to the woods but it was few feets away from the prison outer barbed wire, where prisoners could be spotted if escaped in large numbers. Adding to the problem that night, allied air bombing made germans switch off the eleectricity and the tunnel became pitch dark.
Still by 4.30 am the next morning 75 of them managed to escape the prison, but a guard unexpected on duty spotted the escape of 75th person Keith Ogliveand fired the shots. Germans amassed 5 million soldiers initially to trace down every escapee and managed to capture 72 of them. The Great escape was successfull only for three of them who made to Switzerland and Holland. The news reached Hitler and he ordered the entire camp to be executed but out of the fear of how German POW would be treated in retaliation , 50 of the Air force officers were shot dead under the pretext that they tried to escape. Roger Bruschell unfortunately was one of them.
What motivated the prioners to continue attempting to escape was that the Geneva convention allowed POW to attempt escape from their enemy and most of the failed escapees were given harsh punishment by solitary confinements called coolers but never executed but that was violatd in killng of the 50 officers. Even after the execution another tunnel was attempted code named George but by then the war ended and the prison camps were burn in joy by the POW. The ones who were very lucky to survive remained to tell us this incredible story of bravery determination and craftmanship.