Stalag Luft IV
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Map of Stalag Luft IV

(Enlisted Airmen )

Location; Pin Point 54% N, by 16 % E on the globe. The camp is between Grosstychow, Pomerania and the railroad station of Kiefheide, 20 kilometers southeast of Bergard.

Description; Camp opened to Americans on may 12, 1944, this new camp was one quarter completed with capacity to house 6,400 pows, by January, 1945 there were 10,000+. These were wooden barracks and the ventilation system was insufficient.

Treatment; Poor

Food; Poor and Red Cross parcels supply were not adequate.

Clothing; Clothing supply is insufficient.

Health; Medical doctors were: Capt. W.E. McMee, Louisville, KY. 1st lt. Julian E. Boggess, Macon MS. Capt. H. J. Wysen, Youngstown, OH. Capt. Robert Pollock, England. Capt. Leslie Caplan, Detroit, MI. And very little medical supplies were oh hand.

Religion; The padres were Rev. Anthony Jackson, Isle of Guernsey. Rev. T. J. E. Lynch, England. Rev. Rex Morgan, South Wales, England.

Mail; Mail arrived irregularly and all mail came and went through Stalag Luft III, as Stalag Luft IV did not have a post office.

Work; NCOs are not required to work by the Geneva Convention, only to volunteer.

Camp Leaders; American man of confidence, Frances Paules, Landsdale PA. Lager A, Richard M. Chapman, Daytona Beach FL. Lager A, Willard C. Miller, Carencro, LA. Lager C, Frances Troy. Lager D, Frances Paules.

POWs; 606 British. 147 Canadians. 37 Australians. 22 New Zealanders. 8 South Africans. 1 Norwegian. 2 French. 58 Poles. 5 Czechs, and the balance were Americans.

General Info; The first 64 POWs arrived May 14, 1944 when Stalag Luft IV was officially opened and on July 18 and 19, 1944, and 2,400 Americans and 800 British arrived from the closing of Stalag Luft VI at Hydekrug in East Prussia.

Camp; Is placed in the center of a clearing of a pine forest. The camp is divided into 5 areas, compound or lager A-B-C-D and the vorlager, which housed the Germans personnel barracks and the infirmary, food, hospital, clothing and Red Cross parcel storerooms.

The POW area was dormitory type barracks, having 10 sleeping rooms with 16 POWs with two tiered bunks in each room, but instead had 24 POW's and three tiered bunks, and some of the men sleep on the floor. Each room had a small coal stove for heat, and was only used part of the day (mostly at evening before lights out.) Each barracks had a two hole latrine for 240 POW's to be used at night only, and each lager or compound has two open air latrines with two 20 holers back to back with urinals, and the stagnant pits were drained by the Russian POW's and spread on the fields outside the camp area. Each lager had two outside wells with pumps to provide drinking and washing water and the water was tested and showed to be potable, but there were no cases of typhoid or cholera. There were no facilities for bathing or delousing and there were parasites, fleas, lice, bedbugs were very common.

Food; Food was daily ration of bread (and the contents was 50% bruised rye grain ,20% sliced sugar beets, 20% tree flaur (sawdust) and 10% minced leaves or straw.) Some margarine, boiled potatoes and some soup mixture of potato, turnip, carrot, dehydrated sauerkraut, rutabaga, kohlrabi and some meat (mostly horse meat.)

The POW's received cooked barley and millet several times a week. Red Cross parcels were received once in a while and were divided between 4 to 6 POWs.

Medical; No dental facilities and the hospital had a little over 100 beds. There is one bathtub in the hospital and no bed sheets, no facilities for major surgery, no Xray, and sick call was 1030 to 1200 hours daily, and each lager had a make shift dispensary. July 17, 18, 19, and August 5 and 6, 1944., Americans and British were treated who had been bayoneted, clubbed and bitten by dogs, while they were forced to run from the railroad station to the camp, a distance of 3 kilometers (one POW who was bayoneted, his medical tag read "sun stroke", because he had been given a tetanus anti-toxin shot. No POW's died from this ordeal, but it was estimated that over 100 POW's were treated for wounds and dog bites, and one POW had over 60 wounds and dog bites.

General condition of POW's; The average weight loss was 15 to 20 pounds before the forced March in February 1945. POW's were locked up in their barracks from 4:00pm until the next morning 7:00am. Upper respiratory, tonsillitis, diarrhea, skin diseases, diphtheria, jaundice, tuberculosis, meningitis, hemorrhoids, arthritis and 15% to 20% with war wounds.

German personnel; Oberst Leutnant (Lt. Colonel) Aribert Bombach. Commandant-Hauptmann (Captain) Walter Pickhardt. Security Officer-Feldwebel (Sergeant) Reinhard Fahnert. In charge of POWs, also other guards were Big Stoop, Upsteen, Green Hornet, Squarehead, Cowboy, Smiley, Hollywood (one eye) and many others. The Germans ate the Red Cross parcels and the best of the food while the POWs were on extremely short rations.

Jan. 28,1945 a train load (mostly sick and wounded) were taken to Stalag Luft I at Barth, Germany and Feb. 2, 1945, another train load was taken to Nurenberg, Germany.

Final evacuation of Stalag Luft IV; The rest of the camp was walked out starting Feb.6-7-8, 1945 (their captors told them the march would last only three days and for most it lasted 3 months) as you could hear and see flashes of the Russian guns from the east. it was the coldest winter in Europe in that century. It was 15 degrees and 14 inches of snow on the ground and they walked northwest across Poland and through Swinmunde and into old Germany and across the northern part of Germany to almost Hamburg. Some rode train and some were put in camps along the way (Fallingbostel) and many died along the march. Many were never in a heated building after leaving Stalag Luft IV and they sleep in barns, beside the road, in forest, and never having their having their clothes off or having a bath. Many lost 1/3 of their body weight and some walked as much as 600 miles. Water (often contaminated) POW's drank from ditches beside the road or ate snow when available. The Germans provided very little food and the POW's have to scrounged their own meals and firewood to cook and often finding no more than a potato or kohlrabi to boil. Trading cigarettes or watches or whatever they had to trade with the farmers along the way. The POW's ate charcoal to help stop dysentery and every POW became infected with lice and pneumonia, diphtheria, pellagra, typhus, trench foot, tuberculosis and many other things ran rampant among the POW's. the Germans sometimes provided a wagon for the sick and when a wagon was not available and POW fell out along the road , then a German guard would drop back and later you would hear a shot and the guard would come back into formation alone. throughout the ordeal marchers hung together and helped each other. They developed a buddy system in which two or three sleep and ate together, and eventually, however, the long-awaited liberation came - in various ways. Some POW's escaped and hid out until they found an allied unit. The British and some by the Americans liberated others and some had the misfortune to be "liberated " by the Russians, which sometime meant additional days of confinement at soviet hands.

Finally, in the spring of 1945, the hideous march was over. From beginning to the end it spanned 65 to 86 days and estimated 600 miles, and many survivors went from 150 to 90 pounds and suffered injuries and illnesses that plagued them their entire lives. There is know way of knowing how many died on the march, though often overlooked by history, the death march across Poland and Germany ranks as one of the most outrageous cruelties ever committed against American fighting men. Fittingly, a memorial to these brave soldiers now stand on Polish ground where Stalag Luft IV once stood.

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