Lloyd Nordstrom interview by Greg Hatton


They took us by train up through Poland and we were lucky to be in a boxcar because some of us could lay down; other boys had to stand up for the 2 or 3 days it took to get there. Six of us had survived from my crew and the three NCO's went to Heydekrug. When we got to Luft VI, we ended up in the second building; F block. These were four tremendous buildings, made of stone, with an alley between each of them. Later I shifted to one of the little wooden huts off the parade grounds and worked with the security committee.


I had been selling medical equipment before I got in the service, so somehow, I got the name of Doc Nordstrom. There was another lad by the name of Fink, a ball turret gunner. He was trying to do security work and form an escape committee, but he was in bad shape at the time. I had my fortieth birthday in prison camp and there was another "old timer", a newspaperman from Dallas. Tom McHale is the one who ran our camp paper.


One of our guys would get letters from a pseudo uncle in Pennsylvania. These letters would tell him what things we might expect to be smuggled in to us and when. They might be asking questions about a certain individual or about something outside the camp. Of course, being confined to the camp the way we were, we couldn't tell them much. We had to write back in code. Now I don't mean Morse code, with dots and dashes; rather it was the placement of words in the letter itself. Otherwise the Germans would never let it go through.


Stuff came back to us through our parcels. I got a radio sent to me as well as all kinds of German money. I didn't know what to do with it, because you couldn't buy anything. Cigarettes were a different matter. We had one guard completely under our thumb with cigarettes. He told us everything the Germans were doing. He was a professor in some college in Germany and got drafted into guard duty. Unfortunately, they suspected him and he got picked up. We didn't see him for a couple of months, then he came back to the camp about 20 pounds lighter.


I kept the radio in my pocket. It was a little thing, maybe a crystal or something. It had a wire that we put up at five o'clock to get the BBC. No speakers, just an earplug. The krauts knew we had it. We would fall out every morning for roll call and they'd close off one barracks and shake it down completely, just looking for it. If they'd have searched me, why I'd have been a goner!


During the seven months we were in Heydekrug, the British and us were always trying to get out. It didn't often work, but we kept trying. There was a stream going through one corner of the compound, with barbed wire across it. A little further up was a bridge. Two guys came to us with some kind of a rigged up wire cutter. They went out into the creek and stayed under the bridge until nite fall, then the guards left the compound. I was in the kitchen looking out a window watching, when a German officer came walking down towards them. I went out and yelled to them: "Duck down, an officer is coming!" The Kraut came down, looked around down there and took off. The stream had high banks so he couldn't see anything. Our guys finished cutting the wire and the first man went out. Before the other guy could follow him, a bunch of Germans came back into the compound. They were fooling around out there and all of a sudden, the guy under the bridge made a move. The Krauts saw him and that was it! Those guys were gone for about two weeks. When they returned, they said: " That's the best treatment we ever had."


The last Englishman that tried to get out, spoke German quite well. He got a uniform from this guard we had under our thumb. Then he went right through the gate and outside the camp. At some point, he was asked what outfit he was with, but he didn't have the right answer. Our information wasn't up to date, because a couple of days earlier they had changed outfits. So, the German's grabbed him.


A lot of guys came to us with plans, and some of them weren't too happy with our decisions. The fact is, we tried to look out for them. We had Red Cross parcel men go out to the vorlagar every day. Two guys made a plan to change places with them. Prior to the escape I told them: "If there's no chance in the world to get out, you just stay there and they'll come back for you." The guys took a chance and tried it. The Germans saw them, the dogs came up and what not; one guy got chewed up and the other put his hands up, then got shot. Their names were Ed Jurist and George Walker.