Stalag Luft VI, Stalag Luft IV, & Stalag Luft I – Notebooks – Roommates

(Posted: June 30, 2011)

The names – all of these names and addresses – who were these men?  Just exactly what rooms were they in?  How well did my father know them and in turn how well did they know dad?  Of these names, who would my father have considered his best friend?  Was there any one of them that he would talk freely to about home?  Was there any one of them that he would share his past with, his childhood days with, his wants and his desires for his future with?  He has the nicknames written for some of the fellows.  He had to know them pretty well to know their nickname it seems.  He also had written after some of the names if they were a crew member of a B-17 like him or a B-24.  There had to have been so many stories shared.  Each person had their own unique tale to tell of what transpired leading them to such a fate – their route to becoming a resident of a POW camp. 

Frank Paules was camp leader, the Man of Confidence and Carter Lunsford the assistant camp leader.  You can notice the arrow and the notation of “Camp Leader” and “Ast. Camp Leader.”   I’ve read their interviews on Greg Hatton’s “B-24” web site as well as Bill Krebs’ and Donald Kirby’s interviews.   In the beginning of my search for my father’s story, these were the key men that I was seeking to ask about my father until I learned they were deceased.  Greg’s father, Hyman Hatton, was held in the same camps as dad and how fortunate for me that years ago his intense interest in his father’s experience led him to interview these men while they were still with us. 

Greg invested countless hours into getting his father’s story as accurate as possible from those men who were incarcerated with him.  He had the same motivation that I now have to find my father’s story.  He was driven as I am and for him it was possible to get the story right as he could ask the questions of someone who knew his dad.  I on the other had do not have that luxury but I am grateful for Greg’s determination to learn about his dad which in turn is so relevant to my father’s experience and probably as close as I’ll ever come to dad’s route.  The interviews are a vital element with the names being in my father’s notebooks and the dates corresponding with the dates that my father was in each camp.  This is the next best thing to being able to talk to these men myself.

I turn over in my mind some of the questions I would ask if given the opportunity.  What was dad like as a POW?  Did he joke around a lot like he would do with us kids sometimes when we were little?  Or was he quiet and did he keep to himself?  Did he play cards or other games or did he compete in the sports games?  Did he get to drink any of the moonshine that I’ve read about that was made or did he help make it?  Did he attend religious services and did he pray?  Did he craft any items from the Klim Cans or any other articles that were distributed?  He sure was clever when I knew him and could make something out of nothing.  Nothing was wasted. 

What men was he closest to?  How I wish I could have located just one roommate that would remember him and tell me about him.  I’ve sent letters to as many as I could locate addresses for and have had a few negative responses. 

Over 60 years ago is along time for anyone to remember someone they spent time with even though they may have been friends at the time especially when you were trying to put it behind you and hadn’t kept in touch.  I suppose I’ll never find anyone that can tell me anything about my father as a POW.  I can only imagine based on the John Kyler that I knew.  The stories I have read about life in a POW camp I know are relevant to my father.  I think that he did whatever he could to pass the time and to keep in shape.  I think he was one of the ones that walked the perimeter of the camp for exercise.  My Aunt Helen, dad’s sister, said that he told her the day he arrived home that he “kept busy” in camp.  That sounds like him.  He wouldn’t sit and sulk, he would find things to do to keep his mind and body functioning.

There were so many men whose paths my father certainly crossed at one time or another during his role as a Prisoner of War.  How I would cherish time with my father to point to one name at a time and listen to what he may recall about his relationship with that person.

Reading through the names and addresses makes me think that my father’s intention was to keep in touch with these men – maybe not all but surely those he was closest to.

How I yearn to be told by one of my father’s roommates the things that they remembered about dad – the walks they took, the talks they had, the food they shared, the things they did to pass the time, how they helped each other and the happy and sad events that they witnessed.  Having lost the opportunity to ask my father these questions, how special it would be for me to hear stories about him from someone who knew him during that time of his life.

The following pages of names were in the notebook labeled Stalag Luft I.  The difference between the names in the Stalag Luft VI and IV notebook is that they were all written by my father but these are all written by each POW.  It is evident that because the previous names were written by my father he obtained each name and address by asking the individual as he wrote them down one by one perhaps over the course of a period of time.

It is obvious that each name listed on these pages is in each person’s own handwriting indicating that the book was passed around.  It could have been in the room or outside or in the boxcar ride from Stalag Luft IV to Stalag Luft I.  Also, these names are not written in the dog tag outline as those in the other notebook were.

I suppose that just because these names were in my father’s notebooks, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they were roommates.   If they weren’t roommates they must have been close to each other – close enough to want to exchange names. 

I can’t say enough about how much I wish that I could have gone through the names with my father as it would be interesting to see who he could remember and what stories those memories may spark.  Certainly there would be those that he’d wonder whatever became of them.  There would be some he would have been closer to than others. 

I read the names and wonder as I speak each one if they may have been a close comrade to my father – if he had certain guys that he spent much of his time with.  I repeat aloud the names knowing that at a time in my father’s previous life he spoke that same name.  It would have been great to find a person that was my father’s close friend and talk to him about things he and my father did or saw or talked about together.  Once again that is wishful thinking and I am afraid that my efforts have been expended far too late to be successful in this respect.  Regardless, they are not fruitless as every little bit of information that I learn from a family member that I am able to locate is valuable.

It appears that there were good intentions by all to keep in touch after the War as most wartime notebooks indicate the exchange of names and addresses of roommates.  As time went on it would seem easier to most to begin a new life and not rehash the memories of a painful and difficult time.  I imagine that unless a person who shared your experience lived near and visited with you and could understand what you endured, you would not talk about it as no one who had not been there could possibly understand.  It would be easier to try to put it behind you rather than risk feeling that people were uninterested.  One had to move forward and try to survive on his own.

4 responses to “Stalag Luft VI, Stalag Luft IV, & Stalag Luft I – Notebooks – Roommates”

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