The Corner

Not Just Escapism

Fans of the movie The Great Escape should note the passing of Flight Lt. Eric “Digger” Dowling, one of the members of the team that put together the real-life escape from Stalag Luft III on March 24-25, 1944. Dowling was no fan of the movie, which was based on the book by fellow prisoner Paul Brickhill. Dowling thought the dramatization gave too much credit to the Americans who, while they played a role in the escape plan, were moved to another camp before the actual escape. But what strikes me is how much of what was shown in the film was true, particularly the inventiveness of the POWs in outwitting their captors. The US Air Force Academy has a very good website on the history of the Stalag. See also personal recollections of daily life in the camp by Quentin Richard Petersen which reveal a much grimier and difficult daily existence than that portrayed in the film. Sadly Steve McQueen’s bid for freedom by motorcycle was pure Hollywood.


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