More Great Escapes from World War II

More Great Escapes from World War II (1998) This A&E documentary, directed by Scott Paddor, is an odd collection of both escapes and rescues. It begins with the rescue of several sailors from the overturned USS Oklahoma during and after the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941. It then turns to what is perhaps the largest rescue operation completed during World War II, Dunkerque in 1940. Neither Pearl Harbor nor Dunkerque should be classified as escapes per se because no one was ever a POW; rather, they should be understood as rescues. Turning to real escapes, the documentary focuses on a mass breakout of British and Commonwealth POWs from the Italian POW camp PG 78 at Sulmona in 1943. Over 1,000 POWs streamed frantically from the camp, climbed a large hill, and headed south toward Allied lines just after the Italians capitulated and the Germans took over the camp. Then the documentary focuses on the three escapes attempted by a Luftwaffe pilot, Ulrich Steinhilper, who was held in a pleasant camp in Bowmansville, Ontario, Canada after being shot down during the Battle of Britain in 1940. With the assistance of the distinguished POW historian Arnold Krammer of Texas A & M University, Steinhilper is shown to be a man of honor and a risk-taker. He defined his captivity in terms of his determination to leave his prison compound, or as the German POWs called Canadian imprisonment, the “gilded cage.”
Robert C. Doyle Franciscan University of Steubenville rcdoyle@sbsglobal.net

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