Even if your focus is on an airman who successfully evaded, what happened to the other members of the crew? If they ended up in prisoner of war camps, you can get some basic information from the National Archives database of WWII American POWs at:
Leaving the search field blank, click on the SEARCH icon (the binoculars), which will lead you to a page where you’ll click on the SHOW MORE FIELDS icon. You are now in the “Show More Fields” page where you will check only the following fields (uncheck all others):
- ARM OR SERVICE
- PARENT UNIT NUMBER
- PARENT UNIT TYPE
- DETAINING POWER
Now click on SUBMIT and, on the next page, click on the respective SELECT FROM CODE LIST links opposite the two following terms:
- ARM OR SERVICE. This will produce a pop-up window in which you will click on AC (for Air Corps) and then click on SUBMIT.
- DETAINING POWER. This will produce another pop-up window in which you will click on 1 (for Germany) and then click on SUBMIT.
By now you should have “AC=Air Corps” in the “ARM OR SERVICE” line and “1=GERMANY in the “DETAINING POWER” line.
Enter the name of the airman in the search field and hit SEARCH. You then get a one-line listing of information about the POW. Click on the VIEW RECORD icon to get a two-page listing of details.
I applied this to the members of Tom Applewhite’s crew and found seven of them. I have listed them below sorted by POW camp:
Stalag Luft 1, Barth-Vogelsang, Prussia
- Bufkin, James C., 2nd Lt.
- Shorb, Ellis, 2nd Lt.
Stalag 17B, Braunau-Gneikendorf, near Krens, Austria
- Barckett, Anthony T., Staff Sgt.
- Malavasi, Nello A., Tech. Sgt.
- Mulvaney, Vernon L., Staff Sgt.
Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Bavaria (moved to Nuremburg-Langwasser)
- Bloeser, William J., Jr., Staff Sgt.
- Johnson, Robert D., Staff Sgt.
The only member of the crew not found this way was the pilot, John P. McGowan. According to an autobiography that he posted on the Internet, it appears that he was at Stalag Luft 1 with Bufkin and Shorb.
My thanks to Ed Reniére, a fellow researcher from Brussels, who shared instructions on using the POW database.
SAMPLE P.O.W. QUESTIONNAIRE
A fellow researcher, Megan Koreman, found for me at the British National Archives the POW debriefing form for A.J. Holden, one of the men helped by the Smit-van der Heijden Line in The Netherlands. Below you will find, first, my transcription from the debriefing form and then the three-page form itself. Holden’s account of his experiences differs significantly from the experiences of airmen who made it successfully to England without mishap.
(A.J. Holden POW Questionnaire, The National Archives, Kew, London, WO 344/147/2)
GENERAL QUESTIONNAIRE FOR BRITISH/AMERICAN EX-PRISONERS OF WAR
1.No. 1148454 RANK: W/O SURNAME: HOLDEN
CHRISTIAN NAMES: ARTHUR JOSEPH
UNIT (ARMY): RAF
SQUADRON: 405 SQUADRON (RCAF SQUADRON)
3. DIVISION (ARMY), COMMAND (R.A.F. or A.A.F.): R.A.F.
4. DATE OF BIRTH: 28.11.1912
5. DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 24.8.1940
6. CIVILIAN TRADE OR PROFESSION: INSURANCE AGENT
7. PRIVATE ADDRESS: 201 BERNERS STREET, LOZELLS, BIRMINGHAM
8. PLACE AND DATE OF ORIGINAL CAPTURE: SPANISH FRONTIER 8/5/1944
9. WERE YOU WOUNDED WHEN CAPTUREDS: NO
10. MAIN CAMPS OR HOSPITALS IN WHICH IMPRISONED
Camp No. Location From To
Luft 4 Bankau, Upper Silesia 29-8-1944 18-1-1945
IIIA LUKENWALDE 12-2-1945 May 1945
11. WERE YOU IN A WORKING CAMP? NO
12. DID YOU SUFFER FROM ANY SERIOUS ILLNESS WHILE A P/W? NO
13. DID YOU RECEIVE ADEQUATE MEDICAL TREATMENT? n/a
GENERAL QUESTIONNAIRE PART II TOP SECRET
1.No. 1148454 RANK: W/O SURNAME: HOLDEN
CHRISTIAN NAMES: ARTHUR JOSEPH
2. LECTURES BEFORE CAPTURE
a. Were you lectured in your unit on how to behave in the event of capture? (State where, when and by whom): YES. AT O.T.U. AND SQUADRON BY INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS
b. Were you lectured on escape and evasion? (State where, when and by whom): YES. AT O.T.U. AND SQUADRON BY INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS.
3. INTERROGATION after capture:
Were you specially interrogated by the enemy? (State when, when and methods employed by the enemy): FOR MILITARY INFORMATION NO. BUT INTERROGATION ON MY MOVEMENTS DURING PERIOD OF EVASION SEVERE. This was carried out at Wiesbaden by Gestapo: 18 days: starvation and beating up.
4. ESCAPES attempted:
Did you make any attempted or partly successful escapes? (Give details of each attempt separately, stating where, when, method employed, names of your companions, where and when captured and by whom. Were you physically fit? What happened to your companions?) NO
Did you do any sabotage or destruction of enemy factory, plant, war materiel, communications, etc., when employed on working-parties or during escape? (Give details, places and dates.) NO
6. COLLABORATION with enemy:
Do you know of any British or American personnel who collaborated with the enemy or in any way helped the enemy against other Allied Prisoners of War? (Give details, names of person(s) concerned, camp(s), dates and nature of collaboration or help given to enemy). NO
7. WAR CRIMES:
If you have any information or evidence of bad treatment by the enemy to yourself or others, or knowledge of any enemy violation of Geneva Convention you should ask for a copy of “Form Q” on which to make your statement. (Note: Form Q is a separate form inviting information on “War Crimes” and describes the kings of offences coming under this title.)
8. Have you any other matters of any kind you wish to bring to notice: NONE OTHER THAN THE FACT THAT I CONSIDER QUITE A BIT OF THE GEN GIVEN TO ME IN ENGLAND ON EVASION WAS NOT VERY GOOD, E.G., WAS TOLD TO ABANDON UNIFORM IN FAVOUR OF “CIVI” CLOTHES. RETENTION OF BATTLE DRESS WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER.
I fully realize that al information relating to the matters covered by the questions in Part II are of a highly secret and official nature.
I have had explained to me and fully understand that under Defence Regulations or U.S.A.R. 380-5 I am forbidden to publish or communicate any information concerning these matters.
Date: 15/5/1945 Signature: A.J. Holden
I was evading from 24/9/1943 until 8/5/1945 [sic] the date of capture. I made first contact with organization near Groningen in north Holland withing 8 hours of baling out. Have no knowledge of names or addresses of people stayed with in Holland. In Holland approx. 1 month. In Belgium for 3 weeks and through to France. Was advised in France that the line I was on was known as Felix Line. In France I stayed in Tourcoing with a Mr. Rammaert of 29, Rue de Riga for 6 weeks then to Paris. In Paris for 10 weeks. Stayed with a Madame Perdrian at 52, Rue des Dames. Complained about delay but was told it was due to lack of financial support from England. Left for Bordeaux in March but on arrival sent to Pons in Charante Maritime. Had been promised journey through to Bayonne within a few days but after a delay of 3 weeks was informed that organization had fallen into Gestapo hands. A few days after made contact with line known as “Francois et Philippe” and had quick service through to Pyrenees. Unfortunately, guides were not reliable and due to this and lack of food, I returned to Toulouse to make fresh contact with organization. Could not make contact at Toulouse and returned to Pons and made contact with “Francoise et Philippe” again. Made second attempt through Pyrenees in May. Abandoned by guides in Pyrenees and captured two days later at Frontier.
Original of Holden P.O.W. questionnaire:
OTHER POW RECORDS AT NATIONAL ARCHIVES II
American POW Records
When I first asked National Archives II staff about where American POW records were to be found in their in their records they directed me to the following:
- Record Group: RG 153 Entry (A1) 137 “Reports of Interviews with Servicemen who were Prisoners of War, 1943-1947“. Stack Location: 270/1/8/4
During my visit to NAII in late October 2012 I examined the above Reports of Interviews and found that they all appear to be reports by servicemen who witnessed or were victims of war crimes. The boxes are, for the most part, alphabetically labeled but there are 180 boxes total. And just for the B-names, for example, there are 10 boxes and another B-box later and yet another B-box even later than that. Within a single box the interviews are only roughly alphabetical. There are 20 boxes with no alphabetical order at all. If someone is doing research on war crimes, these records might be worth going through. The only other records in this collection are photostats of telegrams that POWs sent to their families letting them know they were OK and coming home.
During my 2014 trip to National Archives I found another source of information, namely, the Questionnaires for Repatriated Personnel at the following location: UD 151: MI9 Reports and IS9 Questionnaires, Box 606, Location 290/55/20/6. They may not be complete.
Records Involving Prisoner Abuse
Another possible source of information involves the records of abuse of POWs compiled by the Judge Advocate General. Click here for the PDF file, European Name Index, Judge Advocate General files, describing them.
German POW Records
In the index to the records that I have for “RG (Record Group) 498, Records of Headquarters, European Theater of Operations, United States Army, Series Listing for European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army (ETOUSA) and U.S. Forces, European Theater (USFET),” there is the following category of records. At first I thought they were American POW records but I have been advised that they are more likely records of German POWs.
Prisoner of War Interrogation Section (MIS-Y), Combined Services Detailed InterrogationCenter (CSDIC), UK
Under that heading are the following categories:
- UD 203: Special Interrogation Reports, 1943-1945. Arranged by report #. Boxes 1-9, Location: 290/56/1/1-2
- UD 204: Interrogation Reports, 1943. Box10, Location: 290/56/1/2.
- UD 205: GRRG Interrogation Reports, 1945. Box11, Location: 290/56/1/2.
- UD 206: POW Papers, 1944-1945. Arranged by paper #. Boxes 12-14, Location: 290/56/1/2.
UD 207: Preliminary Interrogation Reports, 1945-1946. Arranged by report #. Box15, Location: 290/56/1/3.
- UD 208: Interim Reports, 1945-1946.
- UD 209: Special Interrogation Reports. Box16, Location: 290/56/1/3.
- UD 210: Final Interrogation Reports, 1945-1947. Arranged by report #. Boxes 17-18, Location: 290/56/1/3.
Using the Archival Research Catalog
Another way to identify what is available at NARA in the way of POW reports is to click on the Archival Research Catalog at http://www.archives.gov/research/arc/ and enter “prisoner of war interrogation reports.” That produced 51 hits for me, some of which are from WWII and some of which appear to be available online. When I changed the search term to “prisoner of war special interrogation reports,” there were seven hits of which five covered the period of WWII. I have not explored any further.
Royal Air Force POW Records
A good starting point for research on RAF, RCAF, etc. POW records is Oliver Clutton-Brock’s book, Footprints on the Sands of Time, RAF Bomber Command Prisoners-of-War in Germany 1939-1945, London: Grubb Street, 2003.