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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Great Escape – New Nordic Details

This new book about the 1944 prison break by 76 men has some wonderful details.

You perhaps remember from the classic 1963 movie "The Great Escape" (with Steve McQueen) how only three escapees made it to safety - meaning Sweden in two cases. There is now a terrific new book about this most famous escape, with some more Nordic detail.

75 years ago, in March 1944, 76 prisoners of war from different Allied units crawled their way to freedom. The 77th man was spotted by one of the German camp guards. The True Story of the Great Escape by Jonathan F. Vance is a must for people like me, who have always appreciated books about escapes. It is also clear how this book is the result of a lifelong personal interest, and I just love how it starts with the author´s childhood memories of learning about the great escape, contacting veterans and their kind responses to him, a stranger. I have the same experience – all but two or three of the WWII veterans I have contacted over the years have been very helpful and a privilege to get to know.

Going back to the film that has inspired both Mr. Vance and myself, the escape of “Danny” and “Willie” in the movie is based on two Norwegians who escaped by boat to Sweden. Their real names were Per Bergsland and Jens Müller and they were both Norwegian pilots. Now, being Swedish and partly Norwegian, I thought that the final leg of their indeed perfect escape could have been shown some more in the film. Well, I am grateful that the new book has informed me about many nice little escapee details from both the war years and afterwards, and one piece of postwar info about Per Bergsland I feel obliged to share here. Bergsland ended his flight career by becoming CEO of the Norwegian airline Widerøe, the largest regional airline operating in the Nordic countries. So, if you ever fly with Widerøe you can ponder how your flight is connected to one of the best escapees ever.

Read this book both for inspiration and the reading pleasure. The full title of the new book is: The True Story of the Great Escape: Stalag Luft III, March 1944.

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