Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The 87-Day Winter POW Death March--Lest We Forget

A photo taken by a clandestine camera on the forced march.

Young 390th Bomb Group Ball Turret Gunner Delbert Lambson had the misfortune not only to be shot down, but also to become a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft IV in East Prussia. Even then, his troubles were not over. In February 1945, the Germans decided to evacuate the camp of 6,000 prisoners to prevent the POWs from falling into the hands of the advancing Russians. For the next 87 days, thousands of Allied prisoners would be fighting for their lives against cold, disease, and hopelessness as they covered 600 miles on foot.
It was one of the coldest winters on record. Limited to a diet of only 700 calories a day, and marching many miles a day, the men began to weaken. Typhus, dysentary, pneumonia, diptheria, and pellagra ravaged the weakened marchers. Frostbite was also a terrible problem, resulting in many amputations later. Men slept wherever their guards put them. Sometimes, they were lucky enough to be sheltered in a barn. Often, they slept on the frozen ground.
On May 2, 1945, the weary POWs met Allied forces near Hamburg. They had covered more than 600 miles in 87 days. Of those who started on the march, about 1,500 perished from disease, starvation, or at the hands of German guards while attempting to escape. In terms of percentage of mortality, it came very close to the Bataan Death March.
Much of the above account is from survivor George W. Guderley.

Prisoner of War Memorial at Stalag Luft IV, in what used to be East Prussia but is now Poland.

For more information about this death march, go tohttp://www.b24.net/pow/march.htm

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