The great escape (by 25 Nazis) 12-1944

Post pass 1944

There are 2 sections to this story:

1.  As told by my mother…who happened to work at the Papago Park POW offices (as you can see by her pass).

Once, there was a Lt. Col. Barber  who became C.O. of the Papago Park POW camp 3-1944, replacing Col. Means, who was transferred to another camp.

Sometime between 3-1944 and 12-1944, Col. William A. Holden became camp commandant.

According to my mother, Col. Holden was asked by one of the German officers if he and a few other men could have shovels and tools to make a garden.  

Lt. Col. Barber was born in Yugoslavia, immigrating to the US at the age of 17. He had experience in all phases of military police work and POW camps.  Barber said it was a bad idea.  Col. Holden scoffed at him.

My mom said she heard arguments over this, and she was in agreement with Barber, but as a mere secretary her opinion was not sought, nor did she feel it appropriate to interject in their discussions.

As a result, 25 Nazi U-boat officers and men fled through a tunnel,  planning to build a raft and float down the Gila river into Mexico.  Anyone who has lived in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico are well aware that the Gila river is dry, with the exception of a short rainy season.  Basically, the Gila river is a gutter with a name.

My mom said that most of the men who made it to the Gila river were only too happy to surrender, but one officer made it to a hotel where he was apprehended.

2.  As told by newspaper clippings she saved.

You read and decide whether more than a little CYA happened here.

POW escapees 12-1944 001

escape from PW camp 001

POW escapees article 12-1944 001