“Everyone here in this room is living on borrowed time. By rights we should all be dead,” Roger Bushell, Royal Air Force Squadron Leader, speaking to “Escape Committee” in March 1943. “Three bloody deep, bloody long tunnels will be dug – Tom, Dick and Harry. One will succeed,” Bushell continued to say, while planning the largest attempted escape during World War II.
March 24, 1943, Allied Forces attempted the largest escape from a German prisoners of war camp during WWII.
“This is amazing, truly inspiring,” said Colonel Ryan Hanson, commander 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team “IRONHORSE.” “To stand here, where so many of my former brothers and sisters stood attempting to risk everything for their freedom, is truly humbling and a testament to why we serve today,” Hanson added.
The 77th anniversary, of what was deemed “The Great Escape,” was marked by Troopers of 1st ABCT, paying their respects and honoring their former brothers and sisters in arms alongside, Soldiers from 50th Regional Support Group, 11th Armored Cavalry Division – Poland, Andrzej Katarzyniec, mayor of Zagan and the local Poland community.
“Our history here, runs deep! We came together today to celebrate that history, connection and partnership," said Colonel Ricardo Roig, commander 50th Regional Support Group. "The local community’s presence shows, still to this day, they appreciate, recognize and understand the sacrifice so many men and women made for their freedom, peace and security," Roig added.
More than 7000 captured prisoners of war were held at the camp, during the course of WWII. "The Great Escape" saw more than 200 service members, from different nations, partnered together to escape, using three tunnels they spent months digging.
"Imagine the level of cohesion that escape took!" said CSM Calvin Hall, command sergeant major, 1st ABCT. "Digging three tunnels simultaneously across a prison camp designed specifically to be inescapable, by prisoners from dozens of countries, speaking many different languages," Hall added.
Three tunnels were built named Tom, Dick and Harry. However, Harry, dug roughly 30ft deep and 300ft long to avoid detection, was the only tunnel usable during the night of the escape.
Although, 200 prisoners planned to escape, only 76 actually escaped the tunnels and only three avoided recapture by the Germans weeks later.