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The Great Escape, as it came to be known, was a mass escape attempt from the prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III located near the Polish town of Zagan. The purpose-built camp was opened in April 1942, and the Germans considered it to be practically escape-proof.
The camp housed mainly British and American airmen whose planes had crashed on Axis territory. The Germans generally captured prisoners with the words ‘For you the war is over.’ However, it was the sworn duty of all captured military personnel to continue to fight the enemy by surviving, communicating information and escaping. The Germans believed that security at the new camp was so tight that it would be impossible for anyone to escape.
Picture from the Famous Movie
It was realized early on that for any escape attempt to succeed it had to be well planned and organized. The Prisoners at Sagan therefore established an escape committee. The committee decided to build three tunnels and the plan was to effect the escape of at least 200 prisoners. The tunnels were given the code names ‘Tom’, ‘Dick’ and ‘Harry’. Lots were drawn for 200 places, and on March 24, 1944, The Great Escape was attempted. Of the 76 men who escaped, 3 made it home to the UK, 23 were recaptured and sent back to Sagan. Hitler personally ordered the execution of the other 50 men.
Although only 3 men managed to reach safety and 50 men were murdered, the escape caused havoc among the Germans.
Intelligence Operations Airman 2nd Class Raymond G. Hughes, Petersburg, KY, entered the Air Force in 1956, serving for four years in the USAF intelligence school Target Planning & Survival unit until 1960. Hughes served during the Cold War with the 8th Air Force 100 Bomb Wing Intelligence Division, primarily with Strategic Air Command.
Airman Hughes continued to serve his community as an instructor at the Yudan School of Self Defense Karate and Judo, where he trained men, women, and children in the art of self-defense. He became a voice for veterans and one of the most respected members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, where he dedicated his time and energy in making life more comfortable for other members.
Raymond serves as historian and even manager for the USS Hornet Breakfast Group conducts events for veterans at the Cincinnati Hamilton County Public Library, and interviews veterans of all wars in collaboration with the National Archives in Washington, D.C. where he has interviewed 75 veterans to date. Twice each month, he can be found transporting veterans from Twin Towers Retirement Center to shop for personal items. Raymond is involved in the Sons of the American Revolution and takes pride in helping others trace their ancestral lineage.