World War II prisoner of war camp - Stalag Luft I



 

World War II - Prisoners of War - Stalag Luft I 

A collection of stories, photos, art and information on Stalag Luft I



 

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Sgt. John R. Kyler - WWII Turret Gunner Sgt. John R. Kyler

92nd  Bomb Group, Turret Gunner
Stalag Luft VI, IV and I POW

Shot down 2/4/44 over Belgium

Passed away May 4, 2004

 

E-mail his family at cbrown6126@aol.com

 


John Kyler was a POW in Stalag Luft VI from 2/21/44 to 7/15/44, Stalag Luft IV from 7/18/44 to 1/29/45 and Stalag Luft I  from 2/8/45 to 5/13/45. He has written that he was 2 days in Belgium, 1 week in Frankfurt for interrogation and 21 days of box car and boat travel.

My father was captured and held in Belgium for 2 days then taken to Frankfurt for interrogation at Dulag Luft, and on February 21, 1944, became a POW at Stalag Luft VI in Hydekrug, East Prussia. He, with hundreds of others, left Hydekrug on July 15, 1944. They were jammed in the hold of a boat, the Masuren, at the seaport of Memel and taken on a two-day trip to Swinemunde, in deplorable conditions. They were then loaded in boxcars and taken to Stalag Luft IV in Kiefheide, a 24-hour ride. They were shackled together at their wrists and ankles in twos and after exiting the boxcars, they were forced to run 2 miles up the road to the camp while being bayoneted and bitten by dogs if they fell behind. If they tried to run they would be shot by the Germans waiting in the woods for the opportunity.

Dad was in Stalag Luft IV until January 29, 1945, at which time he was transferred from there on a treacherous ride in boxcars to his final destination, Stalag Luft I in Barth, Germany, where he arrived February 8, 1945. He would end his time as a German Prisoner of War at Stalag Luft I when liberated by the Russians on May 1, 1945. Per my father's log book, he was flown out of Barth on May 13th, 1945, in a B-17 to France. He landed at Lyons and went by truck to Rheims where he stayed overnight. He was flown out of Rheims on the 14th by C47, landed in LeHarve and traveled to Camp Lucky Strike, 20 miles in from LeHavre. This was the last time my dad would fly in any sort of plane.

 

Drawing of view at Stalag Luft IV
Stalag Luft IV



His daughter writes, "In my father's belongings he kept a couple of small notebooks while he was a POW. He wrote verses and drew pictures of planes and the camp. He wrote a verse about the Englishman that was struck by lightning called "Fate" that I noticed on your map of Stalag Luft IV. He has the man's name written under the verse as written in memory of him. My father was such a humble man and never thought he was a hero. My mother said that he didn't feel he was a hero because he survived. I guess he's like so many of you veterans of that era. He put his experience behind him. In his journals he has drawn dog tags with names and addresses on them. I'm not sure which camps that they are from. I want to know more about my dad - the side he never talked about. I'd love it if I could find someone that knew him during his service time. I want to find out enough that I could publish a book in his memory. I'd love to publish a book with his drawings and verses. I am just in awe of them. My dad was my hero and a wonderful person to everyone without anyone ever having known of his war experience. I treasure and am so glad that my dad kept the things that he did after all these years. I only wish that he was here to talk to me about them. I would love to hear from anyone that may have known of my father. "

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pencil and pipe from POW camp

Pencil and Pipes from POW camp



Tickets from Stalag Luft I

     



Kyler's statement of interview of recovered personnel

Form letter sent to some Stalag Luft I POW's parents by a repatriated POW in April 1944

 

Kyler missing

Kyler POW

 

 

 

 

Kyler promotion

   


The 2005 Trip to Stalag Luft I

I recently was part of the tour to visit Barth on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Stalag Luft I. This was the tour mentioned on your web site with Ellis Gibson (Gib). I just felt compelled to write you and thank you for the opportunity. I wish that you girls would have been there.

My father passed away May 4, 2004, without having talked about his wartime experience and I began searching for information. When I became aware of this tour I felt it was the perfect opportunity to perhaps find someone that may have known him. I took with me copies of my dad's YMCA logbooks which he had written poems and had drawings in and copies of whatever information that my mother had and sought information to build on his story. I had the foundation.

Former POWs at 2005 reunion in Barth, Germany

There were 5 ex-POW's with us and none of them were with my father which was expected but I was enthralled with any information that they shared with me. We visited the train station in Frankfurt and it was quite an experience to be there with and listen to the ex-Kriegies take turns in talking about what they remembered. I could determine from their recollection the track that my father would have been brought in on. I then returned to the station early the next morning before our departure to walk covering as much of that area as possible certain before I left that I had at least stepped in one spot that my dad would have.

We continued to retrace steps when we arrived at what was the interrogation camp, Dulag Luft, first stopping at the train station and then at the camp site. with the Administration Building still being there and a chemical factory across the street still being there, I knew that I was looking at the same buildings that my dad had.

Our visit to Barth was most memorable. It was an emotional time for everyone, our first visit to what was Stalag Luft I. We all hugged and cried and gazed out into the field and at the steeple in the distance. It was a time for reflection. I was unsure of which compound that my dad had been in. We visited the air strip and the railway station in Barth. The following day was the memorial service at the concentration camp in Barth and the ribbon cutting at the museum. I was able to talk with Helga Radau, of whom I had heard so much about. Although the museum was buzzing with people, she took me into a little room to look at a book containing a list of compounds and names to look for my dad's name. Dad's name was in the book but it was not affiliated with any compound. It was listed under "Hydekrug", which was the first camp that he was in, Stalag Luft VI. I was disappointed as I wanted to focus on his compound when we returned to the site but I felt a little better when I viewed a tape in the museum of the POW's being loaded into the B-17's and I thought I saw a man that looked like my father. We rewound it several times and each time I thought that he looked and stood like my dad. I should be receiving a copy of the tape as I want my mother and aunt to view it to see if I was right or just wishing it to be him.

When we returned to Stalag Luft I, I walked all compounds and stared at the steeple from every direction satisfied that I had viewed it at one point from the same angle that my father had.

The evening was like a reunion as Vasily Bezugly and his grandson, Andrew, were there from Russia; Dr. Nichol's children, Jan, Judy and David; a German Dr's Son, Thomas; Ejvind Jensen, from Denmark; Helga, Sigrid, and Martin, a historian (I gave him information on my dad in hopes he may be able to help me). We had a wonderful group of people (Ex-Pow's, wives, daughters and son) and I felt that we had become family. We were all there for the same reason and I feel sure that we will keep in touch. I know that I have a long road ahead of me to gather information on my father but after this experience even if I never find anyone that knew him, I have learned the story's of others.

This trip was everything that I hoped that it would be. When I was planning it, I referred to it not as a vacation, but as a mission and I feel that I extracted as much as I possibly could from it. It was quite a journey for me and I felt as though at times that I had become my father. My dream is to some day write a book. I have dad's log books but I need to build his story around the poems and drawings. I sometimes don't understand what drives me or why I feel that I have to know everything about that time in my father's life that he never spoke of. All I know is - I just do. I know that you girls know how I feel. It's obvious from your web site. I feel committed to help carry on the legacy of the greatest generation.

I just wanted to let you know what an incredible trip that we had and because of the time that you have put into this worthy cause all these years, you made it possible.

We were still in Germany on May 4th which was the one year anniversary of my father's sudden death. After we left Barth, I wrote a poem on the bus that I thought I would read to everyone in memory of dad. After dinner, we all went to the lobby and they all let me remember dad with them. This is what I read them:

 



Written in loving memory of my father, John R. Kyler, POW #1277, who passed away one year ago today, May 4, 2004. Read and remembered with my friends on the tour to Stalag Luft 1

 

I knew not a soul but I knew my own heart

I needed to journey out of the country to Barth

No doubt in my mind, it was the right thing to do.

So much about dad as gunner & POW that I hadnt a clue.

A few facts that Id gathered important to pack,

With Gods grace and some luck to collect info to bring back.

Back and forth at the train station I stepped all over the place.

I left confident that at some point Id stepped in dads space.

I can only imagine and picture him here

So young and courageous full of suffering I fear.

I wanted someone to remember to recall his face.

I wished to hear stories of him from roomies but it would not be the case.

But it really didnt matter because of everyone here.

I heard stories of you and your dads and felt my dad was near.

Uncertain of dads compound I walked Souths edge and North 1-2 and 3.

I ventured cross the field certain that he could see.

I stared to the heavens slowly turning around not sure why.

But I was thinking all these years later Im seeing the same sky.

I was mesmerized by the steeple and glanced from every direction.

Im sure I caught the same angle as dad from one of the sections.

I accomplished what Id hoped for I felt fulfilled.

For brief moments I became him feelings that I cherish still.

One year ago today just like that dad was gone.

But what a tribute to remember him with you Ex-Kriegies from Stalag Luft I.

 




 

2007 Update:  His daughter writes us, "I have to tell you a little about the last year and a half in my research. Since I wrote you, I've located my dad's pilot who I believe is the only remaining crew member. I've located the radio operator's wife and she sent me a picture of my dad's crew so I can now put faces with the names that I've studied from the MACR. She also sent a photo of dad in training in the State of Washington. Her husband and dad were close friends during training and also were in the same POW camps - VI, IV and I. Mom and I have ridden in a B-17, I've jumped out of an airplane, and my mom and I spent 3 weeks retracing dad's route this past September and October. We went to Podington, England, the airfield dad's bomb group flew from; then to Belgium - the crash site and areas relevant to dad & crew members (talked to 2 witnesses who saw my father parachute into a garden); then to Barth and it was even better the 2nd time for me and then to the former Stalag Luft IV camp site in Poland (we walked on the road the men (including dad) were run up the hill "Hydekrug Run"). Needless to say, it was an incredible trip and I will tell you as much about it as you would like to read.

 

 

 

My Mission

I ask myself how did he feel
But why do I need to know?
I did not even know him then
As it was a lifetime ago.

I could not discern for I was not there
My feelings could never be like his.
To witness as my father did
An impossibility is what it is.

My walk freely across the empty grounds
That now are open as can be
Its nothing like the crowded compounds
Caged by wire as far as the eye could see.

The wretched confinement, hunger and cold
Extreme hardships most will never know.
I can only imagine the deprivation
Of all those courageous men so long ago.

My leisurely ride in a B-17
On a bright and beautiful day
To being shot at in a ball turret
Cannot compare in any way.

Many thought it to be crazy
That I would jump out of a plane.
But it was to honor my father
So it was heartfelt-not insane.

I am compelled to persevere
And trace his route the best I can
The path of a boy who went to war
And returned home a man.

The vague depiction in my mind
Is a delineation of each trial
Although it is during different times
I feel admiration and love in every mile.

In my pursuit of my fathers story
I do not know what I hope to find.
For it was not me and I was not there
But I play his role in my mind.

I am so proud of all the heroes
And the sacrifice they made
To win for us our freedom,
A gift I would never trade.

Forever heroes to future generations
This is the goal in which I strive.
To assure those brave now weary men
That in our memory they will survive.



by Candy Brown
Written in Memory of my father, John R. Kyler.

 


 

 

 

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This site created and maintained by Mary Smith and Barbara Freer, daughters of Dick Williams, Jr.