collection of stories, photos, art and information on Stalag Luft I
If you are a former Prisoner of War or a next of
kin of a POW, we invite you to sign and leave your email address so others that
come may find you. Please mention camp, compound, barracks and room numbers if
Kenneth Webster, called
Sam, spent 10 months in a German prison camp by the Baltic Sea
By Andrew McGinn
News/Sun Staff writer
Days after his 21st birthday Kenneth Webster was
re-baptized a terror flieger - a bleak term for Yankee pilots who descended
from the heavens at 160 miles per hour to annihilate the Nazi hate machine.
That what it translates to.
To think, terror or not, most people have just called him Sam
for the last 78 years.
An all-American moniker if there ever was one. And this
Sam has an all-American story to match.
A job as a photo engraver. A family man.
A stint as a bomber pilot. A prisoner of war.
Not an unusual story, by any means, but what separates this
Sam from a million other Sams came in the form of a gift from the YMCA in
The gift was a "Wartime Log" as the red ink on its hard cover
With the log, our Sam revealed a little about the times, and
a lot about himself, as he sat for a hungry 10 months in a frigid Nazi
prison camp off the Baltic Sea.
All the boys received the gift as "a special remembrance from
the folks at home", but how many are still around?
Both boy and book, that is.
After 28,489 days, Sam Webster is still kicking - and so is
that battered log, which he now keeps in the kind of bag with a
yellow-and-blue make green seal.
"The red, white and blue meant something." Webster said, glancing
at his five-decade-old Nazi mug shot. Prisoner No. 5845. "We did the
best we could for our country."
In the beginning
At the start of the second World War, Webster was
working as apprentice photo engraver at Springfield's Crowell-Collier
A year later, he found himself classified as an Army Air
Corps pilot, even though he'd never even been on a plane before. That
hardly mattered to him.
"At that time, you thought that was your duty - to go fight
for your country," he said.
Still, even though it was his duty to fight, he had a certain
role in mind.
"I wanted to be a hot rod fighter pilot," Webster said with a
No such luck.
He received his wings on Dec. 4, 1943 and after transition school the government handed
him a B-24 bomber fresh from the line - one of 19,256 built between 1939 and
Dubbed the Liberator, the B-24 could fly faster, farther and carry
a bigger bomb load
than the popular B-17.
"I was proud when I looked out my window and saw our country's
emblem on the wing, " he said.
Webster soon joined the 445th Bomb Group across the pond in
Jimmy Stewart - yep, the actor - was a member of the same group,
but a different squadron.
A seemingly-endless ocean now separated Webster from his pregnant
Q or Queenie
At age 21, Webster flew his first combat mission in May
1944 with this B-24 Q for Queenie. Pulverizing a Nazi rocket site
somewhere in France was the initiation.
"The easiest mission I ever flew," he recalled. "I thought
this would be a snap. Nothing to it."
Next mission was over Germany.
"My whole concept changed," Webster said with the kind of chuckle
that still sounded a little nervous after all these years.
He didn't think much about the missions he flew.
"You wipe that from your mind," explained Webster. "You must hope
you're getting rid of the baddies."
Sometime later -- on his 22nd mission of the war to be exact
- Webster's new B-24, the Dixie Flyer, took a direct hit on the way to pound
a target in Hannover.
He would later scribe a poetic account of the event in the
Off we went into the wild blue yonder,
The mighty force , on a journey of plunder. We started with 12, on our mission of old,
Flying formation into goonland so bold.
Up came the flak, to mar the heaven,
They all looked around and now they're 11.
"I forget what the hell we were supposed to be bombing," Webster
said shaking his head. "We never made it."
Engines one and two were knocked out, half the crew was dead and an
attempt to make Holland failed when the Flyer came within a thousand feet of
Webster and crew bailed out - that is , without any prior parachute
"When I pulled the rip chord, I thought I broke the chute," he
On the ground, it didn't take long for the Nazis to gather up the
"I got womped on the head when I first got captured," he said.
Webster still carries what he firmly believes is rifle
butt-inflicted bump on his head.
With both legs wounded from flak, he had to be carried by
Before they were imprisoned however, the captured were paraded
The enemy soldiers, he remembered, had to protect them from angry
"I was a scared kid," said Webster. "One old guy had a cane and the
only word he knew was son of a bitch."
At the prison camp Stalag Luft I, Webster said hunger was
horrible - much more than any SS guard, who Webster said were "bad asses."
Soup, bread, potato peels
The 8,939 Allied POWs were only given
dehydrated vegetable soup and bread made from potato peels and sawdust each
Red Cross parcels they received weekly when they first arrived
would be stolen by Nazi soldiers as the war drew to a close.
One guy in camp, Webster remembered, fed his rations to a stray cat.
Needless to say, when the rations came up short, the cat came up missing.
"The guys next door, they had a fried cat meal," he said, laughing.
His log painstakingly details life in the camp -- from the exact
contents of an American Red Cross parcel to drawings and poems.
As Allied shells got closer, the Nazis were seen abandoning their
Before long, Russians had liberated Stalag Luft I, and Webster was
home, log in hand.
"I was a hometown boy," he said. "Glad to get home."
Notes his log:
They said our death was our glory, but they
The glory was in living, not dying.
The Webster Crew:
Lt. Samuel Smith
Lt. Henry Van Abnan
Long Island, NY
Capt. Kenneth E. (Sam) Webster
Lt. Jack Sherman
S/Sgt. Wendall Knapp
Asst. Radio Operator and Upper Turret Gunner
T/Sgt. Robert Brennan
Radio Operator and Waist Gunner
S/Sgt. Edward Kowlaski **
Armor and Tail Gunner
T/Sgt. Haskel Shaver
First Engineer and Waist Gunner
White Pine, TN
S/Sgt. Thomas Cleary
Asst. Armor gunner and nose gunner
S/Sgt. Julius Angelo
Ball Gunner and Asst. Engineer
** S/Sgt Kowlaski did not fly on the day they were shot down.
Kenneth "Sam" Webster's POW ID Card
"Q For Queenie" Sam flew
this plane on his first mission.
Sam visits crash site in Ameland. The people of Ameland
have erected a plaque to commemorate the crash site.
Thomas Cleary and Julius Angelo's grave markers. They were
originally buried by the people of Ameland.
Kenneth "Sam" Webster in 2001
Mayor honored the Websters with dinner on Ameland on November 12, 2001
Bailing out by Sam Webster
Sam's room layout at Stalag Luft I
WHAT AN HONOR
By Ruth A. Webster (wife) of Capt. K.E. (Sam) Webster
After 57 years Capt. K. E. (Sam) Webster looks back and has many
memories of his 4 ½ years of service in WWII. My husband was then a young 19
year old, that wanted to help the country he loved. He passed the Aviation
Cadet exam and entered the Army Air Force on Dec 4th of 1942. He then went
through flight training and received his wings in December of 1943. He then had
to go through B-24 transition school at Smyrna, Tenn.
He got his crew in Salt Lake City Utah and went through phase training at Boise
Idaho. He joined the 445th Bomb Group at the end of May 1944. He flew 21
missions and was shot down going to Hanover Germany on his 22nd mission. His
plane was hit by flak in the left wing. It knocked out his 1 and 2
engines. He tried to get back to England but he couldn’t hold his altitude
and gasoline was pouring out of his plane. Then he tried to get to Holland ,
but was still losing too much altitude. He saw an island and said it looked
like the “ Garden of Eden”. It was Ameland, one of the East Frisian
Islands off the coast of Holland.
They bailed out at about 500 feet. They were receiving ground fire
from the low altitude. When his chute opened, he saw his plane the “Dixie
Flyer” crash and burn. He then floated over a fence and landed in a marshy
field. It was a very short parachute jump. The Germans were there
immediately and told them “For you the war she is over". He remained a
prisoner at Stalag Luft I until the end of May 1945.
Four men of
his crew were killed. Three are buried on Ameland and one was sent back to
America. On November 1, 2001, we flew to England to attend the 54th
convention of the 2nd Air Division of the Eighth Air Force in Norwich. This
was Sam’s first time back since his 1944 stint as a 1st Pilot with the 445th
Bomb Group - 702nd Bomb Squadron. which was at Tibenham, about 15 miles from Norwich. This year’s
convention was scheduled to coincide with the dedication of the New Eighth
Air Force Memorial Library, the first having been destroyed by fire in1994.
The new library is spectacular. It has to be the most outstanding facility
in the world. We were in awe when we first set eyes on it. The
trip brought back many memories for Sam of the places, missions and the lost
comrades. He will always remember the crew that he lost.
One of the side trips we made was to the American Cemetery at Madingly.
It was bitter cold walking around, so we went into the smaller reception
building for awhile to warm up. Sam was tired and needed to sit down. A
gentleman sitting to his right did a double take when he saw Sam’s nametag,
Sam Webster 445 Bomb Group 702 Sq. The gentleman looked at Sam and Sam
looked at him and he asked Sam if there was more than one Webster in the
group and Sam said "No". A bit hesitantly the gentleman tapped Sam on the arm
and asked if he flew out of Tibenham. He said, "Yes". The man said, "Is that you
Skip?", which is the name the crew always called Sam. The man's eyes widened in
surprise and he said, "I am Ed Kowalski, I was your tail gunner." Both Sam and
Ed were a bit overcome, since each one thought they were the only survivors
for over 57 years. Ed had not flown on that last mission. The only time he
had missed being with his crew.
We felt so very honored in England. The City of Norwich granting the
honorary “Freedom of the City Medallion", for the first time to a foreign
military entity underscores the depth of our truly unique relationship with
the City of Norwich and the County of Norfolk. We were proud of the medallion and wore it everywhere we went. People
came up to us on the street to shake our hands and say thank you for what
you did for us. It was very moving. One night we got back to the Hotel late
and were tired so we decided to sit in the lobby for awhile. Others joined
us. One young man must have shook all our hands 5 times and said if it had
not been for you good people I wouldn’t have been here.
People in restaurants wanted to send over bottles of champagne, we
said we were on medication and were drinking coke. They said to give them a
double of whatever we were drinking. Before we left that restaurant two
other couples stopped to talk and shake our hands and say thank you for what
you did for England. We would be remiss if we didn’t give a big thank you to
David and Jean Hastings and Evelyn Cohen for the wonderful job they did
putting everything together and giving us a trip of lifetime. We all are
deeply indebted. We know you all must need a long rest from such a gigantic
job, well done. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
When we left England after all the honors they bestowed on us we flew
to Amsterdam Holland. Met by two young men, Rene Metz and Gerlof Molenaar
from the Historical Society from Ameland. They drove over 80 miles to pick
us up. Then we took the ferry to Ameland. We stayed in the beautiful Hotel
the DeJong. The first day there we were honored at a breakfast with the 2nd
Burgemeester (mayor) . Sam was given a tie with the city crest and other
gifts from the city. After we had eaten they took us out to where Sam’s
plane had crashed and had an unveiling of a plaque the city had put up to
honor the crash site. They had Sam unveil it. They had also planted a tree
in his memory, and had a bench placed there for all that come to see the
plaque to rest on.
The media and the news were on hand to honor him. . After we all got into
the cars and left there we were taken to the museum, where they had the thick
glass window that had been installed in Sam's new B-24-J. it was cracked so bad
the day of the crash that Sam
couldn’t look out and see his engines. The glass was seven layers thick.
They had a plaque on it and wanted to take pictures with it with Sam. The
had armor plating on the side and back of the pilot's seat and this is what saved Sam’s life, as the flak came under the armor and hit him
in both legs.
When he parachuted out of the plane that was the first time he had used a
chute. When he pulled the ripcord he thought he had broken it. The ripcord
pulls free when you open your chute. One of the most amazing things we saw
was a bride dress and a flower girl dress that were a beautiful white with
hand sewn flowers on the dresses. We learned that they were made from
They did many interviews and took many, many pictures. The 1st Burgemeister, Paul Berhoeven, (mayor of 4 cities dined us royally). He gave
me cards and said if any of our children, grandchildren or great
grandchildren were coming to Ameland for them to see him and he would take
good care of them. While we were in Ameland we received so many nice gifts
and they wouldn’t let us pay for a thing. We did get to take everyone out
for a good dinner and paid the bill.
This ends the saga of our marvelous and memorable adventure.