‘The Great Escape’: The Audacious Real Story of the WWII Allied Prison Break


The mass escape of 76 Allied airmen from a Nazi POW camp in March 1944 remains one of history’s most famous prison breaks. Although the German Luftwaffe designed the Stalag Luft III camp to be escape-proof, the audacious, real-life prison break immortalized in the 1963 movie The Great Escape proved otherwise.

When the Nazis built the maximum-security camp 100 miles southeast of Berlin to house Allied aviators captured in World War II—many of whom had made previous escapes—they took elaborate measures to prevent tunneling, such as raising prisoners’ huts off the ground and burying microphones nine feet underground along the camp’s perimeter fencing. In addition, the camp was built atop yellow sand that would be tough to tunnel through and difficult to conceal by anyone who tried.


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