Drawing of a guard tower in the German POW camp, Stalag Luft III, by William M. Capece
"I was one of the lucky ones," says William M. Capece of Lincoln, RI, a Rhode Island School of Design-trained artist who donated a group of drawings of a German POW camp to the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection.
Capece, a 2nd Lietenant in the U. S. Army Air Force, was shot down over Munich on Friday, June 13, 1944. He bailed out at 20,000 feet, finally clawed his chute open at 10,000 feet, then landed in a tree and broke his leg. A German farmer found him and turned him over to the Luftwaffe who took him to a hospital in Nuremberg for interrogation.
He spent seven months in Stalag Luft III, a POW camp with 10,000 - 12,000 Americlan Air Force prisoners -- all officers.
In January, 1945, Capece and his fellow prisoners were evacuated from the camp in Poland and force-marched, during the winter months, westward into Germany when the Russians started advancing in their direction. He was finally liberated April 29, 1945 by Patton's Third Army.
Capece said they spent a lot of time "playing sports" while in Stalag Luft III. "One of the main reasons was to get rid of the sand in our pockets from digging the tunnels. We had to run around and scuff up the dirt with our feet to mix the sand in with the dirt," he said. Capece also spent a lot of time sketching, using art supplies provided by the camp. He recently donated about 30 drawings, pencil, ink and watercolor, to the Military Collection.
"I was lucky," he said. "It was the Gestapo and SS camps that were terrible. Luftwaffe camps were the best."