Roland Rakow Returns

The following 1942 news item was clipped from the Chicago Tribune.

Rakow Back After Fleeing War Prison

Dundee Youth Was In Plane Nazie Downed

Sgt. Roland Rakow, 22, the first soldier from the Elgin area to escape from an Axis war prison, arrived at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Albert F. Rakow, 506 S. First st., West Dundee, Saturday evening with a 24-day furlough which will permit him to spend the holidays with his family.

The youth had planned to be home by Thanksgiving day but was delayed on the way here from Italy by illness. For nearly four weeks, his parents expected him every hour of every day. Every time there was a knock at the door, Mr. Rakow hopefully called out: “Come in, Roland!” At 9:30 Saturday night, he was rewarded. His son stepped across the threshold.

Regains 20 Pounds.

Since he escaped from the prison in northern Italy and made his way to safety behind the lines of the British Eighth Army, good food and care has helped Sergeant Rakow regain 20 of the 30 pounds he lost in the more than a year he was in confinement.

Life in the prison camp was not pleasant but the sergeant is satisfied that the Italians gave him the best treatment they could under the circumstances and he and his fellow prisoners were never treated roughly. Food was scarce and the sanitary conditions were far from good. Last winter, they experienced a great deal of cold weather and sometimes, the prisoners remained in bed to keep warm.

There were about 1,000 men confined in the camp in which Rakow was placed and he was one of the first American prisoners received there. In all the time he was imprisoned, he heard practically nothing about what was going on in the world outside. The Red Cross, he stated, did much to cheer up the men and relieve the monotony by its regular shipments of food.

Shot Down Sept. 1, 1942.

Sergeant Rakow graduated from the Dundee Community High school in 1939 and was an employe of the Oaks Manufacturing Co. of Crystal Lake at the time he enlisted in the Army June 27, 1941. He was graduated from gunnery school at Las Vegas, Nev., and in July, 1942, was sent overseas to Egypt with an aviation unit.

He and four others formed the crew of a B-25 plane, which was caught by enemy aircraft fire over Egypt, Sept. 1, 1942, after they had bombed an enemy military objective. A part of the plane was shot away and Rakow, although dazed, bailed out of an opening, where the plane had been hit, and was able to open his parachute.

It was the first time he had parachuted and he says his sensations were indescribable as he plunged down 10,000 feet to the earth. He landed in such a manner that he was thrown on his face, sustaining a fractured collar bone and nose and a painfully wrenched back. He did not lose consciousness.

Awarded Purple Heart.

Soon afterwards, he was taken prisoner by Germans and later turned over to Italians. Two of the five in his plane lost their lives and were buried at the scene of the crash. The other two were taken prisoner but were separated from Rakow almost immediately and he has not seen them since. Rakow has been awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded in action.

Photo caption:

ESCAPED PRISONER—Sgt. Roland Rakow of Dundee arrived at his home Saturday night in a 24-day furlough after escaping from an Italian war prison and making his way through the British lines. He was shot down and wounded while on a bombing mission Sept. 1, 1942, when he was captured by Germans in Egypt.

Here is the Western Union telegram referred to in the article: