Category Archives: Prisoners—Camp 59

Capture and Escape of Carl Valentine

The following POW repatriation report was prepared by MIS-X Section, POW Branch, of the U.S. War Department.

The report is courtesy of the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.

Technical Sergeant Carl L. Valentine

EX Report No. 55
10 December 43

Escape by Technical Sergeant Carl L. Valentine, 14052008, AC, 376th Bomb Group, 514th Bomb Squadron from Camp 59, Servigliano, Italy

Missing in action – 16 July 43
Date of capture – 16 July 43
Reported P/W – 24 August 43
Escape – 14 September 43
Rejoined Allied forces – 20 October 43 at Marrone
Previous in interrogation- British I.O. Casacalenda; Am. I.O. 12th Air Force Headquarters, Tunis
Arrived in USA – 14 November 43, Newport News, Virginia
Home address – 720 Dehli Street, Bossier City, Louisiana
Age – 21
Length of service – 2 years, 9 months

EX Report

Technical Sergeant Carl L. Valentine – Radio Operator, B-24

On 16 July 1943, Sergeant Valentine left his base at Benghazi as radio operator of a B-24 of the 376th Bomb Group, 514th Bomb Squadron. The mission was bombing an airfield near Bari. The other members of the crew and the information concerning them are:

Pilot – 1st Lieutenant Samuel D. Rose – P/W Stalag Luft 3, Germany

Co-pilot – 2nd Lieutenant Ralph O. Grace – P/W Stalag Luft 3, Germany

Navigator – 2nd Lieutenant Millard John Kesler – P/W Stalag Luft 3

Bombardier – 1st Lieutenant Charles H. Madgley – believed to be a P/W

Engineer – Technical Sergeant William S. Nelson – P/W Italy, unstated

Assistant Engineer – staff sergeant Joseph E. Maleski – escaped but recaptured

Right Waist Gunner – Captain Nicholas Cladakis – believed KIA

Left Waist Gunner – Technical Sergeant Clarence H. Guyder – P/W Italy, unstated

Turret Gunner – Technical Sergeant Jackson M. Hughins – P/W Stalag 8B

As the plane was 20 minutes off the target, flying at 22,000 feet, and, with one engine not functioning, it was attacked by ME-109’s. The bomb run was made and the aircraft was hit heavily by ack-ack and was being followed by pursuit ships which knocked the other engine out and set the wing on fire. One of the pursuit ships also hit the left stabilizer. The signal was given for the crew to bail out. Sergeant Valentine’s foot was caught in the tail turret and Lieutenant Rose, who had set the controls to keep the ship from spinning, assisted him in bailing out.

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Four American Airmen Cross the Lines

The following POW repatriation reports were prepared by MIS-X Section, POW Branch, of the U.S. War Department.

They are courtesy of the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA), Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.

Staff Sergeants Everett C. Shelby, Jr.
and Anthony T. Fryt

EX Report No. 51
9 December 43

Escape by Staff Sergeant Everett C. Shelby, Jr., 6954930, AC, 17th Bomb Group, 34th Bomb Squadron from Camp 59, Servigliano, Italy

Missing in action – 17 July 43
Date of capture – 18 July 43
Reported P/W – 24 August 43
Escaped – 14 September 43
Rejoined Allied forces – 6 November 43 at Villa Santa Maria
Previous interrogation – British 8th Army at lines – 12th Air Force
Arrived in USA – 7 December 43, Newport News, Virginia
Home address – 511 Hobson Street, Weatherford, Texas
Age – 24
Length of service – 3 years, 11 months

Ex Report

Staff Sergeant Anthony T. Fryt – Engineer and Gunner, B-26
Staff Sergeant Everett C. Shelby, Jr. – Tail Gunner, B-26

Sergeant Fryt was engineer and gunner of a B-26 of the 17th Bomb Group, 34th Bomb Squadron based at Djeida, south of Tunis. The other members of the crew and the information concerning them are:

Pilot – Flight Officer J. L. Weaver – returned to USA
Co-pilot – Flight Sergeant Theodore A. Helterbrand – P/W Stalag Luft 3, Germany
Bombardier – Staff Sergeant Joseph Teresi – returned to USA
Radio Operator – Staff Sergeant John C. Cannon – P/W Italian camp, unstated
Tail Gunner – Staff Sergeant Everett C. Shelby, Jr. – returned to USA

On 17 July 1943, the plane left its base to bomb a target in Naples. The target run was made and the plane was hit by flak from anti-aircraft batteries. The left engine was hit and was feathered but the plane began to drop in spite of the fact that the crew threw out everything they possibly could. They continued on for about 45 minutes and were forced to come down in the Tyrrhenian Sea some miles off Naples. They got out the life rafts and climbed on board just before the plane sank. Sergeant Fryt was suffering from cuts and bruises and had a wrenched knee.

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Sergeant Theodore A. Sanning

Over the past several months, I have been in touch with Andy Beckerson. In his initial email, he wrote, “I am researching Theodore Sanning, now dead, who is my wife’s father. My wife is named Theodora, but everybody calls her Teddi, after her father.”

Andy and Teddi live in Taunton, Somerset, in the UK, but they have grandchildren and other family members in the U.S.—in Illinois, and in Jefferson City and Kansas City, Missouri.

Andy explained early attempts to trace Theodore through military records “met with the standard response regarding the great fire at the St. Louis Army Records Office in 1973.”

“The attached photograph is of Theodore, his wife, and first-born daughter,” Andy wrote. “We estimate the date of this to be around March–May 1944. The little girl was born three days before Theodore’s capture on December 6, 1942.”
 
Following the war, Theodore worked in manufacturing in Winsfield and Kansas City, Missouri. He died on November 16, 1981, and is buried in Marys Home, Missouri.
 
Theodore is survived by three daughters, one son, six grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.
 

This picture of Theodore and Evelyn, both in uniform, was taken on their wedding day.

Theodore Adolph Sanning was born March 24, 1919. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on August 6, 1940, shortly before the draft commenced. He signed up at Jefferson Barracks at Lemay, Missouri. Basic training was also conducted at Jefferson Barracks.

On Theodore’s enlistment record in the National Archives, his education is listed as “grammar school”; civilian occupation—“semiskilled chauffeurs and drivers, bus, taxi, truck, and tractor”; marital status—“single without dependents.” His Italian POW card indicates he was a farmer.

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Tom Lockett’s Escape

Historian Richard Pursehouse sent me the news article I’m sharing in this post, published in The [Cannock] Advertiser in December 1943.

Parts of the article are included in a previous post on Frederick Thomas Lockett, “Tom Lockett—Two Months To Freedom.” Thanks to Richard, I’m sharing the article in its entirety.

Also, I’m sharing more images of Tom and a postcard from his daughter, Josie Shemwell.

Repatriation papers for Tom and his friend Tommy Knight shed further light on their path to freedom.

Exciting Escape from Italy
Penkridge Man Hid in Oven from Germans

The [Cannock] Advertiser
Saturday, December 18, 1943

A SERGEANT IN THE PARATROOPERS, whose home is in Penkridge, and who was a prisoner in Italian hands for nearly a year, escaped from a camp in the north of Italy in September, and arrived home recently.

He is Sergt. Thomas Lockett, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. F. Lockett, of Teddesley-road, and when an “Advertiser” reporter interviewed him this week he was wearing physical training plimsoles. He explained that from the time he escaped until reaching the Allied lines he covered between six and seven hundred miles on foot. His feet were still too sore for him to be able to wear boots with any comfort.

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Nathaniel Halliday—Bailed from Halifax Bomber, Captured

A Halifax Mk III bomber in flight

On November 18, 1942, Flight Sergeant Nathaniel Halliday (Royal Canadian Air Force) participated in a bombing mission launched from the Royal Air Force station at Graveley, in Cambridgeshire, England—the target: Turin, Italy.

He would not return for nearly two years.

According to an M.I.9 report, the crew of his Halifax bomber consisted of:

Wing Commander W. C. Robinson (pilot)
Flight Lieutenant M. Middlemass (first navigator)
an unnamed Australian wireless operator
Flight Sergeant Potter (fight engineer)
Flight Sergeant Bruce (tail gunner)
Flight Sergeant Butler (mid-upper gunner)

Nathaniel Halliday himself was the flight’s navigator.

Their mission accomplished, the aircraft was hit by flak on its homeward journey, 10 minutes after leaving the target.

The crew bailed out, and the following day Nathaniel was captured just north of Turin.

A detailed account of the Halifax DT488 mission is on Pete Tresadern’s excellent 35squadronresearchgroup website: 35squadron.wordpress.com.

Nathaniel was held in Turin for five days. He was then held in an interrogation camp in Rome from November 23 to December 12.

On December 13, he was transferred to P.G. 59 Servigliano, where he was interned until the mass breakout from the camp on September 14, 1943.

“I moved with Flight Sergeant Moran via Santa Vitoria, Monte San Martino, to Montefalcone,” Nathaniel explained in the report.

“We stayed here from 18 September 1943 to June 1944. On 19 June, we moved to Castel di Croce, where we made contact with a British soldier named Brooks, who put us in touch with further help.

“Our route home was Ascoli (on foot), and then by truck to Termo, and by truck and train to Naples. We were flown home from Naples, leaving on 13 July, and reaching the UK on 19 July.”

Nathaniel McClure Halliday was born on September 11, 1915—he was 27 at the time of his capture. His service in the RCAF began on November 5, 1940.

At Graveley, he served in the 35 Squadron Bomber Command.

His “peacetime profession” was salesman, and he lived at 3440 West 22 Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia.

This post is based on a report to M.I.9 (July 20, 1944) from the British National Archives that Brian Sims shared with me several years ago.

For other posts about Italian prisoners of war who were members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, read “John Leon Turner, Royal Canadian Air Force” and “Laurence Barker—Died for His Country.”

Oscar Ruebens—Snapshots from the Past

Oscar Ruebens, wearing round eyeglasses in these photos.

I received a message from Carrie Stevens last year on November 19. She wrote, “I am reaching out to you because I am the great granddaughter of Oscar C. Ruebens.”

Sergeant Oscar Ruebens (SN 12016749) served in the Infantry of the U.S. Army.

His Italian POW card, archived at the U.S. National Archives, indicates he was captured in Tunisia on December 23, 1942.

Given the date he was captured and the fact he was in the Infantry, it seems likely he was taken captive during the first battle of Longstop Hill, December 23–24, 1942.

The POW card indicates Oscar was transferred from Tunisia to PG 98 on Sicily on December 28, 1942, and to PG 59 Servigliano on January 23, 1943.

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Ernest Debenham—Downed after Convoy Strike

Flight Serjeant Ernest Debenham’s daughter Lesley shared this “photo on his wedding day to my mum, Ethel Mary Debenham (née Hoyle), who he had met through scouting before the war.

Lesley Woollacott (née Debenham) wrote late last month, “I have been looking for information about my father, W/O Ernest Debenham RAF 996601, who died in 1979. I know that he was a POW at Camp 59 Servigliano and somehow escaped. He was interrogated on return to the UK at 3 P W Transit camp on 22 January 1944.

“Unfortunately, my dad didn’t talk much about his wartime experiences. He was shot down in the Mediterranean (I think he would have been navigator/gunner) flying out of Malta and walked out across the wing of his plane to be taken prisoner of war.

“I understand that he escaped by just walking out of the camp, probably with another person, and they just kept walking. He could count to 20 in Italian and ask for a box of matches, and said they somehow passed German soldiers. He was assisted by an Italian family I believe, but I’ve no idea how he got back to the UK.

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