Mike Meserole, author of The Great Escape: The Longest Tunnel dedicates his book “To the Fifty,” a fitting introduction to commemorate the men who were murdered while escaping for their freedom. Rarely do men such as these come along who are committed to persevering, even in the face of peril, adversity and hardship.
When and from whom did this adversity come from? To begin, the context of this story comes in two different frameworks. In the broad sense, Germany had taken on England in an air war. Between 1941 and 1943, many Allied planes were shot down and therefore, numerous Allied airmen found themselves in prisoner of war camps (POWs). Then in early 1943, the RAF welcomed the addition ...view middle of the document...
Finally, the night of the breakout was set and the 200 men selected to break out were all prepared. However, major complications on the night of the escape only allowed for 76 of the 200 to get out. Of those 76, all but three were recaptured and 50 of the 76 were executed as an example to the rest of the men. However, the escape was still a success. Thousands of German police, Gestapo, and soldiers were engaged in finding these men, instead of being available to the Nazi war effort.
The thesis Meserole presents is twofold. The first part states that it is “every officer's duty to escape should he be taken prisoner.” The latter part asserts that among the prisoners in the camp, “Escape beckoned.” Points these points are illustrated through multiple examples of pre-tunnelling escape attempts as well as the “escape fever” that occurred among some of the men. Finally, Meserole’s book has both weaknesses and strengths, as with every piece of literature. However, The Great Escape: The Longest Tunnel is a great example of teenage historical nonfiction that will guide and help transition them into adult historical nonfiction.
Who is the author? Mike Meserole is an author, researcher editor who first began writing for ESPN and Sports Illustrated. He has his BA in English from Union College in Schenectady, NY. At a young age became passionate about WWII and what happened during the war, after reading a book about it. The book is specifically written for a younger teenage audience. Is also a great introduction into adult historical novels.
The context of the story takes place on two different and distinct levels: broad and specific. The broad context of the escape deals with what had lead up to this point in the war and when it took place in relation to the end of the war. Germany had engaged with Britain in what was known as the Battle of Britain. As more air battles ensued, both British and German planes were shot down. By 1941, Britain engaged in what was known as "thousand-bomber raids" on major German cities. Yet, with the increase of bombing raids also came an increase in Allied planes being shot down. As already mentioned, in early 1943, the RAF welcomed the addition of U.S. Army Air Force. This increase in pilots and planes also increased the number of planes being shot down, and therefore the number of Allied POWs also increased.
In relation to the end of the war, the breakout occurred on March 24, 1944, about one year and one month from Allied liberation of these men. Hitler's eventual suicide happened about a year and a month later as well. Finally, this escape is about 13 and a half months removed from the German unconditional surrender on May 7, 1945.
However, the context of this breakout also occurs on a more specific level: In relation to the camp and the men who inhabited it. Stalag Luft III was the third POW camp for Allied airmen. With the grand opening in April of 1943, Stalag Luft III was to hold "2500 Allied airmen.” ...