Stalag 13 is the fictional location for the "toughest prisoner of war camp in Germany", under the command of Colonel Wilhelm Klink. There has never been a successful escape from the camp. But in reality, the camp, which is located near the town of Hammelburg, hid an anti-Nazi organization that is made up of captured Allied flyers. The unit, led by Colonel Robert Hogan, specialized in sabotage, rescuing Allied pilots, passing along intelligence to London and helping other POWs escape back to England, and doing it all right under the Germans' noses.
The Real Stalag 13 Edit
During World War II, there were two POW camps located near Hammelburg, Lower Franconia, Bavaria, Germany. The name of one camp was Stalag XIII-C. The other, an officer or Oflag camp, was Oflag XIII-B.
Stalag XIII-C was a POW camp for non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel. It contained three compounds, one for British and Commonwealth soldiers, one for American soldiers and the third for Soviet soldiers.
Oflag XIII-B had two compounds. One was for American officers, while the other was for Serbian officers.
In late March, 1945, after the crossing of the Rhine River, an armored task force, Task Force Baum, under orders from General George S. Patton, Jr., was sent to Oflag XIII-B to liberate the prisoners who are being held there. There is some controversy over the reason for the raid which is now known to history as "The Hammelburg Raid". Patton claimed that he had sent the task force to the camp to rescue the prisoners so that they would not be executed by the retreating Germans, while others believe that the raid had been conducted in order to liberate Patton's son-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel John K. Waters, who had been found to be at the camp.
The task force, made up mainly of units from the 4th US Armored Division, reached the camp on March 27, after making a 60 mile deep penetration through the Germans' front lines. The task force liberated the camp, and found Waters. They soon learned from one of the other prisoners, who was a doctor, that he had been wounded during an earlier escape attempt and was therefore unable to be moved from the camp because of those injuries. The troopers then left the camp, taking with them all those who wanted to get back to friendly lines. This turned out to be 1200 men.
Unfortunately, the task force, miles from the camp, was attacked on three sides by German troops the following day, and was soon fighting for its very life. The task force was soon destroyed, with most of the force (those who weren't dead) captured, including a large number of the recently liberated prisoners. About a week to ten days after the failed raid, the camp was again liberated by American troops, but by then, most of the more able-bodied prisoners were sent elsewhere.
Patton was later reprimanded for the raid by both General Eisenhower and General Bradley, for both the aborted attempt and the destruction of the task force. He told war correspondents a short time after the reprimand that he had no idea that his son-in-law was actually in the camp until after the troops had reached Hammelburg. But, he later admitted that not sending a Combat Command to Hammelburg instead of the task force was the only mistake that he made during the campaign.
- Baron, Richard and Abe Baum. (2000) Raid!: The Untold Story of Patton's Secret Mission. Dell Publishing (Reprint). ISBN 0440236096.
- Whiting, Charles. (1970) 48 Hours to Hammelburg: The True, Long Suppressed Story of One of Patton's Boldest and Bloodiest Missions. Berkley Publishing Group. ISBN 0345020669.