Upper bunk by the barrack's wall

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Oleksandra G. Manko
  • Nellis Public Affairs
"The profession of arms is one that demands special sacrifices," said Lt. Col. Douglas Larson, chief of commander's action group, 57th Wing. "Today we honor the men and women whose service resulted in their becoming prisoners of war and who are still missing in action. We commemorate their sacrifices and those of their families as a way of remembering, of keeping faith with our comrades in arms by keeping them alive in our hearts and memories."

My advice is, don't become a prisoner of war, - they don't treat you
very well," said Carroll Knutson, an 83-year-old former prisoner of war,
native of Santa Monica, Calif., present chairman of the 7-11 chapter
American Ex-prisoners of War Veterans History Project archive and a
member of the POW/MIA ceremony team here at Nellis.

"I was a senior in high school on my 18th birthday, aviation cadet on my 19th birthday, flying a B-17 by 20th birthday and at POW camp by my 21st birthday," said Mr. Knutson.
He started his service fresh out of high school in 1942.

"I was flying co-pilot for the squadron commander in a B-17 on a raid on Hannover, Germany, in 1944 against a synthetic oil refinery," recalled Mr. Knutson. "The weather forecast was not very accurate, and we ended up going in about 5,000 feet lower than was planned."

The ground fire was a lot more accurate at the lower elevation, and Lt. Knutson's plane got hit.

"My wingman called over and said, 'Would you mind pulling out of formation. You're on fire and if you blow you're going to take some other planes with you,'" continued Mr. Knutson.

The events that followed resulted in Lt. Knutson, along with the other eight surviving crew members of his craft, becoming prisoners of war. Knutson was sent to an officer POW camp -- Stalag Luft 3 in Zagan, Poland, which was under German control at the time.

"Initially I was in a state of shock. When you start out you are in this big group and then every step you lose part of the group. All the pilots over there were the same way. They are the guys who have essentially won every single time, and then suddenly - you didn't win. You've been doing it for a year or so - what a shock. Especially since you've lost so many of your comrades you end up with a feeling - that's not going to happen to me, and when it does it's a big change," explained Mr. Knutson.

Surviving in a POW camp, keeping hold of hope and staying sane is not an easy task. Lt. Knutson, who didn't smoke at the time, traded some of his cigarette rations, that came in Red Cross packages, for a wartime log that one of the guys in his room received about a year earlier from the Swiss Red Cross and hadn't done anything with. Using watercolors and Crayolas - no pens were allowed in the POW camps, - Lt. Knutson filled in the log with sketches and poems, jokes and cartoons trying to maintain a sense of humor and keep track of his roommates.

"In the air battle for Europe, we had 8,000 planes shot down, and 40,000 crewmembers there, and over half of them were killed and missing in action; and most of the rest were POWs. Very few were able to contact the underground and get out, so the majority were killed, and essentially all the rest ended up as prisoners," said Mr. Knutson, who spent a year of his life in a POW camp, extensively studied military history and considers himself lucky to have survived.

Lt. Col. Larson expressed the Air Force's position on the subject: "For those who have never returned and have never been accounted for, our MIAs, - their families and comrades can only guess at their fate as they live with the painful uncertainty of not knowing what has become of the missing. They wait and hope, and we stand with them as they do, never forgetting and never relenting in our quest to account for their loved ones and bring them home."