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September 18, 2013

WWII POW recalls capture, German Stalag Luft 1

CLIFF HAVEN — U.S. Army Air Corps navigator Robert Munn landed safely after parachuting from the stricken B-17 bomber.

But then an elderly German rode up on horseback and pointed his pistol at the American flier, who promptly put up his hands in surrender. 

Munn followed the man on a short walk to a farmyard. From there, he was taken to an interrogation center and then to Stalag Luft 1, a prison camp on the Baltic Sea where he would spend the next eight months.

Thursday night, the Cliff Haven man will sing “Taps” at the annual POW/MIA Remembrance Day Service at the Memorial Chapel in Plattsburgh, where veterans of all wars, among them prisoners of war and those missing in action, will be honored.

LEIPZIG RAID

Munn, who retired from the Air Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel, was born in Saranac Lake; he was deployed to England in August 1944.

“England was like a great big aircraft carrier,” he said of the vast number of planes there at the time.

Munn navigated B-17 bombers, a plane he describes as well-armed and quite successful, on three missions over Germany, but that fourth trip wasn’t as fortunate.

The plane was shot down on Sept. 12, 1944, just north of Berlin during a raid on Leipzig.

“I parachuted out of the airplane at 21,000 feet,” he said. “After the airplane was wounded, it was in a gentle glide. 

“It was a beautiful day; the sun was out.”

He was just 20 years old.

“All these things were exciting at the time, scary,” he said. “To this day, I don’t know if we lost anybody (in the Leipzig raid).”

DECENT TREATMENT

Although Munn, now 89, has heard bad stories about Nazi prisons, he counts his blessings he landed in one.

“I was very fortunate that I was a German prisoner rather than a Japanese prisoner,” he said. “The prisoners (in Japanese camps) suffered considerably more than we did. 

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