The British and US air-strike units paid a high price for their operations against German cities, lines of communication and industrial plants. By the time the German Reich capitulated in May 1945, both the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) had had casualties numbering approximately 80,000 men each. Pilots and crew members of Allied combat airplanes who survived being shot down were interned as prisoners of war by the Germans.
This was a way into an unknown future for the men. Probably all of them had questions in mind like the following:
Will I be treated decently? Will I have to undergo starvation?
Will my family know that I am alive?
Will I be forced to work for the Germans?
What does the enemy know concerning my unit?
When people finally arrived at one of the prisoner-of-war camps after extensive interrogations, they had a period of waiting and uncertainty before them. Cramped accommodation, monotonous rations and boredom were the only kinds of inconvenience British and American prisoners of war were normally subjected to, however. Other than their Soviet counterparts, they were generally treated correctly in accordance with the regulations of the international law of war.
Anyone who attempted to escape from captivity, however, put his own life in danger even if he belonged to the Allied forces. From 12 July 2013 to 28 September 2014, the Bundeswehr Museum of Military History – Airfield Berlin-Gatow – will present the exhibition »Privileged Camps? Western Allied Aircrews as Prisoners of War in Germany during World War II«. This will show the route into the POW camp, the daily routine behind the barbed wire, but also the variety of activities by which the prisoners sought to alleviate the tedium of camp routine.
The planning and realization of escapes were of particular importance in the lives of the internees. Biographical sketches of Allied prisoners of war give individual faces to the events described.