Doodles of World War II Prisoners
From "Memoirs of a Prisoner of War," a 77-page, wartime POW diary of George S. Vasil, B-17 Navigator, 8th Air Force.
Elaborately drawn, colorful illustrations, George Vasil's renderings were both a way to pass the time and a valuable record of the enemy's incarceration methods. Should a soldier escape, this kind of intelligence could play a pivotal role in freeing his battle buddies.
This detailed watercolor rendering of the concertina surrounding his prison camp and the positioning of a guard tower is one of the finer examples among the collection.
George Vasil's log is full of simpler drawings and poems, which chronicle his thoughts and feelings during his incarceration, as well as anecdotes and keen observations about the idiosyncrasies of camp life.
His insightful sketches and writing are often optimistic and humorous, like this cartoonish self-portrait in which the airman is surrounded by scenes of daily life around the POW camp.
George Vasil used his drawings to relate the events that lead to his capture, when the B-17 in which he was flying was shot down over enemy territory.
Sketched using a cartoon-like method which illustrates the crash in a bubble above his head, Vasil's full-page, colored pencil rendering shows him at a drinking establishment recounting his story to the bartender, with bottle in hand at the ready to refill the soldier's glass and without concern for the blonde beauty beside him.
Like George Vasil, Joseph J. Veronick, Army Air Force Radio Operator, leveraged his artistic talents to illustrate the downing of his plane that lead to his capture in a POW log. The log was issued through the American Y.M.C.A.
Page 5 of Veronick's log is a drawing of an airman falling from the sky with parachute and the words "Shot down, Nov. 13, 1943, Bremen, Ger." Veronick was shot down over Bremen, Germany on 13 November 1943 and held prisoner in the German POW camp, Stalag IIIB.
Illustrations by soldiers like Joseph Veronick also documented the efforts of the Red Cross during the war and the packages that soldiers received, full of various food items otherwise unavailable at the POW camps.
This colorful drawing depicts items such as coffee, tinned milk, dried fruits and canned meats, as well as the staples of army rations: cigarettes and chocolate bars.
A similar theme is found in the illustrations of the wartime log of Pvt. Edward Shaw, which Shaw produced while he was a prisoner of war at Stalag 7-A,(VIIA) in Germany, 1944-45. Shaw and other imprisoned soldiers relied upon the Red Cross for more than nutritional sustenance. Packages also often included correspondence from back home.
Shaw was a private in the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.
Like the emotion communicated in George Vasil's self-portraits, soldiers' logs did more than simply illustrate what POW camps looked like. Edward Shaw's work evokes a distinct and poignant feeling of pathos using cartoon-style methods such as thought bubbles.
In this colored pencil rendering, he captures both the starkness of the barracks along with his longing for home and family.
YMCA Wartime Log maintained by Chester Strunk in Stalag Luft III. Strunk was a navigator on the B-17 "Heaven Can Wait" whose crew bailed out on a mission to Ploesti in July 1944.
His log includes POW lingo, such as "Kriegie Abort" -- "Kriegie" which was slang for POW, from the German "Kriegsgefangen" for "prisoners of war," and "Abort" which means "latrine," which the image humourously illustrates as the spot to be around camp.
Harold Noel served in the U.S. Army Air Froce (USAAF) as a crewman on a B-24 Liberator, one of the heavy bombers in the 777th Bombardment Squadron, 464th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force. He was shot down on his 14th mission, captured and sent to the German POW camp, Stalag Luft III-A.
In the last months of the war, Noel and hundreds of his fellow POWs were marched across Germany to the prison camp at Moosburg where they were liberated by American forces in April 1945. Soon after he was liberated, Noel returned to the United States and was separated from service with the rank of second lieutenant.
This two-hour oral history details Noel's life before the war, his service, and daily life during his imprisonment at Stalag Luft III-A. Hear firsthand of the experiences illustrated in the previous slides. For closed captioning or to view the transcript, please click through to the catalog record here.