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The Faustball Tunnel, German Pows In America And Their Great Escape

June 2024
1min read

by John Hammond Moore
Random House, $8.95

When you dig a secret escape tunnel, what do you do with the dirt? One group of German POWs held at Papago Park, Arizona, during World War II solved the problem by building a faustball (a form of volleyball) court inside their compound. Their guards were delighted; it was the first cooperative gesture these particular die-hard Nazis had made. On the twenty-third of December, 1944, three months after work started on the athletic field, twenty-five German naval officers and seamen wriggled through the 178-foot tunnel to freedom.

Their freedom turned out to be brief, but this intriguing account, drawn from newly declassified military records, reminds us of how little we know about the half-million POWs held in the U.S. from 1942 to 1946. The peculiar cat-and-mouse game between captive and captor—all conducted within the confines of the Geneva Convention—is revealing and entertaining.

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