George Vasil’s tale of his fight for freedom from a Nazi prison camp may sound like a movie plot, but for him, it was a very real, life-changing…
By Chelsea Bannach
SPOKANE — George Vasil’s tale of his fight for freedom from a Nazi prison camp may sound like a movie plot, but for him, it was a very real, life-changing experience.
In 1943, Vasil was flying his ninth mission of World War II. The airman’s task was to bomb a shipyard in Kiel, Germany, but his B-17 bomber was shot down by Luftwaffe fighters.
He spent the next two years in a Nazi prison camp, where he risked his life to help build 350-foot escape tunnels 40 feet underground. Those tunnels and the prisoners who dug them inspired the film “The Great Escape.”
Because of the perilous journey Vasil endured, he was selected as this year’s keynote speaker at the Prisoner of War Remembrance Day program Friday at Spokane’s VA Medical Center.
Vasil’s freedom came in April 1945, when American troops began liberating Nazi prison camps.
POW Remembrance Day is held April 9 to mark the anniversary of the 1942 Bataan Death March, when sick and starving U.S. forces surrendered to invading Japanese troops on the Bataan peninsula on Luzon island. This year is the 69th anniversary of the march.