I hope those of you who wished to place a request for Prisoner of War (POW) records from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were successful in submitting your request on 24 January. Prepare to wait a while for the results, but when you do get them, please let me know what you learned either through a comment here on my blog or with an e-mail.
For those who still wish to place a request for POW records, check the website of the ICRC for the next submission date. For now, the ICRC is accepting requests once a quarter, but that could change in the future, so please check the site for the next available date. See this previous article for more details.
My father, George Edwin Farrar, was an American Prisoner of War (POW) of Germany during World War II. The Nazis called the prisoners “Kriegsgefangenen.” The POWs called themselves “Kriegies.” That makes me, the daughter of POW #3885, a “Kriegie Kid.”
As a Kriegie Kid, I am naturally interested in discovering information about my father’s Prisoner of War experience and have found various ways to search for details.
A note, to start. My father was an airman in a B-17 Heavy Bomber Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in World War II. Therefore, the focus of my research has always been on units of the air war based in England.
The information I share may not be as applicable to units based in other theaters of the war or to Army soldiers of the ground forces or seamen of the Navy.
If you are searching for POW information for a military member from one of these other groups, I hope this information gives you some ideas on how to start your search as I’m sure I am not covering all of the options pertaining to your POW family member.
In Part 1 of this article, I covered finding POW information in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Access to Archival Databases (AAD). In this part, Part 2, I’ll cover a few alternate resources.
Other POW information resources:
- Wartime Missing Air Crew Reports
- Post-wartime documents, including Honorable Discharge, Separation Qualification Record, and POW Medal Application
Wartime Missing Air Crew Reports
If you can locate the wartime Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) for an air crews’ loss and subsequent capture, you may learn many details depending on how complete the report is. Some of the WWII Army Air Force Groups have websites or Facebook pages and may have a historian or researcher that will help you find this information.
An alternate source is to perform a name search for the WWII time period on fold3, a separate Ancestry.com website of online military records. You may register for a free account to search, but may need to join or start a free trial to review any Missing Air Crew Reports the search reveals.
You may also find B-17 crew/aircraft losses and the MACR number in Dave Osborne’s Fortlog (B-17 Fortress Master Log) by searching on the name of your POW. For example, when I search on my dad’s last name, I find the B-17’s serial number and name, Bomb Group and Squadron numbers, MIA place and date, names of the members of the crew on board, where they were lost, and the MACR number:
43-37822 Del Cheyenne 25/5/44; Kearney 8/6/44; Grenier 28/6/44; Ass 544BS/384BG [SU-N] Grafton Underwood 29/6/44; MIA Magdeburg 28/9/44 w/John Buslee, Dave Albrecht, Bill Henson, Bob Stearns, Len Bryant, Seb Peluso, George McMann, Gerald Anderson (8KIA); George Farrar (POW); flak, cr Ingersleben, Ger; MACR 9753. LEAD BANANA.
I was able to find POW information on my father’s Honorable Discharge and Separation Qualification Record paperwork. After communicating with other children of former POW’s, though, I learned that the information was not always presented in the same area of those documents, so if you have these, carefully look over the entire documents, front and back.
For example, on my father’s Honorable Discharge, I find this information listed on the back page:
- Box 34, Wounds Received in Action: Germany 28 Sept 44 (indicates the date of the mid-air collision in which he became a POW)
- Box 36, Date of Departure (indicates the date he left the ETO – European Theater of Operations – two months after his liberation date and return to US military control)
- Box 55, Remarks: POW Germany – 28 Sept 44 – 2 May 45 (Not all discharge papers list the POW’s exact dates of internment, but my father’s did)
On the back page of my father’s Separation Qualification Record, under Additional Information, Box 23, Remarks, is noted: POW in Germany 28 Sept 44 – 2 May 45.
On the front page of Wilfred Frank Miller’s Separation Qualification Record, under Summary of Military Occupations, Box 13, Title – Description – Related Civilian Occupation, this information is noted: Was shot down and Bailed out over Germany. Was taken prisoner of war and interned for 7 months. Was returned to U.S. control 13 May 1945.
Obviously, there was no standard way to report this information, so review these documents thoroughly for POW details.
Also, the dates noted are not completely clear as to what the end date signifies. Liberation date and date returned to military control are not necessarily the same date, as was the case for my father. However, my father was liberated by the British and it likely took time from his liberation date for him to be transferred from British forces to American forces and returned to U.S. control.
For Miller, perhaps his date signifies that he was liberated by the Americans and immediately returned to U.S. control. These clues can help pinpoint where the POW was when he was liberated if we can find the historical evidence of the dates of separate liberations of various groups of prisoners.
From the different end dates between Miller and my dad, I must assume they did not march in the same column of marchers from Stalag Luft IV and took different paths to freedom.
Prisoner of War (POW) Medal Application: If you still have your father’s post-wartime documents, you may find a copy of his POW medal application, if he applied for this post-war medal. Or you may find it in his file at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis.
In Section I – Prisoner of War Identification Data, Box 13, Additional Information, the former POW was asked to describe his Place of imprisonment, disposition after release, or escape, recapture and release. There are also other spaces for information such as Branch of Service, Date Confined as POW, Unit of Assignment/Attachment when Captured, and Date Released as POW.
In Part 3, I’ll cover a few more options and suggestions for finding POW information.
The German word for prisoner of war (POW) was Kriegsgefangener (singular) and Kriegsgefangenen (plural). The POWs called themselves “Kriegies” for short.
Kriegie Kids and the Search for POW Records, Part 1
fold3 military records website
Dave Osborne’s Fortlog (B-17 Fortress Master Log)
National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)
NARA search of Records of World War II Prisoner of War
ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) Requests for Information About People Held POW
Kriegie Kids Facebook group
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022