The Great Escape (Fawcett, 1986)

The Great Escape – A story of tenacity, drive, teamwork, and leadership!


I watched the movie many times and remember initially watching it as a kid in the ‘sixties’.  With a long driving trip planned, I decided to give the book when it came up as a daily deal (Thank you!).  The book filled in many of the details of the movie and painted a different picture than I remember.  I might be wrong but the ‘great escape’ in the movie wasn’t in the winter but was in the spring.  As usual, it seems the Hollywood version of the story created a more ‘entertaining’ version than the book. If you are looking for an entertaining book then this isn’t the book for you.  It is more along the line of a PBS and/or documentary account without all of the flamboyancy that Hollywood adds to true life.


The perseverance of the men is an inspiration and just as important is how there were officers from many countries who not only worked together but according to the book, watched out for each other.  (Maybe this book should be recommended reading in history.)


The book is told by an ‘eye’ witness as one of the men who worked on the escape giving intricate detail and in some cases the detail overshadows the characters.


This book tells a first-hand picture of WWII German prison camps and covers the many attempts leading up to the ‘famed’ attempt and the horrific aftermath when the soldiers were caught.  The point I found just as interesting is the ‘after the war’ when those that partook in the needless execution of the escapees were tried for war crimes.


It took time for me to ‘get used to the narrator’.  His accent is much different than I listen to which caused some initial confusion with the names.


Final thoughts – I found it interesting how the prisoners named the guards e.g. “rubber neck” and how leaders rose up and kept the hundreds of men working together.


As mentioned, this should be mandatory reading for high school history and taught as a basis for leadership principles based on a common goal.



Not from the book but a great teamwork quote:

Individually we are one drop but together, we are an ocean. This is a quote that states what the men did in not only their attempts to escape but their drive to disrupt the German leadership.  This fact was stated multiple times in the book – disrupt the Germans.


“One Of The Great True Stories Of The War, And One Of The Greatest Escape Narratives Of All Time.”

The San Francisco Chronicle

From the Inside Flap

With only their bare hands and the crudest of homemade tools, they sank shafts, built underground railroads, forged passports, drew maps, faked weapons, and tailored German uniforms and civilian clothes.

They developed a fantastic security system to protect themselves from the German “ferrets” who prowled the compounds with nerve-racking tenacity and suspicion.

It was a split-second operation as delicate and as deadly as a time bomb. It demanded the concentrated devotion and vigilance of more than six hundred men — every single one of them, every minute, every hour, every day, and every night for more than a year.

About the Author

Paul Brickhill was directly involved with the escape from Stalag Luft III, although he was one of the prisoners left behind. This and his other famous book Reach for the Sky are his best known works. This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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