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Friday, October 21, 2016 10:59
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Dissident journalist Julian Assange sought sanctuary in Ecuador’s London Embassy in August 2012. Having since disappeared after his internet connection was severed the Australian whistle-blower’s fate remains unknown. The Ecuadorian government concedes their decision to disconnect Assange. In view of the enormous pressure Washington DC can put on any small country Ecuador’s doing so is understandable.

However, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the whistle-blower’s synchronized disappearance. Adding my own hypothesis to a storm of speculation it would make sense if a deal was struck. Assange would be silenced but he would simultaneously be released.

One is reminded of Luftwaffe flying ace Baron Franz von Werra’s escape from the United States in April 1941. On September 5, 1940 the German fighter pilot was captured after being shot down over England by RAF Pilot Officer Basil Gerald Stapleton of 603 Squadron. What followed was a number of daring escapes from several of Britain’s 1,050 prisoner of war camps. Exasperated, the British finally shipped the flying ace to Canada. There he was destined to spend the rest of captivity in one of Canada’s 40 POW camps.

During the prison train’s journey across the Newfoundland hinterland the Luftwaffe ace organised an escape party. With several other Luftwaffe prisoners of war Baron von Werra escaped the train at Smith’s Falls in Ontario. Canada’s mid-winters are notoriously vicious and the small escape party was still 30 miles distant from the St. Lawrence River. The river marks the U.S ~ Canadian border. Franz von Werra did successfully escape whilst his four companions were quickly captured.

Having crossed the frozen St. Lawrence River to the then neutral United States the fighter pilot was taken into custody. Charged with entering the United States illegally von Werra was bailed by the German Consulate whose New York office offered the fugitive pilot sanctuary. The much peeved Washington DC dearly wanted to comply with England’s demand that the wayward pilot be returned to Canada or Britain. Stalemate ensued in which the Baron enjoyed celebrity status. Americans, most of whom were sympathetic towards the Reich, adored the daring flying officer. The charismatic Luftwaffe ace exploited his film star handsomeness and media loved a good story.

The stand-off continued until April 1941 when the flying ace clandestinely fled the United States. There was much speculation about the complicity of consular officials. On April 18, 1941 Franz von Werra arrived in Berlin after travelling home via Mexico, Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona and Rome.

The German nation made a great fuss of their returning hero and relished the humiliation of England’s snarling media. Flying ace Baron Franz von Werra was personally awarded the Iron Cross by Adolf Hitler. The escapee soon afterwards married his long-time girlfriend and following the short honeymoon the Luftwaffe pilot re-joined his comrades and was placed on active duty on the Eastern Front. There he added further humiliation to Britain by successfully downing a number of U.S made aircraft previously shipped to Bolshevik Russia.

Although the story of Franz von Werra’s escape ends on an inspiring note there is a poignant end to his epic adventure. In 1944 and 1945 the beleaguered Reich suffered constant 1,000 bomber USAAF and RAF air raids. To help alleviate Germany´s distress the ace pilot was transferred to fighter patrols guarding the Reich´s North Sea defences. During one such flight Baron von Werra’s aircraft engine failed and the engaging and undoubtedly brave airman was lost at sea. 

The story of the legendary flying ace was told in the 1957 movie, The One that Got Away. Hardy Krueger played the part of the Baron. The air ace´s life, exploits and daring escape is also related in the beautifully illustrated updated edition of HEROES OF THE RICH, Mike Walsh, available from Amazon Books – Amazon Kindle.


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