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Thread: George Harsh, RCAF and POW

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    Default George Harsh, RCAF and POW

    I'm doing some research on George Harsh, a tailgunner shot down in October 1942 and was sent to Stalag Luft 3. I'd like to know more about his service and missions; and his latter days as a POW. And anything else, too! Thanks

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    Hello,

    Have you read his autobiography, "Lonesome Road"?

    In the final few pages he discusses how he, Wally Floody and Kingsley Brown all took off from Stalag IIIA, Luckenwalde, where the Russians were holding them for reasons which still remain murky. Excellent book written by a well read man who just happened to be a convicted murderer released from a chain gang after performing an emergency appendectomy on a fellow prisoner when the doctor on call was stranded in a snow storm.

    Harsh died in 1980 and as such his RCAF service file, held by Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, is available for research. You will require proof of death which you can obtain here:

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1964&dat=19800127&id=XP8sAAAAIBAJ&s jid=-MsFAAAAIBAJ&pg=867,3742679

    Print that out and read here:

    http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/genealogy/022-909.007-e.html

    Scroll down to:

    How to Send an Inquiry Concerning Your Own or Another Individual's Records.

    Here you will get the forms to apply for his records which will need to accompany the proof of death.

    Regards,

    Dave

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    Articles about him:

    Douglas How, "The Unlikely Friendship", Legion Magazine, May 1984

    Brereton Greenhaus, "You Can't Hang a Million Dollars", Canadian Defence Quarterly, June 1990.

    Would you like photocopies ? If so, send me your mailing address. I shall be able to consult both magazines tomorrow (Tuesday, 2 April). Otherwise, it will be a week before I see them again.

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    Hello,

    George Harsh joined 102 Squadron in July 1942 and these are the Operations he flew whilst there.

    26/7/42 Hamburg. F/L P Gaskell pilot
    29/7/42 Saarbrucken. Sgt JB Robinson pilot
    31/7/42 Dusseldorf. F/L P Gaskell pilot
    23/9/42 Flensburg. W/O FA Schaw pilot
    26/9/42 Flensburg. W/O FA Schaw pilot
    05/10/42 Aachen. W/O FA Schaw pilot


    Dave,
    I've had an interest in him for a while as he joined 102 squadron at the same time as my grandfather, unfortunately having read Lonesome Road I've been unable to marry his very descriptive account of his time there to any official or unofficial records available regarding 102 Squadron, I'd make sure anything he says of his time as a POW has a second source!

    Hugh,
    Please could I have a copy? no hurry though, at your leisure.

    Rgds

    Pete

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    Hi Pete,

    Thankfully, Brown's tale and Floody's recollections match up with Harsh's as far as the actions of the Russians at Luckenwalde goes. That is also backed up by the report written by W/Cdr Richard Collard, the Senior British Officer there and the 2010 and 2011 taped recollections I have by RAF POW Sgt. Andy Wiseman, a Polish Jew, who was Collard's interpreter with the Soviets.

    I do take your point however as more than one RCAF man reported that US war reporter, Ernie Pyle, was in the camp, post-liberation, to get a story. Given that this was May 1945 and Pyle was killed in the Pacific Theatre in April, 1945, it's not possible.

    This article on Harsh's crime and the writer's conclusions on Harsh are very much worth a read:

    http://www.milwaukeemag.com/article/12192011-TheThrillKiller

    Regards,

    Dave

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    Thanks for the link Dave, it's a fascinating read, certainly the bits he missed out of his book! I had also read somewhere that info on the alleged appendectomy was proving hard to find. Good to see his recollections match up regarding his time with Wally Floody and Co. though. Harsh's views seemed to be well respected post-war by very diverse sections of society, definitely enough material for a Hollywood Blockbuster with this chap even if only half of it is true.

    I have a problem with some of what he wrote when he was with 102 Squadron though and it got me questioning the accuracy his other statements.


    He says Churchill visited the squadron before the raid to Flensburg on the 23rd (or 26th) September. Harsh is very detailed in his description of Churchill, shuffling in in an ill fitting uniform with his impish grin and rubbery features and giving the crews a motivational speech after their briefing, but there is no evidence of this visit in Squadron or Station Orbs nor any personal recollections of any airmen seeing him, nothing in the Press, nothing in Churchill's memoirs.
    There are other things that don't add up, his claim to have been posted in as Squadron Gunnery Officer and his view that it was a "green crew from the replacement depot" that he flew with on his last Op. In his book this involved him being stood with the Operations Officer at the end of the runway, not flying that night, when a Halifax ready for take off signalled a problem, Harsh ran to the plane, where the rear gunner had broken the gunsight. Harsh extricates gunner from turret, examines gunsight, takes gunners parachute and straps it on over his best uniform and then gets in the turret and off they go. Funnily enough the Orb doesn't mention this and the take off times don't show any delays that you might expect either.

    Interestingly his book and the Milwaukee link you posted say 12 years on a chain gang but Wally Floody's piece on the obit link has him at 6 years, no doubt a genuine mistake in the obit but it just shows the confusion surrounding him.

    Rgds

    Pete

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    Hi Pete,

    Of the many errors I have made in life one I regret was not asking Betty Floody if I could copy Harsh's flying log. In 1993 I gave a speech at one of the monthly meetings of the RCAF ex-POW Association in Ottawa which she attended. Wally had passed away four years earlier.

    These mysteries are quite easily solved. His service file will reveal in just what capacity he joined 102. But to give you some ideas about ORBs. The Station ORB for Ludford Magna has nothing written on the day a B17 crashed on approach. I presume it was more important to list the badminton tourney between officers and some cadets, than the crash of a kite.

    And part of me can't shake the feeling that a lot of Harsh's book was "sexed" up by an editor. His attestation papers should reveal all as far as the chain gang story goes. The RCMP will have, no doubt, made enquiries. I just can't see a Georgia prison in the 30s allowing release of a convicted murderer without some mighty extenuating circumstances.

    Regards,

    Dave

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