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The story of Frank D. Murphy with excerpts from his book 'Luck Of The Draw' chronicling his experiences in World War II and more...
by Kevin Murphy

US Air Force Archives

War. Just as one conflict ends another one comes along. Brutal, destructive, the human loss and misery. Worldwide peace never seems to exist. But from all the chaos that a war brings with it are amazing stories of those who put their lives on hold to serve in their nations war effort.

Leaving their families, friends, their work for a united cause of ending a conflict and hopefully returning to what they had left behind. Two individuals with remarkable stories in World War II, one I knew very well was my father Captain Frank D. Murphy, US Army Air Forces B-17 Navigator and the other I would have liked to have met is Roger Bushell, Pilot and Squadron Leader in Britain's Royal Air Force


Frank D. Murphy was born on 9 September 1921 in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the second child of three boys, Michael the oldest and John the youngest by his parents Mary Sibyl Murphy and Michael Vincent Murphy.


After the December 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor, Frank Murphy did what many others would do across America and that was to enlist in the military and serve his country. He entered the US Army Air Corps on January 19, 1942 as a cadet. After training at Maxwell Field in Alabama he was then sent to Turner Field in Albany, Georgia for training as a navigator. He graduated on 4 July 1942 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. After receiving more training he was then dispatched to Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho and would become a crew member with the 100th Bomb Group as a B-17 navigator. It was from here in June 1943 that the crew flew to England arriving at Station 139 at Thorpe Abbotts, Norfolk, England.

Construction on the airfield had started in 1942 and was completed in 1943 to be used for missions by the RAF but was later given to the US Army Air Force. It had been designed to accommodate heavy bomber aircraft with hangars, maintenance facilities, bomb storage and 2900 airman and staff.

Murphy and his crew were one of the first American aircraft to land and begin operations at Thorpe Abbotts. The mission log showed 21 bombing missions over Germany and France. On 10 October 1943 their mission to Muenster would be the last. The downing of American planes and crew losses of the 100th BG by the Germans between June and July 1943 would give the title 'The Bloody Hundredth' to the crews based at Thorpe Abbotts.


The B17 Flight Crew

Charles B.Cruikshank Capt. Glenn E.Graham 1st Lt. Frank D.Murphy Capt. (top row 2nd right) August H.Gaspar 1st Lt.
Orlando E.Vincenti T/Sgt Leonard R.Weeks T/Sgt.
Robert L.Bixler S/Sgt.
James M.Johnson S/Sgt.
Donald B.Garrison S/Sgt.
Charles A.Clark Sgt.

Frank Murphy described the Muenster mission :

"On the clear, sunny, autumn afternoon of October 10, 1943, I was navigator on a B-17 Flying Fortress crew of the 100th Bomb Group taking part in a ‘maximum effort’ strike by 215 aircraft of the England-based U.S. Army Eighth Air Force Bomber Command on the town and railroad marshalling yards at Munster, Germany. Forty-six aircraft of the 13th Combat Wing of Eighth Bomber Command, comprised of the 95th, 100th and 390th Bomb Groups, were leading the attack. We no sooner reached our Initial Point (IP, the beginning point for our bomb run) at Haltern, Germany, twenty miles southwest of Munster, when we came under fierce anti-aircraft artillery fire from dozens of ground batteries of 88mm and 105 mm (railroad flak) guns strategically placed to protect the approaches to the city. At the outer perimeter of the city the anti-aircraft artillery fire abruptly ceased. Without pause, swarms of upward of 250 Luftwaffe single and twin-engine fighter aircraft previously launched to intercept us commenced their attacks.

"Despite non-stop assaults by wave after wave of German aircraft, we managed to reach our target, release our bombs, and begin a sweeping ninety degree left turn away from the city to our rally point where we would rejoin the 95th and 390th Bomb Groups who made their own individual bomb runs. About half way through this turn Luftwaffe Oberleutnant Heinrich Klopper, staffelkapitan (generally the equivalent of an American fighter squadron commander) of 7. /Jadgegeschwader 1, slipped his Bf 109G fighter aircraft in behind us and raked our airplane from stem to stern with long bursts of deadly fire from his 7.9mm machine guns and 20mm cannon. Our pilots’ flight controls were instantly disabled and we at once had two out-of-control fires on our hands—an oxygen bottle-fed inferno in our radio room in the fuselage and a raging engine fire behind the firewall of our Number 4 engine in the right outer wing. Our aircraft was going down; we had no choice, we had to immediately abandon ship. I snapped my chest pack parachute on to the harness I was wearing and followed Glenn Graham, our copilot, out the forward escape door. I quickly opened my chute and drifted down for about twenty minutes. Immediately upon hitting the ground I was taken into custody by local farmers."

Stalag Luft III

The Coventry Telegraph

Once shot down and interrogated by the German authorities thousands of British and American Flying Officers were sent to Stalag Luft III which originally was a PoW camp for British RAF Officers but by the summer of 1944 there would be 3,242 American officers and by 1945 a total of 6,844 reported by the International Red Cross.

In a US Military Intelligence Service War Department Review of Stalag Luft III:

"When the first Americans arrived in 1942, the camp consisted of 2 compounds or enclosures, one for RAF officers and one for RAF NCOs. The rapid increase in strength forced the Germans to build 4 more compounds, with USAAF personnel taking over the Center, South, West and sharing the North Compound with the British. Adjoining each compound the Germans constructed other enclosures called "vorlagers" in which most of the camp business was transacted and which held such offices as supply, administration and laundry.

Each compound enclosed 15 one-story, wooden barracks or "blocks". These, in turn, were divided into 15 rooms ranging in size from 24' x 15' to 14' x 6'. Occupants slept in double-decker bunks and for every 3 or 4 men the Germans provided simple wooden tables, benches & stools. One room, equipped with a cooking range, served as a kitchen. Another, with 6 porcelain basins, was the washroom. A third, with 1 urinal & 2 commodes, was the latrine.

A block could house 82 men comfortable, but with the growth in numbers of POWs, rooms assigned for 8 men began holding 10 and then 12, and the middle of Sept. 1944 saw new POWs moving into tents outside the barracks. Two barbed wire fences 10' high and 5' apart surrounded each compound. In between them lay tangled barbed wire concertinas. Paralleling the barbed wire and 25' inside the fence ran a "warning wire" strung on 30" wooden posts.


The zone between the warning wire and the fence was forbidden territory, entrance to which was punishable by sudden death. At the corners of the compound and at 50-yard intervals around its perimeter rose 40' wooden guard towers holding Germans armed with rifles or machine guns."

Frank Murphy in his book 'Luck Of The Draw',

"After being ordered off the train, we were led about a half mile down a dirt road through a forest of scraggly pine trees that opened into a vast cleared area. In the center of this area we saw a large complex of huts, buildings, and sheds entirely surrounded by a pair of barbed wire fences. They were about ten feet high and five feet apart. The place looked like a concentration camp. Between the fences were heavy coils of concertina wire. At 100-yard intervals around the perimeter of the enclosure wooden guard towers were manned by Germans with
rifles, machine guns, and searchlights."

The Times

Big X

The most well known of the PoW's at Stalag Luft III was Roger Joyce Bushell. He was born in in Springs, Transvaal, in South Africa on 30 August 1910. His British parents had relocated to South Africa for business in the mining industry as his father was a mining engineer. Roger would be in South Africa until the age of 14 and had received, thanks to his parents success, a first class education. He then transferred to Wellington College, Berkshire, England and then studied law at Pembroke College in Cambridge.


A Review in Military History Matters tells us that Roger successfully pursued his academics and was popular but was also an avid sportsman at both rugby and skiing. But he would develop a keen interest in learning how to fly. In 1932 he joined the RAF Auxiliary and Reserve Volunteers and was assigned to the 601 Squadron and would become a Flying Officer in February 1934 and later in 1936 he would be promoted to Flight Lieutenant. In 1939 Bushell was given command of 92 Squadron.

By 1940 Bushell had been promoted to Squadron Leader. That May, Bushell encountered and heavily damaged two Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighter aircraft but was himself shot down over Germany and captured by the German Military. He was then sent to a transit camp in Frankfurt, Dalag Luft. It was here that Bushell met Wing Commander Harry Day and Fleet Air Arm pilot Jimmy Buckley and began their scheme for attempting escape.

"Bushell’s first escape attempt was in June 1941. He hid in a goat shed in the camp grounds before cutting through a wire fence and escaping into the night. This escape attempt ended with his capture at the Swiss border, within sight of freedom. He and the other 17 escapees from the attempt were sent to Stalag Luft I. Bushell was then moved on to Oflag X-C at Lübeck, where he worked on an unsuccessful tunnel project."

His second escape took place on the night of 8/9 October 1941, during a train journey to Oflag XI-B at Warburg. When the train stopped at Hannover, Bushell and Czech pilot ofDcer Jaroslav Zafouk jumped out and disappeared. The pair made their way to Prague and made contact with the country’s underground movement. Bushell and Zafouk were hidden in safe houses, but they were discovered after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in May 1942.

Military History Matters

Roger Bushell would arrive at Stalag Luft III in Sagan in October 1943 and begin planning for tunnels to be made to get 200 PoW's out the prison camp.

Bushell would become known as 'Big X' and said to the other prisoners,

"Everyone here in this room is living on borrowed time. By rights we should all be dead! The only reason that God allowed us this extra ration of life is so we can make life hell for the Hun. In North Compound, we are concentrating our efforts on completing and escaping through one master tunnel. No private-enterprise tunnels allowed. Three bloody deep, bloody long tunnels will be dug – ‘Tom’, ‘Dick’, and ‘Harry’. One will succeed."

Stalag Luft III was designed to be escape proof as the German military had grown weary of attempted escapes, especially tunnel attempts by PoW's. The 'blocks' that housed the PoW's were built above ground giving the Germans the ability to see if anything was going on.

"When the Nazis built the maximum-security camp 100 miles southeast of Berlin to house Allied aviators captured in World War II—many of whom had made previous escapes—they took elaborate measures to prevent tunneling, such as raising prisoners’ huts off the ground and burying microphones nine feet underground along the camp’s perimeter fencing. In addition, the camp was built atop yellow sand that would be tough to tunnel through and difficult to conceal by anyone who tried."

"Scavenging and stealing materials for the operation, the prisoners stripped some 4,000 wooden bed boards to build ladders and shore up the sandy walls of the two-foot-wide tunnels to prevent their collapse. They stuffed 1,700 blankets against the walls to muffle sounds. They converted more than 1,400 powdered milk tin cans provided by the Red Cross into digging tools and lamps in which wicks fashioned from pajama cords were burned in mutton fat skimmed off the greasy soup they were served."

The History Channel

In his book 'Luck Of The Draw' Frank Murphy describes the how the other prisoners contributed to the tunnels of Tom, Dick and Harry.

"Unknown to the German, thanks to an elaborate security system, over 500 men worked on this massive effort for almost a year...tunnel openings were started in kitchens, washrooms, under toilet seats, behind sinks, under stoves...trolleys strong enough to carry 2 sand boxes or one man, in dimly lit passages 30 feet underground...shoring up their narrow openings with bed boards...trolley tracks were made by barracks molding...fresh air was delivered to the tunnels through pipes made from Red Cross milk cans...forgers created pay books, identity cards, passports and other documents indistinguishable from original Australian and an American officer made dozens of compasses..."

Frank was one of number of the PoW's to help distribute the soil from the tunnels through his pockets in his trousers under the watchful eyes of German guards.

The tunnels were built simultaneously but 'Tom' would be discovered and shut down in August 1943. 'Harry' would be completed in the winter of 1944.

On the evening of March 24/25, two hundred officers were ready for their escape but only Bushell and seventy-six were able to get out and seventy-three of them were recaptured in a matter of days. Bushell was later captured at a train station in Saarbrücken with fellow British bomber pilot Johnny Bull. Bushell had been warned by the Gestapo that if he tried to escape from Stalag Luft III and was ever caught that he would be executed.

Upon hearing of the escape at Stalag Luft III, Hitler ordered the Gestapo that all of the 73 captured in the escape attempt be shot, but eventually the number was reduced to fifty.

"A furious Adolf Hitler personally ordered the execution of 50 of the escapees as a warning to other prisoners. In violation of the Geneva Convention, Gestapo agents drove the airmen—including Bushell and (British bomber pilot) Johnny Bull to remote locations and murdered them. Following the war, British investigators brought the Gestapo killers to justice. In 1947, a military tribunal found 18 Nazis guilty of war crimes for shooting the recaptured prisoners of war, and 13 of them were executed."

The History Channel

Luft7MainPhotoPage2392nd bomb group.jpg
392 Bomb Group US

Stalag VII-A

Located near the town of Moosberg in Bavaria and built shortly after the start of World War II in 1939 Stalag IIV-A was planned to hold 10,000 Polish PoW's but eventually thousands of additional PoW's from Britain, Belgium, France and the Netherlands were sent to the camp. A large number of American PoW's had been captured on the battlefields in Europe along with Russians captured in their war with Germany.

By January 1945 the Russian army had advanced almost 20 kilometers from Stalag III. The never ending fighting by the Germans and Russians could be heard by the PoW's.


On the night of 27 January Hitler would order an evacuation of Stalag Luft III. The Kommandant von Leidnerof would order everyone at the camp to evacuate that evening. Times for the evacuation were staggered in shifts with Americans in the South Compound to depart at 9:20 pm and the North and East Compounds at between 1am and 3:15 am. In the end 10,000 marched out of Stalag Luft III. The weather was bitterly cold with sub-zero temperatures and snow with the PoW's marching for hours in a column 5 kilometers long with only an occasional 10 minute break.

As rough as conditions were at Stalag Luft III the situation at Stalag VII-A would be worse. Frank Murphy describes what he and fellow PoW's arrived to at Stalag VII-A,

"We arrived in Moosburg in the early evening of February 1, 1945, but were kept locked in the hideous conditions inside our boxcars all that night. When the doors of the boxcars were finally pulled back about 8:00 A.M. on the heavily overcast, still bitterly cold morning of February 2, 1945, the dreary scene that unfolded before us was our depressing first look at the snow-thatched, vermin-ridden hovels that would become our housing for the next three months in that hellhole of all hellholes, Stalag VII A. As we were resignedly leaping and climbing down from our boxcars, a squeaking, decrepit, two-wheeled, horse drawn wagon led by a slovenly German guard was seen plodding through the snow at the main gate of the camp. Several kriegies (slang for 'War Prisoner') were positive they saw human feet in worn out shoes sticking out the back of the wagon from under a tarpaulin thrown over the wagon bed. Our future was not promising.

Since our arrival in Moosburg on February 2, 1945, the brutal central European winter now drawing to a close had 

kept us cooped up in our dirty, damp, dark, unheated, overcrowded barracks where over 400 men were assigned to buildings built to house 180. Outside the buildings large tents had been erected wherever there was enough space to set them up. Our cheerless barbed wire encircled world was comprised exclusively of austere, dilapidated buildings, grungy tents, mud, and clusters of gaunt, emaciated men in shoddy, worn out clothing occupying every inch of unused space they could find.

We had one cold-water spigot in each building; they were our only source of water for every purpose. The fortunate ones among us slept on triple-deck wooden bunks on gunnysack mattresses filled with excelsior and infested with fleas, lice, and bedbugs—the unlucky ones slept on floors, tables, or outside on the

ground inside crowded tents."

After enduring months at Stalag VII-A the end of war seemed to be on the way. New PoW's coming in to the camp would give updates to their fellow PoW's that the war for Germany was not going to last much longer. On 9 April 1945 the prisoners would witness American P-47 and P-51 fighter planes going after German targets. At one point 500 B-17's with 340 P-51 planes flew over Moosberg on a mission to Munich. By 26 April 1945 the sound of the artillery could be heard with reports that American tanks were close to Moosberg. On the 28th of April trucks would begin removing guards and others from the prison camp.


On 29 April 1945 the liberation of Stalag VII-A rumors began that German soldiers were positioning outside the camp. In the morning shots were fired:

"The first shots rang out about 9:00 A.M. In the beginning there was only the sporadic rattling of small arms fire coming from somewhere in the woods just outside the fence. Within minutes, however, the noise from the incessant firing of hundreds of small arms and heavy automatic weapons was deafening. Kriegies were everywhere scrambling for cover or attempting to burrow into the hard ground like moles. Some were climbing on top of the buildings and guard towers to watch the excitement. I flattened myself as best I good on the ground next to my barracks. Bullets were ricocheting over the compound. Several kriegies were hit, none seriously."

Frank Murphy

On 1 May 1945, the nightmare of Stalag VII-A would come to an end with the arrival of American troops and the arrival of the commander of the U.S. Third Army General George S. Patton, Jr. to the prison camp.

US Eighth Archives
Gen. George S. Patton at Stalag VII-A

Murphy and his fellow PoW's were suffering from acute malnutrition and a variety of other health issues. Murphy weighed a mere 122 pounds after having lost over 50 pounds and would be sent for treatment to LeHavre, France and placed on a retrofitted troop carrier ship, Argentina, operating as a hospital. A total of thirty ships carried soldiers on a 12-day journey to America.


Arriving back in his hometown in Atlanta Frank Murphy would complete his university education at Emory, married his wife Ann, become a lawyer and had four children, Frank Jr., Elizabeth, Patricia, and Kevin. Frank would have a very successful career with Lockheed Aircraft in Marietta, Georgia and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia retiring in 1987. He would continue with his love of music, become involved in veterans affairs, the Mighty Eighth Museum in Pooler, Georgia and write his brilliant memoir about his experiences in World War II in 'Luck Of The Draw'.


Frank passed away on June 16, 2007.

By Kevin Murphy Founder, Editor & Publisher of English Living
The United Kingdom


Frank D. Murphy's book 'Luck Of The Draw' on the US Air Missions over Europe. Portions which are being used in the 9-part series 'Masters Of The Air' by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks on Apple+ in January 2024.
Actor Jonas Moore will play the role of
Captain Frank Murphy

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