Great Escapes: Amazing Tales of the Best Breakouts of the 20th Century

Posted on November 2, 2018

by Amy H

Everyone loves a daring, (hopefully successful!) escape story.

Try one of these for a breath-taking read …

Great Escape Stories

The Escape Artists: A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Greatest Prison Break of the Great War

by Neal Bascomb

Bascomb delivers the spellbinding story of the downed WWI Allied airmen who masterminded a courageous and ingenious breakout from Germany’s most devilish POW camp. Their plot demands a risky feat of engineering as well as a bevy of disguises, forged documents, fake walls, and steely resolve. Once beyond the watch towers and round-the-clock patrols, a dozen half-starved former prisoners must then make a heroic 150 mile dash through enemy-occupied territory towards free Holland. At turns tragic, funny, inspirational, and nail-biting suspenseful, this is the little-known story of the biggest POW breakout of the Great War.


by Henri Charriere

Henri Charrière, called “Papillon,” for the butterfly tattoo on his chest, was convicted in Paris in 1931 of a murder he did not commit. Sentenced to life imprisonment in the penal colony of French Guiana, he became obsessed with one goal: escape. After planning and executing a series of treacherous yet failed attempts over many years, he was eventually sent to the notorious prison, Devil’s Island, a place from which no one had ever escaped . . . until Papillon. His flight to freedom remains one of the most incredible feats of human cunning, will, and endurance ever undertaken.

The Lost Airman: a True Story of Escape from Nazi-occupied France

by Seth Meyerowitz

American turret gunner Arthur Meyerowitz was one of only two crewmen who escaped death or immediate capture on the ground when their plane was shot down near Cognac, France, in 1943. After fleeing the wreck, Arthur knocked on the door of an isolated farmhouse. Luckily, the owners had a tight connection to a French resistance group who arranged for Arthur’s transfers among safe houses, shielding him from the Gestapo. Based on recently declassified material, exclusive personal interviews, and extensive research into the French Resistance, this is the tense and riveting story of Arthur’s hair-raising journey to freedom.

The Great Escape

by Paul Brickhill

The inspiration for the classic movie starring Steve McQueen, Brickhill tells the story of how American and British air force officers in a German prisoner of war camp concoct one of the greatest escape plans ever devised. With only the crudest of homemade tools, they sank shafts, forged passports, faked weapons, and tailored German uniforms and civilian clothes. It was a delicate and deadly operation that demanded the concentrated devotion and vigilance of more than six hundred men for more than a year.

Zero Night: the Untold Story of World War Two’s Greatest Escape

by Mark Felton

A thrilling, moment by moment account of an epic World War II escape and the real-life adventures that followed. On August 30, 1942 – ‘Zero Night’ – 40 Allied officers staged the most audacious mass escape of World War II. Months of meticulous planning and secret training hung in the balance during three minutes of mayhem as the officers boldly stormed the huge double fences at Oflag Prison. Employing wooden ladders and bridges previously disguised as bookshelves, the highly coordinated effort succeeded and set 36 men free into the German countryside where courageous civilians helped them through enemy territory to safety.

The Perfect Horse: the Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis

by Elizabeth Letts

In the chaotic last days of WWII, battle-weary American soldiers capture a German spy and make an astonishing find—his briefcase is empty but for photos of beautiful white horses that have been stolen and kept on a secret farm behind enemy lines. Hitler has stockpiled the world’s finest purebreds in order to breed the perfect equine master race. But with the starving Russian army closing in, the animals are in imminent danger of being slaughtered for food. With only hours to spare, a U.S. Army colonel makes a bold decision to mount a covert rescue operation. Racing against time, a small mixed unit of American and German soldiers steals across enemy lines in a last-ditch effort to save the horses. See also “Ghost Riders : when U.S. and German soldiers fought together to save the world’s most beautiful horses in the last days of World War II” by Mark Felton.

Saving Bravo: the Greatest Rescue Mission in Navy SEAL history

by Stephan Talty

At the height of the Vietnam War, Lt. Colonel Gene Hambleton’s plane is shot down in the midst of North Vietnam’s Easter Offensive, and he survives hiding among 30,000 enemy troops and tanks. After several failed rescue attempts, a Navy SEAL and his Vietnamese guide volunteer to go after Hambleton on foot. Carefully avoiding hundreds of enemy soldiers, it takes them days to reach Hambleton, who, guided toward his rescuers via an ingenious improvised radio code, is deeply malnourished and barely alive after eleven days on the run.

Colditz: the Untold story of World War II’s Great Escapes

by Henry Chancellor

During World War II, the medieval fortress of Colditz served as the only high-security prisoner of war camp in Germany. Its massive walls contained every persistent escapee, troublemaker, and valuable hostage captured by the Germans. Guards and prisoners were almost equal in number, and Colditz — with walls up to twelve feet thick, battlements of solid rock, and a 150-foot drop from the castle to the valley below — was considered escape proof. But the prisoners were determined to accomplish the impossible and pooled their collective talents to create the greatest escape of the war. Three hundred officers attempted to escape and some actually achieved what they considered to be the home run, escaping all the way back to their native country.

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