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WWI Prisoners of War

Prisoner of war camp at Villingen, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Prisoner of war camp at Villingen, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The "chow line" at Villingen, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The "chow line" at Villingen, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo)

One hundred twenty-three flyers of the U.S. Air Service were forced down inside enemy lines and captured. Also, two officers were captured when their balloon drifted into German territory. In addition, 19 Americans flying with the British, 10 with the French and one with the Italians became prisoners of war. (One enlisted man of the 22nd Aero Squadron was captured when he drove his auto too close to the front lines.)

U.S. flying personnel were not segregated during World War I as in World War II. Flyers were often interned with nonflyers, officers with enlisted personnel, and Americans with POWs from other nations.

Many U.S. flyers were placed in a POW camp at Villingen, a short distance from Germany's border with Switzerland. However, at least one was sent to a camp at the other extreme, on the coast of the Baltic Sea near Stralsund, north of Berlin.

When WWI ended, there was no organized program as in WWII, the Korean War or the Vietnam War for returning POWs. As unrest spread throughout Germany and the prison guards gradually left their posts for home, the POWs were left to fend for themselves. This included getting back to France by whatever means they could arrange, even including walking.

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