Stalag XVII B, main gate
On October 17th, 1943, my father, S/Sgt.William J. Doubledee, entered the German prisoner of war camp Stalag XVII B. Located a couple kilometers north of Krems, Austria, it became his "home" for almost eighteen months. At that moment, he became Kriegsgefangenen Nummer (Kgf. Nr.) 99237.
Eight days earlier, his bomber B-17F "Cue Ball" (callsign DS-Q) was shot down on a mission to bomb Anklam, Germany. He was quickly captured, transported with the rest of his crew to Dulag Luft (near Frankfurt) for two days of interrogation. Then he was loaded onto a train with other American POWs. Packed into an overcrowded, windowless baggage car with no toilet facilities, and given nothing to eat or drink, he and the rest of the American prisoners on that train traveled southeast for several days across Germany and deep into Austria. Along the way, the German guards had to protect the prisoners from the angry civilians who wanted to kill them.
When he arrived at Stalag XVII B, he was assigned to Barracks 36A where he remained until April, 1945, when the Germans forced the evacuation of the camp westward as Soviet forces approached from the east. After an almost month-long forced march without food or shelter across Austria to the German border, he was liberated by American forces, eventually taken back to an American hospital camp in France and returned by ship to the United States.
In the summer of 1969, I went to where Stalag XVII B had once been. It had been torn down years ago and only one large pile of rubble overgrown with grass remained. Nearby was the abandoned hangar of the old USAAF liaison airfield at Langenlois and the square-shaped woods where many Soviet soldiers were mass-buried after an outbreak of typhus in their section of the camp. That day, the beautiful blue sky and rolling green fields showed no signs of the place where my father was imprisoned for almost eighteen months.
My dad seldom talked about the camp and his forced march across Austria in April, 1945, during one of the worst winters there. He died unexpectedly in May, 1986. He never told me his story.
I started this web site and another one about my father's bomber squadron twenty years ago in memory of his service in WWII, and to help find and share answers to the many unanswered questions I had about what he experienced during the war. Over the years, as I read more books, found other web sites and met and spoke with other POWs and their families from around the world, I now have a better idea of what happened in Stalag XVII B and how it has affected the lives of so many people. In this website, I can only present a small part of the whole story of Stalag XVII B, but I hope it can help us understand what the prisoners experienced, and what so many of them did not want to talk about after they returned home.
This site will always be a work in progress, so check back occasionally for new information and pictures. I welcome any information, documents, letters or pictures that you would like to share. If you have questions, I will try to answer them or help you find answers.
Thank you for visiting this website. If you are American, please take a moment to register yourself or a loved one at the United States' WW II Memorial website.