Prisoner of the Swiss:: A World War II Airman's Story

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9781500683542: Prisoner of the Swiss:: A World War II Airman's Story

Dan Culler’s The Black Hole of Wauwilermoos first came out in 1995. It was self-published, written in a burst of creative energy over a three-month period during which Dan sometimes worked day and night. A small print run of 1,000 books resulted, and were quickly sold out. Despite its small scale and lack of promotion, Black Hole of Wauwilermoos has become a book that is widely admired and often quoted by World War Two scholars and historians, most recently in Donald Miller’s best-selling Masters of the Air. I have attempted to stay true to the book’s original premise and style. All I’ve done is tighten it up (it’s about half as long as the original). If, upon finishing, one is left wanting more, I recommend the original version of Black Hole, and Dan’s memoir of his childhood and young adulthood, The Circle of Thorns: Birth and Learning Years. Dan is a prolific and thoughtful writer of short stories, poems, and books, most of which he shares only with a few friends. Reading Dan’s collected works has allowed me to get to know a man who is at the core intensely guarded and private, a man who has been deeply impacted by his wartime experiences who carries with him a multitude of physical and emotional scars that will never heal. Despite his having lived through the banality and evil of war and imprisonment, despite being betrayed by his own government, he continues to courageously reach out to others. Given every reason to reject a loving God and a rational universe, he continues to be a spiritual man. We both hope you learn from the book and that it opens your eyes to a little-known story of World War Two.

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From the Author :

Dan Culler headed off to war, the son of Quakers, because he felt it was his duty to his country. He put love of country and the ideals of democracy and freedom above his own faith, and in so doing, ended up in a situation where he was abandoned by the nation he loved, and left to die in a hell-hole of a Swiss prison, Wauwilermoos. This is Dan Culler's story. No one who reads this will come away from the experience unchanged. No one will ever read about Wauwilermoos or the miscarriages of justice Culler was forced to endure in a typical history book. The story should make the United States and Swiss hang their heads in shame. The truth about some of the hardships endured by American airmen interned in Switzerland during World War II has been supressed by publishers and editors for years. Dan Culler's book does a lot to shatter some of this official silence. The first part of this well-written, sensitive book describes Culler's training as a B-24 flight engineer. It follows Culler and his crew from the States over to England, where they almost immediately fall afoul of the operations officer, who tries to appropriate their sleeping bags. Failing this, the man makes sure that Culler's crew flies the oldest, most decrepit B-24's in the squadron, and in the worst position in the formation. This is Culler's first intimation that things are not as they seem Stateside. Their lives hang on the whims of higher-ups. Culler's plane, crippled by flak, limps into neutral Switzerland. Life as an internee is not terribly harsh, but Culler takes the command of his superiors seriously--it is an airman's responsibility to escape and return to his unit to fight another day. So he escapes. He is caught. And for his trouble, he is sent to a Swiss federal prison, Wauwilermoos. Wauwilermoos is a maximum security prison meant for the worst criminals in Europe, both Swiss and those who have escaped to Switzerland. Culler's crime-trying to escape and return to his unit. He is thrown into a barracks which approaches Dante's Hell, where he is tortured by his fellow inmates day after day. When he goes to the commandant for help, he finds his own government has abandoned him. The U.S. military attache', Gen. Legge, has sent out a message commanding US troops not to escape, and furthermore, has decreed that any who try will be sent to Wauwilermoos, where the Swiss can deal with them as they see fit. In addition, according to the U.S. government, officially there is no such place as Wauwilermoos, and there are no Americans held there. If not for a kind British sergeant who comes to check on his own nation's troops imprisoned in the camp, Culler would never have emerged alive. As it is, the story of his incarceration and escape is every bit as intense and thrilling as anything Hollywood could concoct. The reader is kept frantically turning the pages, empathizing with Culler and rooting for his success. Once Culler makes it back to England, he finds he has been abandoned again. There is no such place as Wauwilermoos. He has never been there, so he has never been a POW. Therefore, he doesn't qualify for any POW benefits or medical or mental treatment for his many physical and emotional wounds. He tries to continue in the military, first as a highly-qualified technician and then as a pilot cadet, but all his attempts are foiled by the military and he is discharged. It is my hope that the reader's interest is aroused by this review, short as it is. You will come away from this book feeling Culler's sense of hopelessness and betrayal at the hands of the US and Swiss governments. You will be angry to learn the fates of the US military attache, Gen. Legge, who countermanded official military policy, and of the Swiss commandant of Wauwilermoos. And you will be angry along with Culler as he attempts to get recognition and medical treatment for the hell he has endured in the service of his country--a country that, sad to say, let him down when he needed it. This is a powerful book, carefully and sensitively written. It deserves to be read by anyone interested in the air war, in POWs and their fates, or in the strength of the human spirit.

About the Author :

Rob Morris is a high school teacher and military historian who lives in Ammon, Idaho. His first book, 'Untold Valor: Forgotten Stories of American Bomber Crewmen over Europe in World War II' (Potomac, 2006), is now in its fifth printing and remains a popular book in the genre. Morris next co-wrote 'Combat Bombardier' with 95th Bomb Group bombardier Leonard Herman in 2007. In 2012, his seminal history of the WWII 95th Bomb Group, 'Wild Blue Yonder and Beyond' (Potomac 2012), commissioned by the Group, was published. In 2013 Morris added to his writing credits, including 'Untold Valor: World War Two in the Pacific' (Fonthill); 'The Battle of Gettysburg' (Instinctive); 'Presidents of the United States' (Instinctive); and 'The Civil War Chronicles (Instinctive). In 2014, Morris elected to attempt to publish as an Independent (or Indie) author as an experiment. His first offering was 'Marinell: The Story of a P-51' and the People Who Knew Her, published in June. His second, due in July, is a revised and expanded edition of Dan Culler's classic POW memoir 'Black Hole of Wauwilermoos'. Other 2014 projects include helping AFL/NFL legend Ron McDole write his memoir about the Golden Age of Football, finishing his bomber novel, and researching a book about the AC-47 Spooky Gunship in Vietnam. Morris has also written numerous magazine articles for World War Two History Magazine, Idaho Falls Magazine, and Dispatches: The Magazine of the Military Writers of America. He is the Grand Prize winner of the 2013 'A Novel Approach' Writing Contest sponsored by the Military Writers of America and writer Jack Woodville London. Morris contributed to the book '501 Jazz Greats'. He is a pilot, has been married for nearly 30 years to the same girl (Geri), and together they have three children and five grandsons. Rob is a 1981 graduate of the University of Montana, Missoula. He has taught school for 28 years in Medicine Bow, Wyoming and Idaho Falls, Idaho.

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