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Shorty Gordon

Once upon a time, when there was honor among soldiers, prisoners of war were duty-bound to make every effort to escape. In fact, attempting escape was part of what many considered the noble game of war, rather than a punishable wartime act. In his book, A Prisoner's Duty, Robert C. Doyle describes four different escaper personalities. Some seize opportunities that present themselves, gambling on a spur-of-the-moment break. Others need the comfort found in forming partnerships and planning joint escapes. There are those Doyle calls the "Great Escapers" who organize groups of prisoners and mastermind mass escapes. And then there are "tigers," prisoners who resist captivity at all costs and start looking for ways to escape immediately after their capture.

Lee Gordon was a tiger. In World War II, "Shorty" Gordon served as a ball turret gunner with the U.S. Army Air Corps' 305th Bomb Group. On February 26, 1943, enemy fire brought down his B-17 over Wilhelmshaven, Germany. He parachuted to safety, but German troops captured him and took him to Stalag 7A in Moosburg, Germany. Gordon promptly began looking for a way to escape.

His first two attempts failed, but Gordon succeeded on October 13, 1943. He traded identification tags with an Australian prisoner so he could gain access to an outdoor work area. After hiding in a bathroom stall until dark, he jumped a fence and walked away. Riding on freight trains, he eventually made his way to France. He entered a restaurant, approached a waitress, and told her, "I'm an American." The waitress summoned members of the French Resistance who helped get Gordon to England. On February 27, 1944, one year after his capture, Gordon arrived in England and became the first American prisoner to escape successfully from a German prisoner-of-war camp.

Shorty Gordon, a tiger and an American hero, died last week at the age of eighty-four.
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Great post George. I remember reading about Shorty in your book. One thing that stood out to me was his reaction to the small heroic deeds by the local French who looked after him while he awaited return to America. One hero recognizing the heroic nature of others.

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