The Library/Archives recently acquired a scrapbook relating to a Nebraskan’s military service during World War II and his capture and imprisonment in a German POW camp. Quentin M. Coyle, a native of Valley, Nebraska, served as a Liberator bomber pilot during the war. On April 24, 1944, Coyle’s plane was shot down over Germany and he was forced to parachute to safety.
Quentin M. Coyle (left). (NSHS RG5694.AM)
After landing in the Black Forest region near Schappach, Germany, Coyle was captured and held in the local jail until he could be transferred to Stalag Luft III at Sagan (approximately 80 miles southeast of Berlin). Coyle was held at Sagan until January 27, 1945, when Russian troops threatened the area and the Germans were forced to move their prisoners to Nuremberg. Two months later he was moved to Moosburg. It was there on April 29 (Coyle’s birthday) that General Patton’s Third Army liberated the prisoners.
The scrapbook contains the telegram to Quentin’s father, George Coyle, from the War Department informing him that his son was currently “missing in action.” Also included are various newspaper clippings about Quentin’s imprisonment. However, the most interesting items contained in the scrapbook have to be the letters and postcards sent home by Quentin Coyle during his time as a prisoner of war.
Telegram from the War Department. (NSHS RG5694.AM)
POW postcard, May 12, 1944. (NSHS RG5694.AM)
POW postcard, May 12, 1944, reverse. (NSHS RG5694.AM)
Quentin’s letters home describe life in the POW camp. He talks about other Nebraskans that are in the camp and describes some of the daily activities the prisoners engage in to alleviate boredom. He describes their garden plot, movies they’re allowed to see, and various athletic competitions. He often asks his family to send additional warm clothing, candy and other food stuffs, and cigarettes (for trading).
POW letter, Dec. 20, 1944 (NSHS RG5694.AM (Left))
This is just one of many collections that document a Nebraskan’s service and sacrifice during World War II. To find out more about what other resources are available, check out our website.
-Tom Mooney, Curator of Manuscripts