Greatest POW Escapes

Throughout our country’s history, countless American prisoners of war focused on one goal—escape and return to their units to fight the enemy once again.  However, the odds of pulling off a successful escape were extremely low, especially from maximum security POW camps operated under inhumane conditions.

Despite the overwhelming likelihood of failure, many POWs were willing to risk torture, solitary confinement and other severe forms of punishment—including execution—if recaptured during an escape attempt. They felt it was their duty, their obligation, their commitment to at least try, no matter what, to break out and reach friendly forces or a neutral country.

Even those POWs who, because of sickness, cruelty, starvation or lack of resolve, remained in camps often helped escapers by making fake documents, tailoring uniforms to look like civilian clothes, stealing tools and food, digging tunnels, creating diversions, and picking locks. These stay-behinds displayed their own brand of courage because they knew they faced severe retaliation for their comrades’ escape attempts.

Escapes required meticulous planning, cunning ingenuity, spirited courage and sometimes blind luck. Often the easy part of the escape was the initial prison camp breakout. The hard part was trying to sneak through hostile, enemy territory with little or no knowledge of the language or to cross harsh, dangerous terrain for days, even weeks, with little or no food.

Relying on published and unpublished memoirs, oral histories, diaries, newspaper accounts and military documents, this book features a selection of daring escapes by American and Allied servicemen from the Civil War to the Vietnam War.

Former POW Airey Neave, who broke out from an “inescapable” prison, once described an escaper as “a man who must never admit defeat… [and who is] always ready to attempt the unknown to achieve the impossible.”  This book features ten gripping stories about prisoners of war, including Neave, who did indeed achieve the impossible.

Any teacher who has a Scholastic account can order this book for you at or by calling 800-SCHOLASTIC and asking for ISBN 978-1-338-571745.

Each book in the Ten True Tales series features ten exciting stories based on true events ripped from the headlines or taken from little-known moments in history. Most of the stories in this gripping series reveal, in dramatic fashion, kids, first responders, regular people and soldiers caught in extraordinary situations — often with their very lives in extreme danger.