On December 23, 1944, twenty-five German prisoners of war broke out of an Arizona prison camp not far from the Mexican border by crawling along a 178-foot tunnel. By Christmas day, they were looking for ways to reach Mexico and Axis sympathizers who would help them. Drawing on extensive interviews with the escapees and formerly classified documents, John Hammond Moore tells their incredible story—one of the few untold dramas of the war.
Many of the men imprisoned at the Papago Park camp were among the Nazis' toughest and smartest U-boat commanders and their crews. Expecting trouble, their American guards marveled at how well the men adjusted to camp life. Spirits were high and the compound neatly raked several times each day. But the guards failed to realize the men were digging a tunnel right under their eyes. They hid their activity by building a volleyball (faustball) field. Twenty-five escapees used makeshift tools and coal shovels issued them by the camp to hack through the rocky soil. Once free, they disguised themselves as merchant seamen, consular officials, and workers armed with false identification papers. The men lasted six weeks on the outside before being recaptured. Their breakout, told here is breathtaking detail, remains the most sensational mass escape ever to take place from a POW camp on American soil.