Eleven Months to Freedom

A German POW's Unlikely Escape from Siberia in 1915
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Published:November 15, 2016
By Dwight R Messimer (Author),

Eleven Months to Freedom recounts the daring World War I escape of German midshipman Erich Killinger. When the German navy’s officers’ school closed at the start of World War I, he, along with every man in his class, went to war. Killinger became an aerial observer on the Eastern Front, where the Russians captured him and his pilot, Oberleutnant zur See Karl von Gorrissen, on 6 April 1915 after their Rumpler 4B-12 shed a propeller and crashed at sea off Libau. Falsely accused of bombing a railway station, he was sentenced to life in the Sakhalin coal mines.

Shipped by rail with several other POWs across Russia, Killinger was determined to return home. In order to do this, though, he needed to jump from the train, cross Siberia, and make it to a German-run escape pipeline in China—all while braving bandits, subzero temperatures, threats of starvation, the risk of capture by Japanese and Russian troops, and possible internment by the Chinese. Once he made it to China, Killinger used money and fake identity papers to survive along the 800 miles to Shanghai.

Improbably playing the role of a dashing French blade, Killinger lived the high life on one ship, then later served as a humble deckhand on another. Risking discovery by the British, he made a bold and risky move as his final destination neared.

List Price: $29.95
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Product Details
  • Hardback : 224 pages
  • Illustrations: 26 b/w photos, 6 maps
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (November 15, 2016)
  • ISBN-10: 1682470652
  • ISBN-13: 9781682470657
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 17.76 oz
  • “Dwight R. Messimer has the great gift of vividly describing the history of ordinary men long forgotten. Their lives, however, shed an interesting light on the fate of millions who fought in the Great War like themselves.”—Prof. Dr. Michael Epkenhans, chief historian at the Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the Bundeswehr at Potsdam, Germany; co-editor of Jutland: World War I’s Greatest Naval Battle
  • “Dwight Messimer, an expert on World War I history, tells Killinger's story in great detail, giving the reader a true taste of the daily odds an escapee faces on such a journey. Anyone who appreciates the risks of an odyssey like Killinger's will relish reading this account.”—Linda Goetz Holmes, author of Guests of the Emperor: The Secret History of Japan’s Mukden POW Camp
  • “Through the story of German naval aviator Ernst Killinger, Messimer takes us through a world of daring escapes, secret pipelines, forged documents, calculated risks, dangerous indiscretions, and reckless gambles. Messimer's book is confirmation of the adage that truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Even the most ardent students of the Great War will learn a great deal from this book. Killinger is the very epitome of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's term, ‘a committed escaper.’”—Richard L. DiNardo, author of Breakthrough: The Gorlice-Tarnow Campaign, 1915
  • “Books about individuals, especially Germans during World War I, are rare in English, even in German. Dwight Messimer is obviously expert in the German language, an accomplished historian, and a seasoned researcher and writer. Eleven Months to Freedom is a great and exciting read.”—Robert C. Doyle, author of A Prisoner’s Duty: Great Escapes in U.S. Military History
  • “Dwight Messimer reclaims a lost story of World War I: that of German midshipman Erich Killinger. This well-researched and taut account brings to life a harrowing story of survival and humanity.”—Cathryn J. Prince, author of An American Daredevil: The Extraordinary Life of Richard Halliburton, the World’s First Celebrity Travel Writer and Shot from the Sky: American POWs in Switzerland
  • “Messimer has marshalled his resources well and tells Killinger’s incredible story with panache. He presents a highly readable book with vignettes of the context in which the intrepid German naval aviator made his escape.” — Warships International Fleet Review
  • “A simply riveting read from cover to cover, Eleven Months to Freedom is an exceptional account that will prove to be an enduringly popular and appreciated addition to the growing library of World War I memoirs and biographies.” — The Midwest Book Review
  • Eleven Months to Freedom documents the near-impossible tale of a true escaper. For readers interested in an individual account of life as a prisoner of war and evader, Messimer has written an exciting book.” — Naval Historical Foundation
  • It is an informative and detailed work, chock full of inspiring tales of those who struggled both on and off the battlefield." - Military Heritage
  • “Killinger’s perspectives, opinions, and emotions, which Messimer explains and contextualizes well, reflect similar experiences by other soldiers of the First World War. At the same time, this remarkable case is a window into the lives of soldiers and a generation that experienced both world wars. Through his research, writing style, and historical approach, Messimer offers a work that is as enjoyable to read as it is informative. A general audience will find this work easy to follow, whereas more knowledgeable readers will still find value in the specific details that Messimer incorporates.” —H-War
  • “The author expertly weaves together the facts of Killinger’s odyssey thereby producing a work that is both informative and eminently entertaining.” – Military Heritage Magazine
  • “Messimer’s account is lively, often gripping, as befits what is certainly one of the great escape stories in history, and is well worth reading.” – The NYMAS Review
  • “… a very entertaining read and is highly recommended. It would make a great movie or TV-miniseries.” – The Northern Mariner
  • ”Anyone looking for an entertaining and enlightening read on an interesting topic will find it in Messimer’s work.” —Militärgeschichtlichen Zeitschrift

Dwight R. Messimer is a U.S. Army veteran and former lecturer in history at California State University San Jose. His most recent book is The Baltimore Sabotage Cell: German Agents, American Traitors and the U-boat Deutschland during World War I. He resides in Northern California.

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