Project Management
The Great Escape
Kurt Ackerman
(732) 583-5816
Who were the Stakeholders
in this Project?
The Prisoners.
The Guards.
The Guards’ Administrators.
The Allies.
The Third Reich.
What were the three escape
projects names?
• The tunnel “Tom”.
• The tunnel “Dick”.
• The tunnel “Harry”.
Why three of them?
• So that the prisoners would have
alternate options if one was discovered,
or if other problems presented
themselves (Risk Management).
The Scope Constraint
• Tunnels needed to be dug far enough to
escape the compound. The tunnels needed
lights, air, wall and ceiling support.
Excavated dirt needed to be disposed of in a
clandestine manner. Papers needed to be
forged. Civilian clothes needed to be
procured and tailored. Maps were needed,
as were train schedules. Languages needed
to be learned - or unlearned.
The Cost Constraint
• Items were stolen. Items were made
from what was available, Guards were
bribed and items bartered. Guards were
also blackmailed into supplying
The Time Constraint
• The timetable was quite extensive. It
took over a year, nearly two, for the
tunnels to be ready. Their timetable was
altered a little when one tunnel was
Who was the Project
• In real life, Roger Bushell. In the movie, Roger
“Big X” Bartlett (Richard Attenborough).
What was the Security Team
Leader responsible for?
• Flight Lieutenant George Harsh was in charge
of internal security. Special German guards –
“Ferrets” – could nose around in the
compound for any signs of escape. Harsh
created a log-in/log-out system (called “Duty
Pilot”) to keep track of the Ferrets.
What was the Counterfeiting
Team Leader responsible for?
• Flight Lieutenant Des Plunkett was
responsible for forgery of crucial papers
and maps. Improvisation and bribery
were used to procure maps and
German IDs, from which copies were
What was the Clothing Team
Leader responsible for?
• Tommy Guest and his team were
responsible for altering the service
uniforms, as well as workman’s clothes and
all “civilian” attire. Service uniforms were
recut and dyed, and bedding was also used
to make clothes. These pieces were
concealed by carpentry professional
“Digger” Macintosh.
What was the Tunnel Team
Leader responsible for?
• Flying Officer Wally Floody was a pre-war
mining engineer, and was the brains behind
the tunnels. A manually operated air-pump
was built, wires and light bulbs were strung
(using the German’s electricity), and
excavated dirt was surreptitiously disposed
of around the compound.
What was the Financial
Operations Team Leader
responsible for?
• Johnny Travis was in charge of scrounging
whatever was available to create “escape
kits” and hoard “lagergeld”, which was as
close to money as the POWs were allowed
to have. Train tickets, travel passes, and
even a camera were procured.
What were some project
• The X Committee, which organized the
plan, could approve or reject any other
escape plans. Secrecy was important.
English-speaking Ferrets would
eavesdrop on the POWs. The “Duty
Pilot” system monitored the movements
of the ferrets. Forged documents were
reviewed again and again. Prisoners
were tested on their language skills.
Name one anticipated risk,
and the mitigation plan.
• Discovery of the escape plan.
Bushell had been warned that if he
tried another escape, he would be
killed. Tunnel cave-ins were also
common; bed boards from the
bunks shored tunnel walls and
ceilings up.
Name one unanticipated
risk, and the risk response.
• Due to the unforeseen cutting down of
trees to make way for camp expansion, the
end of the escape tunnel was 30 feet from
the woods, meaning escaping prisoners
could be discovered when the guard
walked by the area. A rope was stretched
from the woods to the end of the tunnel,
and a tug was given when the German
sentry was not nearby.
What were the key
• An escape tunnel needed to be dug.
• 250 men were to attempt escape.
• The Third Reich was to be distracted
from their war effort as they searched
for the escapees.
Why were completion times
so important?
• Sentries patrolled the grounds at regular
• Prisoners had to be out under cover of darkness
and early enough so they could catch trains.
• Dates on the Ids were valid only for the day of
escape. The escape had to be executed while the
forged format was still current.
• The longer they put off the escape, the more
likely the remaining tunnels would be discovered.
How were human resources
• People were assigned jobs according to their
vocations in civilian life.
• Graphic designers became counterfeiters;
mining engineers became tunnel experts;
tailors designed “civilian” clothes.
• The biggest contributors to the project were
among the first out, as were Germanspeaking prisoners, who were believed to
have the best chances of success.
How did they use motivation
and team-building?
• The prisoners were organized as a
community with all members invested in the
well-being of the rest of their comrades. The
men pooled their rations, lagergeld, and
other precious items, so that all made a
The Fifty
J5233 F/L Henry J Birkland - 61053 F/L E Gordon Brettell DFC - 43932 F/L
Lester G Bull DFC - 90120 S/L Roger J Bushell - 39024 F/L Michael J
Casey - 400364 S/L James Catanach DFC - 413380 F/L Arnold G
Christiansen - 122441 F/O Dennis H Cochran - 39305 S/L Ian K P Cross
DFC - 378 Lt Halldor Espelid - 42745 F/L Brian H Evans - 742 Lt Nils
Fugelsang - 103275 Lt Johannes S Gouws - 45148 F/L William J Grisman
- 60340 F/L Alastair D M Gunn - 403281 F/L Albert H Hake - 50896 F/L
Charles P Hall - 42124 F/L Anthony R H Hayter - 44177 F/L Edgar S
Humphreys - J10177 F/L Gordon A Kidder - 402364 F/L Reginald V
Kierath - P0109 Maj Antoni Kiewnarski - 39103 S/L Thomas G KirbyGreen - P0243 F/O Wlodzimierz Kolanowski - P0237 F/O Stanislaw Z Krol
- J1631 Patrick W Langford - 46462 F/L Thomas B Leigh - 89375 F/L
James L R Long - 95691 2/Lt Clement A N McGarr - J5312 F/L George E
McGill - 89580 F/L Romas Marcinkus - 103586 F/L Harold J Milford P0913 F/O Jerzy Tomasc Mondschein - P0740 F/O Kazimierz Pawluk 87693 F/L Henri A Picard Croix de Guerre - 402894 F/O John P P Pohe 30649 Sous-Lt Bernard W M Scheidhauer - 213 P/O Sotiris Skanzikas 47341 Rupert J Stevens - 130452 F/O Robert C Stewart - 107520 F/L John
G Stower - 123026 F/L Denys O Street - 37658 F/L Cyril D Swain - P0375
F/O Pawel Whilem Tobolski - 82532 F/L Ernst Valenta - 73022 F/L Gilbert
W Walenn - J6144 F/L James C Wernham - J7234 F/L George W Wiley 40652 S/L John E A Williams - 106173 F/L John F Williams
The Great Escape
Stalag Luft III, Sagan
March 24/25th, 1944
By Rob Davis
Retrieved from:
Remembering the Fifty
Retrieved from:
Stalag Luft III Photos
Retrieved from:
Great Escape - Experts dig into World War II’s most daring and technically ingenious
prison break.
PBS, November 16, 2004
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