Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseArthur William Vanaman was born in Millville, New Jersey, United States in l892. He graduated from Drexel Institute of Technology in 19l5 and furthered his education within the Westinghouse Electric Company. He enlisted in the Aviation Section of the Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps of the United States Army. Between 1930 and 1937, he completed programs at the Air Corps Engineering School, Air Corps Tactical School, Army Industrial College, and the Army War College. When the military conflict of WW2 in Europe broke out, he served in Washington DC in the role of the secretary of the Air Staff.
ww2dbaseIn the first phase of war Vanaman served in the United States first as the commanding general of the Air Corps Materiel Center in Ohio, then he was appointed the commanding general of the Oklahoma City Air Service Command at Tinker Field, Oklahoma and later of the San Antonio Air Service Command at Kelly Field, Texas. In May 1944 he was transferred to the Eighth Air Corps headquarters in Britain as assistant chief of staff for intelligence. He was shot down over German territory in Jun 1944 and became the highest ranked United States prisoner of war. He noticed that he was treated with respect by the German captors at Stalag Luft III, thus he pressed his luck by requesting a short trip to neutral Switzerland to attain better aid from the International Red Cross for the American prisoners in German war camps; Vanaman gave his word as an officer and gentleman that he would return to Germany when the task has been completed. SS Captain Dr. Helmut Bauer openly assisted Vanaman with his SS superiors to secure this temporary release, but without Vanaman's knowing, he was actually being involved in a secret SS attempt to negotiate a separate peace with the western Allies. He was told of an anti-Hitler conspiracy, one which would cooperate with the western Allies and also would request the western Allies to turn their guns against the Russian forces. He was also told that the prisoners of war would be treated decently during Vanaman's trip to Switzerland. By the time Vanaman made it to the Swiss border, however, the war was already over for Germany. Vanaman was released by the SS officer who escorted them (who actually had the order to murder Vanaman, but chose to ignore it at this stage of the war) and went under the protection of Swiss authorities.
ww2dbaseAfter the German surrender, Vanaman was released and returned to the United States. He served in various command posts, including the commandant of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Fort McNair, Washington DC.
ww2dbaseSources: the Fall of Berlin, United States Air Force.
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Winston Churchill, 1935