Arthur Vanaman file photo [25977]

Arthur Vanaman

Given NameArthur
CountryUnited States


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.

Last Major Revision: Feb 2006

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
13 Feb 2010 02:54:36 AM

Was Vanaman not demoted from Brigadier to Colonel after the war for compromising the Ultra secret ?

A staff officer in his position should never have been given permission to fly a combat mission over enemy territory.
2. Jim Philpit says:
29 Aug 2010 02:05:35 PM

In response to comments of "Anonymous" on 13 Feb 2010, the answer is no, Brig Gen Vanaman was not demoted. General Vanaman never revealed nor compromised Ultra to the Germans and the secret remained safe throughout World War II. Following his repatriation as a POW, Brig Gen Vanaman returned to duty and was later promoted to Major General. He retired from the US Air Force as a Major General on 31 May 1954. Source is:
3. Airman says:
8 Nov 2010 07:01:04 PM

Gen. Vanaman never compromised ULTRA. He would tape his mouth shut at night so he would never mention any state secrets in sleep.
He also trained his mind to completely forget ULTRA he was so successful that when liberated, he had no idea what ULTRA even was.
A true Airman and American.
4. Wcatholic says:
26 Nov 2013 04:16:17 PM

Interesting that Vanaman would have an SS (SD?)escort for his mission. As an allied airman POW wouldn't he be the responsibility of the Luftwaffe?
5. Anonymous says:
21 Jun 2016 08:46:19 AM

He never spoke of the ultra to his capture. He was a good man. Arthur was my good friends grandfather. I remember that he was so serious about everything except the times that only Arthur, Arthur the 3rd and myself were visiting. This is the only times he showed his fun and humorous side.
6. Jamie's Son says:
6 Dec 2016 12:32:19 PM

My father was the pilot of the B17 the general jumped from. It was a " milk run". Their new G model replaced my Dad's F model "Stump Jumper" that was being repaired after the day before's bombing run. Over Germany they took flack thru the right wing which immediately caught on fire. After shutting off the two right engines, my Dad ordered everyone off the plane, including the General. After that he made 3 attempts of jumping out but the plane immediately went to inverted spins so he couldn't climb up and out.
On his last try someone said " the fire's out!". It turns out 2 other crewmen had gone to the back of the plane to remove the tail gunner who had been knocked out. They never heard the bail out.
They leaned out the 2 remaining engines, dumped everything possible off the plane, including the bombs, and barely made it back. The army wasn't happy about that, as Vanaman was one of the few Americans aware of the enigma code.

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