Lester H. Aufmuth joined the Army Air Forces as a pilot with the 544th Bomb Squadron in 1942. In September 1943, the Germans captured Aufmuth when one of his missions ended with a crash landing over France. The Germans kept him prisoner for 19 months in Stalag Luft 1.
Aufmuth recounted his experience in his memoir Clear for Takeoff: A Pilot’s Story of World War II and Life in a German Prisoner of War Camp. He explained how humor was key to maintaining good morale in the camp.
Yet, he believed all prisoners suffered in isolation, often questioning their interpersonal relations, morale, and even sanity. Aufmuth believed that this “psychological struggle for mental balance,” represented the real story of his captivity.
The Russians evacuated Aufmuth and 9,600 other prisoners on May 5, 1945. Later, he joined the Air Force Reserve and moved to Medina, Ohio, where he owned a Volkswagen dealership. He retired to Arizona and began volunteering at the Pima Air and Space Museum.
Aufmuth died on Aug. 23, 1999, following an aortic transplant.
We honor his service.
More of his story can be found at: http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.afc2001001.02377/.
Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Rachel Heimann
Graphic artist: Brett Blandford