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You, the reader, should be aware of my affluence of love for literature in all its forms, for instance: the novel, the novella, the short story, the poem, and the comic strip - which, in its own right, is a literary and creative milestone tantamount in importance to Shakespeare.However, without doubt, one of my favorite genres of literature is: the memo.
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Toronto, Ontario (PRWEB) July 2, 2007 -- The strategy of putting more Allied troops on the streets and in small combat outposts in Iraq has led to a spate of kidnappings. Kidnapped soldiers are in danger of being executed if they fall into the wrong hands, and videos of soldiers being beheaded have popped up on the Internet and have been featured on nightly newscasts.
Mark Kozak-Holland, author of the popular Lessons from History series of books, says that there are important lessons to be learned from the lives of Allied prisoners of war (POWs) from the Second World War; especially, their state of mind, spirit, and resilience. The most notable example is from Stalag Luft III where, against all odds, Allied POWs mounted one of the most incredible and audacious escape attempts of the Second World War involving 600 POWs in the project, and 200 in the escape.
There are many parallels between the two worlds. The first is the shock of going into captivity. For POW airmen, just their initial journey into enemy captivity was a roller coaster ride of emotions. From the sudden shock of having to bail out of their airplanes at 18,000 feet, only hours after being in the safety of their barracks, to avoiding injury in a risky parachute jump in the dark. Things just got worse as the next step was to evade capture, not just from enemy troops but also from a very unsympathetic and hostile population. Going into hiding and then contacting an "escape line" happened to just a lucky few. Most were inevitably captured and this is when the mental stamina of these airmen was pushed to the limits. This started with endless rounds of interrogation, all the time not knowing what had happened to their fellow aircrew, to being in a hopeless and dangerous situation.
Once in a POW camp, they suffered from starvation rations, overcrowding, the extremes of a seasonal climate, and being incarcerated for an unknown length of time. This was psychological warfare where the POWs were intimidated into complying. Malnourished and under constant threat of disease, the airmen were dragged to the lowest of depths of despair so that their will to resist was completely broken.
In addition, the prison camp authorities, had done everything possible to make Stalag Luft III fully escape proof. From its geographic location being distanced from neutral countries, to locating the camp on sandy soil so that any signs of digging would be a dead give away. Every detail of the camp had been thought through, from the construction of the huts on stilts to the burying of microphones beneath the camp's barbed-wire fences (at 33 feet, 10 meters) to pick up any underground noises.
For the POWs under these dire circumstances, the easiest response would have been to resign themselves to the situation and wait out the remainder of the war in captivity. But who could predict if and when the Allies would win. Yet with very limited resources, somehow the POWs in Stalag Luft III organized an escape project of staggering proportions. It is not a question of how DID a project emerge but how COULD it emerge? The answer is complex.
The starting point was mental attitude. Many Allied POWs viewed it as their duty to be as disruptive as possible to occupy enemy resources, and thus make a positive contribution to the Allied cause. The United States military has a Code of Conduct in place to govern its soldiers' actions. Article II states: "I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist." In addition, many Allied POWs were simply not prepared to sit out a situation for an indefinite period.
For the POWs, the second point was to establish a level of camp security that was bullet proof, and this was based on an extraordinary level trust in one's comrades were one's life could be in their hands. A solid security system would allow the POWs to conspire and work out their strengths and weaknesses.
By 1943, the shortage of food items in Germany was dire and the POWs discovered that they had foodstuffs in the Red Cross parcels that had not been seen in Germany in several years, such as coffee, chocolate and cigarettes. By carefully targeting susceptible guards, they could ensnare them into a spiral of blackmail, with a fear of court martial for collaboration. Once in, they could continue to bribe/barter the guards for tools, materials (paper, inks), or goods (cameras, film). The Escape Committee put the Red Cross parcels, the one precious resource they had, under the auspices of the "Supplies Department" who carefully budgeted what was likely to be needed for the project.
One of the significant POW weaknesses was the lack of strategic information; for example, knowing where they were located, and what went on locally in the towns and villages outside of the confines of the fences. However, leveraging their strengths through the relationships with "bought" guards, they were able to build up intelligence and develop an understanding of what was out beyond the camp. Within a short timeframe, they had built up a mental map that ranged from train timetables, to potential contacts in the underground resistance.
With this information at hand, they could now carefully assess all the risks, determine how to mitigate their impacts, and begin to prepare an escape plan. For example, what kind of escape would give them the greatest return on investment, what equipment would be required, what resources would be needed, how would the schedule look? All of these are elements that one would expect from a modern sophisticated project.
The last required element was tenacity. At each step in the project, there was typically a hurdle, some of these seemingly insurmountable. True determination was a driving force as individual objectives were reached literally one step at a time. POWs took on every problem and doggedly wrestled it till a solution was found.
So what was the end result? The POWs pulled off one of the most remarkable escapes of the Second World War. For today's world the most important lesson is that even facing the adversity of being held captive, it is still possible to survive, and disrupt the captors.
An interesting epilog is that many of the POWs taking part in the escape went into the business world after the war and had very successful careers. They leveraged the skills that they had mastered as part of the escape project to overcome seemingly insurmountable business challenges.
Following in the footsteps of earlier titles in the Lessons from History (www.lessons-from-history.com) series of books, Project Lessons from The Great Escape (Stalag Luft III) is a new book exploring the historical events surrounding the escape project using modern business analysis methods, extracting lessons learned that can be applied to modern business projects.
"Project Lessons from the Great Escape (Stalag Luft III)" by Mark Kozak-Holland (ISBN-10 1895186803 / ISBN-13 9781895186802) Published by Multi-Media Publications Inc. $29.95 US/$34.95 CDN, 276 pages, paperback. A sample chapter of the book can be read online at Project Lessons from The Great Escape - www.mmpubs.com/escape (http://www.mmpubs.com/escape) Available starting July 1st from your local bookseller, Amazon.com, or directly from the publisher.
ABOUT MARK KOZAK-HOLLAND
Kozak-Holland is a Senior Business Architect with HP Services and regularly writes and speaks on the subject of emerging technologies and lessons that can be learned from historical projects. He can be contacted via his Web site at www.lessons-from-history.com or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT MULTI-MEDIA PUBLICATIONS
Founded in 1988, Multi-Media Publications Inc. is an independent publisher of business books, ebooks, and audiobooks. It's products are available around the world through most book retailers. Please visit www.mmpubs.com (http://www.mmpubs.com) for more information.
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