EPISODE 7: Colin Heaton and Marilyn Walton on “Masters of the Air”

Historian and technical advisor on the TV series “Masters of the Air“, Colin Heaton returns to the program to talk about the WWII POW experience in Europe.

Joining him is fellow technical advisor, Marilyn Walton, an expert on the treatment and lives of American prisoners in Germany.

We also welcome Anita Sybesma, historian and President of the 96th Bomb Group Association. Anita’s father was navigator Danny Martin Crist, who began flying missions in 1942. He flew 25 missions with at least six different crews, was wounded, shot down, and held as a POW at Luft Stalag III.

Colin Heaton served in the US Army and US Marines and was a professor of history at American Military University. He is currently developing historical documentaries, feature film and series projects. His last major project was working with Dale Dye and Marilyn Walton as a technical consultant on the WWII limited series Masters of the Air for Kirk Saduksi, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

Heaton has co-authored several books with prominent military figures, including historians and veterans. One of his notable works is The German Aces Speak: World War II Through the Eyes of Four of the Luftwaffe’s Most Important Commanders, co-written with Anne-Marie Lewis.

This book provides insights into the experiences of German fighter pilots during World War II, offering a perspective from those who were directly involved in aerial combat.

Marilyn Walton has become one of the greatest experts on the POW experience in World War II. One of her books is Rhapsody in Junk: A Daughter’s Return to Germany to Finish Her Father’s Story which delves into archives across England, Germany, Poland, and the United States to reconstruct the final mission of her father and his crew during World War II.

The narrative unfolds through her journey to locate the German cemetery where one crewmate was buried and to reunite the remaining crew members after a span of sixty years.

Through interviews with the crew and fellow prisoners of war, Walton gathers essential pieces of the puzzle, gradually uncovering details about their capture and interrogation. She explores old records, letters, diaries, and mission documents, eventually leading her to return to Germany. Astonishingly, she discovers the crash site of her father’s B-24, where remnants of the plane still linger.

During this return, she connects emotionally with the people of Wagersrott, the peaceful farm community where her father was taken prisoner decades ago.

Walton goes beyond her father’s individual story, presenting the experiences of both British and German civilians who suffered during the war. The narrative reveals a first-hand account of the bombing of Dresden from a surviving German couple.

Throughout her European odyssey, Walton weaves together the rich tapestry of people who endured and survived World War II. The book becomes a multi-faceted mosaic, reflecting the personal stories of those caught up in the dictates of a madman.

Another of Marilyn’s books is From Interrogation to Liberation: A Photographic Journey Stalag Luft III: The Road to Freedom, a compelling exploration of the experiences of airmen who found themselves prisoners at Stalag Luft III, the infamous camp known for the Great Escape. The book details the airmen’s experiences, including deprivation, loneliness, and the perils of being held captive. It recounts a 52-mile force march in the dead of winter from Stalag Luft III to Spremberg, Germany, and their subsequent transportation to overcrowded, filthy boxcars destined for other POW camps. The Americans were either taken to Stalag VIIA in Moosburg, Germany, or Stalag XIII-D in Nürnberg.

The authors vividly describe the harsh conditions and the witness of the death throes of the Third Reich. The narrative not only serves as a personal account but also provides crucial information and insight into the broader World War II POW experience in Europe. It highlights the co-existence and tenuous relationship between the prisoners and their German captors.

The book unveils previously untold stories and features numerous unseen photographs, offering readers a documented and riveting history of the war. Through the voices of those who lived it, the authors bring to life the sacrifices made by these airmen to ensure precious freedom, emphasizing that their stories should never be forgotten.

Thank you to Tobacco Free Adagio Health and UPMC for Life for sponsoring this event!