Lawrence Witt and Laura Edge Papers

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Lawrence L. Witt and Laura A. Edge Papers

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger manuscript collection held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

Lawrence L. Witt was a Detroit native who served in the Army Air Force during World War II and was a prisoner of war (POW) for eleven months after getting shot down over Nazi Germany. His daughter Laura A. Edge later researched her father’s story and wrote a book about his and other airmen’s experiences as prisoners of war in WWII. Correspondence, various documents relating to military and prisoner of war experience, and audio-visual materials including oral histories of several WWII veterans.

Born June 1, 1923 in Detroit, Lawrence Lee Witt served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. On May 12, 1944, he was shot down over Nazi Germany. He was a prisoner of war for the next eleven months, primarily at the Stalag Luft IV prison camp, located in what is now eastern Poland.

Prior to enlisting in the army, Witt worked for the Ford Motor Company, and he enjoyed a long career there after the war as well. He attended the Ford Training School as a teenager and served as an apprentice before enlisting, initially earning a deferment for assisting in research vital to the war effort. Intending to serve as an airplane mechanic, he enlisted in the Army Air Force in December 1942. Due to shifting military needs, however, after training as a mechanic he was sent to gunnery school, and served as the flight engineer and waist gunner on a B-17 with missions over Nazi Germany.

Witt’s plane was shot down on May 12, 1944 and he soon became a prisoner of war, along with four of his crewmates (five did not survive being shot down). From late May through early February, he was held at Stalag Luft IV in what is now Poland. In early February, the Nazis evacuated the camp in a forced march of several hundred miles west to Stalag 357. After avoiding yet another forced march, he was liberated by the British on April 16, 1945. Returning to the United States in May, his military service continued, mostly spent receiving treatment for the physical and psychological trauma he endured as a prisoner of war, before being honorably discharged November 1, 1945.

On January 26, 1946, Lawrence Witt married Lois Davis, whom he proposed to while on furlough in July 1945. Together they had three daughters, Laura, Ellen, and Ruth. Laura, intrigued by her father’s history, conducted extensive research on her father’s and others’ war experiences through correspondence, oral history interviews, official military documents, and other sources. She published a book based on her research, On the Wings of Dawn: American Airmen as Germany’s Prisoners: Their Story of Courage, Sacrifice, and Survival, in 2012. At nearly 87 years of age, Lawrence L. Witt died on April 10, 2010.

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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