Revered WWII ‘ghost’ dies
Frank Grey, who was held in Stalag 17 by the Germans in World War II and known as the “Grey ghost” for his ability to avoid detection and to escape, has died, his family said. He was 90.
Grey, who died of heart failure in early February, served 20 years in the Air Force and was a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War.
He lived in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and was a tail gunner on a B-17 from the 92nd Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in England when his plane was shot down during World War II. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Purple Heart and the POW Medal. He later served on a B-29 crew, surviving 57 bombing missions over North Korea.
According to “The Flame Keepers,” a 2004 book about his exploits at Stalag 17, Grey hid among 4,000 POWs when he arrived at the camp. After a three-day search by German guards and the Gestapo, they became convinced he escaped. Grey resurfaced and made his way into an adjoining Russian POW compound, from which he would escape and make his way back to England, according to the book.
The "Grey Ghost" Passes Away
By Charlene Shirk
First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE BEACH, FL -- He was considered the greatest escape artist of World War II -- taken as a prisoner, he slipped out of the enemy's hands seven times. He was so adept at escaping capture, he earned the name "the Grey Ghost."
Frank Grey died over the weekend at his home in Jacksonville Beach. His family tells First Coast News that Grey became a wartime legend because of his defiance in the face of the enemy.
"He never talked about what he did. That was part of the military code. You didn't talk about what you had done, especially if you had escaped from the enemy."
Paul Knight was a bunk mate of Grey's during their imprisonment in the infamous Stalag 17, a Nazi POW camp known for its brutal conditions.
Grey's son Lindsey says the family could always see the impact the war had on their father. He never liked to talk about it even though a movie and a book both detailed his exploits.
"Dad was a person who was very much impacted by the horrors of war. So much impacted that it followed him through life 60 years after the war."
What also followed Grey was the name he earned after being the only American known to escape from Stalag 17. He was so elusive to the Germans he became known as the "Grey Ghost."
"I think he was rather proud of it."
Grey's son Bill say he realized the importance of his father's story to the family's history. The two set out to chronicle his experience in his own words.
Bill Grey says he even has a letter his father wrote while hiding in the tunnels of Stalag 17. His father wrote it in case he did not survive the war his family would know what happened to him. Grey's letter is now a part of one of the most historic escapes in military history.
"Many people say he was an escape artist when it counted and he was."
Grey was a tail gunner on a B-17 of the 92nd Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in England when his plane was shot down. He was captured by the Nazi's and immediately hid among the 4,000 POW's when he arrived at the barracks. His comrades concealed him, allowing him to slip throughout the barracks undetected until he could escape through underground tunnels they dug.
A movie and the book "The Flame Keepers" both detail how Grey and other American prisoners held their resolve. Though Grey never liked to talk about his historic role in the war, his daughter, Jane Painter, believes it was his honor for his country that kept him fighting for his freedom.
"He just had a sheer determination and will power."
"I wasn't going to let them win and overtake me. I was fighting for my country."
Grey received the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Purple Heart and the POW Medal. He is survived by his wife of 61 years and three very proud children.
Sad,another of the Greatest Generation is gone.
I wish we had more men like him today. Oh wait, we do, in Iraq and Afganistan.
My wifes grandfather was in the Polish Home Army. He was captured by the Nazis three times. I think he escaped one and was let go twice (amazingly. He thought he was going to be shot in the back as he left).
Anyway - another hero gone. Lets all take a moment to thank our heros.