First American WWII POW Escapee Dies

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Lee "Shorty" Gordon, believed to be the first American prisoner of war to escape from a German camp during World War II, has died. He was 84.

Gordon died Tuesday of complications from recent stomach and kidney surgery at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Menlo Park, according to his daughter, Cherie Gordon.

Gordon, who made two failed escape attempts from Stalag VIIA -- including one on a bicycle while yelling the only German he knew, "Heil, Hitler" -- succeeded on Oct. 13, 1943, according to historian Robert C. Doyle.

"Shorty was a committed natural escaper," Doyle said. "There was nothing that was going to keep that man in that camp."

The Southern California native was serving as a ball turret gunner with the Army Air Corps' 305th Bomb Group when his B-17 was shot down over Wilhelmshaven, Germany, on Feb. 26, 1943. He survived the parachute landing, but was quickly captured by German troops, his daughter said.

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