World War II vet honored in Roswell - KMSP-TV

World War II vet honored in Roswell

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ROSWELL, Ga. -

A World War II hero was honored for his service Monday in Roswell. Basil Jackson's story was the basis of a classic movie.

When Jackson was 17, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He became a squadron leader, flying many missions over Germany in World War II, but one mission in 1942 became a defining moment for the young pilot.

Jackson was captured by the Germans and went to a POW camp, where he was part of an elaborate escape plan.  

"He was shot out of his plane...his boots were blown off and he pulled his chute and he landed in Germany with no boots on," said Basil's daughter, Valerie Jackson.

The Germans captured him and brought him to a POW camp.  He kept a journal with drawings and writings of his crash and time in the POW camp.  It showed how the soldiers quickly developed an elaborate plan to build escape tunnels.

"Dig tunnels, and that's what I did, it was a section through the sand, thank goodness, but it was over 100 feet long," said Basil Jackson.

"It was an engineering feat, they way they got the dirt out and how they took the bed boards and built the shafts," said Valerie Jackson.

Basil dug away, but never tried to escape.  The consequences were dire for those that were caught.

"Two hundred escaped got out, but 500 were shot, murdered and didn't make it.  But we went on digging," he said.

The experiences of the POWs was the basis for the 1963 film, The Great Escape.  

Basil was set free when the war ended.  He came back to the United States, became an engineer and started a family, but he will never forget his experiences as a POW.

On Monday, Jackson's hospice care providers presented him with a certificate of appreciate for his service.

According to the Department of U.S. Veterans Affairs, there are about 1 million World War II veterans still alive. Sadly, more than  600 pass away each day.

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