December 21, 2021
By David M. Fortier, Senior Field Editor
Here is a long-forgotten read that I highly recommend you spend some time with. It has action, adventure and a hero battling virtually impossible odds. Unlike the norm though, this isn’t fiction. No, this is a wonderful autobiographical account of an incredible wartime adventure. Written by Imperial German Naval Officer Gunther Plüschow (February 8, 1886 – January 28, 1931) in 1922, it chronicles his amazing feats during the opening act of World War I.
In August 1914, Lieutenant Plüschow was assigned to the East Asian Naval Station at the Germany colony of Tsingtau in China. At the outbreak of the war this small German garrison thousands of miles from home found itself besieged by overwhelming Japanese and English forces. Piloting the only available aircraft he flew constant reconnaissance missions during the siege. He spotted for German artillery and on one flight he became the only German pilot to ever shoot down a Japanese warplane. Better still, he scored his victory using only sheer determination and his service pistol. By November 1914 the military situation at Kiautschou Bay had become hopeless. So on November 6 Plüschow was ordered to fly out in his Taube, carrying the last dispatches and documents from the governor. After making it approximately 250 kilometres (160 mi) in his much-repaired airplane, Plüschow crashed into a rice paddy. He set fire to the Taube, and started for Germany…. on foot.
Hunted by Allied forces he had many narrow escapes trekking across China. Eventually he boarded a steamer and, despite the obvious risks made his way to San Francisco via Japan. With Allied agents always just a step behind, he made his way across the continental United States in January 1915 to New York City. With the authorities hot on his trail he managed to obtain travel documents for a ship sailing to Italy. This is when his luck seemed to finally run out. Bad weather forced Plüschow's vessel to dock at Gibraltar, where the British arrested him as an enemy alien. It wasn’t long though before they discovered he was the famous aviator of Tsingtau. On July 1, 1915, Plüschow was sent to a prisoner of war camp at Donington Hall in England. Any other German officer would have accepted his fate and spent the rest of the war as a POW. Not Plüschow. Three days later though he escaped and headed to London. Disguised as a worker, he had enough pluck to take souvenir photographs of himself at the London docks. By hook and by crook he managed to make his way to Holland and then finally back home to Germany. Once he was identified, Plüschow was acclaimed as "the hero from Tsingtau". He was decorated, promoted, and assigned command of the naval base at Libau in occupied Latvian Courland. He was the only German POW, in either World War, to escape from England.
Why do I recommend it? Well for one it’s simply a great read which flows quickly and easily. It’s not heavy boring reading. Plus it’s a fantastic true story. What impressed me most was his dedication. He never gave up, no matter the odds. He began his journey in a doomed German colony in China. Given the order to break out and make his way back to Germany, he did just that. Better still, he did it by himself, despite great efforts to thwart him. It’s a great story of a man who simply refused to give up. If I’ve perked your interest you can download the entire book in PDF format for FREE at: http://archive.org/details/myescapefromdoni00plusuoft as the copyright has expired and it’s now in the public domain. If you prefer a hardcover or softcover copy it is readily found online, including on Amazon and Walmart.com.
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About the Author:
David M. Fortier has been covering firearms, ammunition and optics since 1998. He is a recipient of the Carl Zeiss Outdoor Writer of the Year award and his writing has been recognized by the Civil Rights organization JPFO. In 2007 he covered the war in Iraq as an embedded journalist.