Flight Lt. Alex Cassie, the British bomber pilot whose work as a forger of Nazi documents was immortalized in The Great Escape, has died, reports the New York Times. He was 95. Seventy-six prisoners of war escaped from the Stalag Luft III camp in eastern Germany on March 24 and 25, 1944, crawling through a 340-foot-long tunnel. But 73 were soon re-captured and 50 were executed on the personal orders of Adolf Hitler. Cassie was supposed to be an escapee, but as he suffered from claustrophobia and was worried he would impede others in the narrow tunnel, he chose to stay behind.
Although his survival haunted him his whole life, most people considered Cassie a hero, being a key forger of German identity cards, business letters, official documents, and letters from wives and girlfriends, all of which were used by the other soldiers to aid in their escapes. Shot down after attacking a German submarine in September 1942 in the Bay of Biscay, Cassie stayed at the POW camp until Germans moved their prisoners in January 1945 to avoid the advancing Russians; he and his fellow prisoners were finally liberated by the British in April. He became a psychologist after the war and is survived by a daughter, a son, and four grandchildren. (Read more Alex Cassie stories.)