On the surface, it seems like a tale fit for the pulpy pages of War Stories magazine: On a chilly night in December 1944, some 25 German soldiers and sailors absconded from Camp Papago Park, a Valley prisoner-of-war facility during World War II. It was the largest-ever escape by Axis POWs on U.S. soil, an embarrassment for the military, and fodder for dramatic newspaper headlines ("Wily Germans Elude Chase"). Security was lax and life was relatively comfortable at the camp overseen by Army Colonel William Holden, who believed with Colonel Klink-like foolishness that his prisoners could never bust out. Exploiting the situation, the escapees used a 178-foot tunnel they'd dug for months to reach a nearby canal. Their newfound freedom didn't last. Some considered it a prank and surrendered days later. Others hoped to return to the fatherland by way of Mexico, but were done in by the weather and desert terrain. One trio even considered rafting the Gila River to the Gulf of California, only to find a dry riverbed. Within weeks, each was recaptured and the story of their great escape has since slipped into Phoenix lore.