Honoring POW from Kissimmee

The third Friday in September was designated National POW/MIA Recognition Day in 1979. Osceola History has chosen to honor former resident and POW Malvin Wayne Samuel by sharing his story. 

Early Life

Born in Agency, Missouri, on November 29, 1915, to Dooley and Bessie Marie Samuel, the family moved to Kissimmee, Florida, in 1925, where Dooley began working for the post office. Malvin was one of forty-nine graduates from Osceola High School in 1935; two years later, he married Della E. Roberts. Malvin and Della both worked for a retail grocery in 1940 while living with Malvin’s parents.  

Kissimmee Man is POW

Newspaper clipping of Kissimmee resident, Malvin Samuel a recorded POW
Image of Lieutenant Malvin Samuel’s Stalag Luft III identification card

On January 17, 1943, Malvin joined the Army Air Corps, trained as an aviation cadet, and graduated from Victorville, California, in October of that year. While serving as a B-17 bombardier for the Eighth Air Force, his plane was shot down on April 29, 1944. Lieutenant Samuel was a Prisoner of War in three different camps and two forced marches before being liberated by General Patton one year later, on April 29, 1945. A detailed account written by Lt. Paul Brickhill of both Malvin’s and fellow Kissimmean Lt. Hugh Geiger’s experience in Stalag Luft III was published in the September 1950 issue of “True, The Man’s Magazine” and reprinted in the September 22, 1950 “Kissimmee Gazette.” 

Several books were published about the POW camp and movies produced based on the books. One well-known movie was “The Great Escape” with Steve McQueen.  Discharged in October 1945, Malvin was recalled in 1950 and served in the Korean War until discharged October 1951. From 1958-1970 he was a member of the First Censorship Squadron, Detachment 7, a postal censorship group belonging to the United States Air Force Reserves. He held the rank of Lt. Colonel upon his retirement from the squadron.

Career and Civic Life

Black and white photo of Kissimmee resident Malvin Samuel
Malvin Samuel performing his postal duties

Appointed to the Kissimmee Post Office on November 1, 1942, Malvin returned to those duties following his return from the war. Described as courteous and helpful, Malvin greeted many customers at his counter in the Kissimmee post office before his retirement in June of 1972. He was a member of the First Christian Church, Silver Spurs Riding Club, and an honorary life member of the Lions Club. Malvin and Della retreated to the Rabun County, Georgia mountains for many months each year, and it was there Malvin passed away on April 29, 1989. He was buried in Osceola Memory Gardens in Kissimmee.

Sources: “Kissimmee Gazette” September 22, 1950, May 4, 1989; “Orlando Sentinel” July 22, 1985; Ancestry.com; Find A Grave

Written by Anza Bast