This new page was started on September 7, 2014. On it I will list new escape and evasion books that come to my attention, including some that are awaiting publication. I welcome suggestions for additions to the list because I am sure there are many I am not aware of. My descriptions of the books may be quotes from publications to which I subscribe (WWII, WWII History, Communications [Air Forces Escape and Evasion Society or AFEES], the newsletter of the WWII Escape Lines Memorial Society or WWII ELMS], the 8th AF News, or simply from Amazon. This is not to be seen as an endorsement of Amazon. There are also used book services that may carry earlier editions of some of these books.
Ankeny, Susan Tate, The Girl and the Bombardier: A True Story of Resistance and Rescue in Nazi-Occupied France, Diversion Books, 2020. A downed B-17 bombardier’s unfinished World War II memoir and a box of letters from the French girl who saved him sets a veteran’s daughter on a journey, sixty-five years later, to craft their intersecting stories―a true WWII tale of danger, courage, love, and escape. Susan Tate Ankeny was sorting through the belongings of her late father―a World War II bombardier who had bailed from a burning B-17 over Nazi-occupied France in 1944―when she found two boxes. One contained her dad’s Air Force uniform, and the other an unfinished memoir, stacks of envelopes, black-and-white photographs, mission reports, dog tags, and the fake identity cards he used in his escape. Ankeny spent more than a decade from that moment tracking down letter writers, their loved ones, and anyone who had played a role in her father’s story, culminating in a trip to France where she retraced his path with the same people who had guided him more than sixty years ago. A remarkable hero emerged―Godelieve Van Laere―just a teenaged girl when she saved the fallen Lieutenant Dean Tate, risking her life and forging a friendship that would last into a new century. The result is an amazing, multifaceted World War II tale―perhaps one of the last of its kind to be enriched by an author’s interviews with participants. It traces the transformation of a small-town American boy into a bombardier, the thrill and chaos of an air war, and the horror of bailing from a flaming aircraft over enemy territory. It distinguishes the actions of a little-known French resistance network for Allied airmen known as Shelburne. And it shines a light on the courage and cunning of a young woman who put her life on the line to save another’s. Available from Amazon and Barnes&Noble.
- Ashdown, Paddy, A Brilliant Little Operation: The Cockleshell Heroes and the Most Courageous Raid of World War Two, Auburn Press Ltd., 2012 (hardback) and 2013 (paperback). “Inserted by submarine in the open sea of the Atlantic, the Cockleshell team fought tidal races, very hazardous sea conditions, and exhaustion. They laid up during the day and paddled (their canoes) at night down the Gironde River to Bordeaux. Only four of the ten men reached the target area in darkness to lay their limpet mines on shipping, and only two of those reached home. The damage caused to the shipping was not great, but the damage caused to German morale and sense of impregnability was immense. Hitler issued his Commando Order that all raiders were to be shot on capture, and fumed ‘How could ten men in small canvass “children’s” boats breach German security and cause such damage? Following the raid the men’s presence was known and the enemy saturated the immediate area with troops in hot pursuit. Despite this, brave helpers came forward to assist them as the two exhausted survivors had to find the strength and the means to make their escape onwards and over the Pyrenees.” WWII ELMS Newsletter No. 36, 2014. For a review by The Telegraph, click here.
- Ayotte, Julien, Code Name Lily. Published Nov. 2018. To order, click here.
- Bain, Roland J., Enter the Enemy: A French Family’s Life Under German Occupation, Merriam Press, 2014. WWII History: This is the story of a French officer’s family and its experiences during the occupation. The daily lives of the family members are covered in detail. For more, click here.
- Bascomb, Neal, The Escape Artists, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. “In the winter trenches and flak-filled skies of World War I, soldiers and pilots alike might avoid death, only to find themselves imprisoned in Germany’s archipelago of POW camps, often in abominable conditions. The most infamous was Holzminden, a land-locked Alcatraz of sorts that housed the most troublesome, escape-prone prisoners. Its commandant was a boorish, hate-filled tyrant named Karl Niemeyer who swore that none should ever leave. Desperate to break out of “Hellminden” and return to the fight, a group of Allied prisoners led by ace pilot (and former Army sapper) David Gray hatch an elaborate escape plan. Their plot demands a risky feat of engineering as well as a bevy of disguises, forged documents, fake walls, and steely resolve. Once beyond the watch towers and round-the-clock patrols, Gray and almost a dozen of his half-starved fellow prisoners must then make a heroic 150 mile dash through enemy-occupied territory towards free Holland.” For more, click here.
- Bond, Dr. Barbara, Great Escapes: The Story of MI9’s Second World War Escape and Evasion Maps, HarperCollins UK. Publication is due in November 2015 or in 2016. The description of the book on Amazon is as follows: The creation of MI9 in December 1939, the rationale for the new military intelligence branch and the context of the history of military mapping on silk is outlined in this history. The map production program is described, together with its progress and the challenges faced. The various groups of maps are identified and described, together with the source maps on which they were based. The ingenious methods of smuggling the maps into the camps, with other escape aids, in apparently innocuous leisure items are described. The maps were then copied and reproduced to support the escapes. Coded correspondence with the camps is discussed, and a successful deciphering of some of that correspondence is provided.” For further information, click here.
- Bowman, Martin, Voices in Flight: RAF Escapers and Evaders in WWII, Barnsley, Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Books, 2014. Chockfull of escape stories, this book is great fun to read, very informative, and well-documented. For more, click here.
Carper, Janet Holmes, The Weidners in Wartime: Letters of Daily Suvival and Heroism Under Nazi Rule, Weidner Collection: 2020. The Weidners in Wartime is the intimate story, told in their own words, of a family separated by war. Despite the dangers of writing under the inspection of censors, their letters paint a vivid portrait of decent human beings fighting valiantly to maintain their courage, their humor, and their faith during one of history’s darkest hours. It so happens that one member of the family is also a leader of the resistance, whose heroic actions to save fleeing refugees will make him a hunted man and one of the greatest rescuers of World War II.
In 1942, Jean Henri Weidner founded the “Dutch-Paris Line” to guide Jews, downed Allied pilots, and other persecuted people out of Nazi-occupied Europe to freedom in Switzerland and Spain. The Line spanned four countries and hid or escorted to safety an estimated 3,000 people, many faced with certain death. After the war, Jean was awarded the French Legion of Honor and the United States Medal of Freedom. He is honored as one of the Righteous Among the Nations at Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem. Yet Jean’s actions to save the lives of strangers comes at a terrible cost to those he holds most dear.
Through these never-before-published documents-expertly selected, translated, and introduced by Janet Holmes Carper-readers will encounter the daily lives of an “ordinary” but remarkable family bound together by their deep love for each other and by their prolific correspondence across great distances. The frequently unvarnished words of the Weidners (including Jean; his spirited younger sisters, Gabrielle and Annette; his stalwart parents, “Papa” and “Mama” Weidner; and his fiancé and soon-to-be bride, Elisabeth Cartier) provide a unique window into historical events that continue to resonate in the present. Jean’s secret resistance work is barely alluded to in the family’s letters. What emerges instead are the distinctive personalities, voices, and moral characters of the Weidners as they face the harsh realities of the war with as much bravery and good cheer as they can muster.
The Weidners in Wartime builds to a devastating climax, raising profound questions about humanity and inhumanity, loyalty and betrayal, duty, and sacrifice, that do not admit easy answers and that linger after the book is set down. These letters, written more than 75 years ago, might inspire in new generations a commitment to selfless and courageous action in the spirit of Jean, Gabrielle, Annette, and the other members of the Dutch-Paris escape line. Available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Waterstones.
- Carswell, Andrew, Over the Wire: A Canadian Pilot’s Memoir of War and Survival as a POW, Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM). The story of Andrew Carswell’s experiences as an RCAF pilot shot down over Nazi Germany. “His starboard engine was on fire. His aircraft was in an uncontrolable dive. The fuel tanks were threatening to explode. It was only his fourth mission. This night would end his flying war, but it would not end his fight nor would it end his long flying career.” To order a copy, click here.
- Cartron, Jean-Luc, So Close to Freedom, A World War II Story of Peril and Betrayal in the Pyrenees, Potomac Books, Inc., April 2019. During World War II many escape-line organizations contributed to the Allied cause by funneling hundreds of servicemen trapped behind enemy lines out of occupied Europe. As the Germans tightened their noose around the escape lines and infiltrated them, the risk of discovery only grew for the servicemen who, in ever-increasing numbers, needed safe passage across the Pyrenees. In early 1944 two important escape-line organizations operated in Toulouse in southwestern France, handing over many fugitives to French passeur Jean-Louis Bazerque (“Charbonnier”). Along with several of his successful missions, Charbonnier’s only failure as a passeur is recounted in gripping detail in So Close to Freedom.This riveting story recounts how Charbonnier tried to guide a large group of fugitives—most of them downed Allied airmen, along with a French priest, two doctors, a Belgian Olympic skater, and others—to freedom across the Pyrenees. Tragically, they were discovered by German mountain troopers just shy of the Spanish border. Jean-Luc E. Cartron offers the first detailed account of what happened, showing how Charbonnier operated, his ties with “the Françoise” (previously “Pat O’Leary”) escape-line organization, and how the group was betrayed and by whom. So Close to Freedom sheds light not only on the complex and precarious work of escape lines but also on the concrete, nerve-racking experiences of the airmen and those helping them. It shows the desperation of all those seeking passage to Spain, the myriad dangers they faced, and the lengths they would go to in order to survive. To order, contact Potomac Books. See also Amazon. For information on the audio version, click here.
- Churches, Ralph, A Hundred Miles as the Crow Flies. Originally published in 1996, copies may be available from used book sources such as ABEBooks. Available now as a Kindle book from Amazon Digital Services. Amazon’s description is “A first hand description of the largest mass breakout of Allied prisoners of war in WWII. One hundred soldiers joined Slovene partisans to travel across mountains and rivers to reach an airfield and be flown to safety in Italy. A gripping story of cunning, courage and luck.It begins with the successful escape of seven men from a work camp. Their leader, the author, decides that it has been too easy and it is unfair no to bring the rest of the work camp with him. So he goes back and gets them, with the help of Slovene partisans, who he has negotiated passage to a supply airfield with.It sounds to good to be true, but its all in the military records! This book in translation is part of Slovenia’s high school history reading list and the route of the escape is now a memorial walking track across the country from North to South, known as The Crow’s Flight in Slovene.” For further information on the Kindle edition through Amazon, click here.
- Cook, Philip and Ben H. Shepard, European Resistance in the Second World War, South Yorkshire, England: Praetorian Press, an imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2013. The description on Amazon reads, “Resistance to German-led Axis occupation occurred all the way across the European continent during the Second World War. It took a wide range of forms – non-cooperation and disinformation, sabotage, espionage, armed opposition and full-scale partisan warfare. It is an important element in the experience and the national memory of the peoples who found themselves under Axis government and control. For over thirty years there has been no systematic attempt to give readers a panoramic yet detailed view of the make-up, actions and impact of resistance movements from Scandinavia down to Greece and from France through to Russia. This authoritative and accessible survey, written by a group of the leading experts in the field, provides a reliable, in-depth, up-to-date account of the resistance in each region and country along with an assessment of its effectiveness and of the Axis reaction to it. An extensive introduction by the editors Philip Cooke and Ben H. Shepherd draws the threads of the varied movements and groups together, highlighting the many differences and similarities between them. The book will be a significant contribution to the frequently heated debates about the importance of individual resistance movements. It will be thought-provoking reading for everyone who is interested in or studying occupied Europe during the Second World War.” To order from Amazon, click here.
- Corera, Gordon, Secret Pigeon Service: Operation Colomba, Resistance and the Struggle to Liberate Europe, Collins, pp.326, £12.99. [Gordon Corera is the BBC Security Correspondent.] Description: Our gallant second world war pigeons have been unjustly ridiculed Gordon Corera unravels the workings of Operation Columba, the secret pigeon service that could turn around a drop in just 36 hours. Operation Columba was one of the most secretive arms of British Intelligence during the second world war. Between April 1941 and September 1944, its agents made 16,554 drops over an area stretching from Copenhagen to Bordeaux. Amongst Columba’s successes was the mapping of Belgium’s entire coastal defence system, 67 kilometres worth of priceless, minutely detailed information. Columba was the province of a specially created Secret Service division, M114 (d), which received its first message from occupied Europe on 10 April 1941. The correspondent ended his message stoutly: ‘I am, and will always remain, a Frenchman.’ That spirit of defiance, expressed by an ordinary, anonymous citizen who risked his life to send his communication, encapsulates the sense of danger, drama and poignant humility which Gordon Corera brings to his extraordinarily well researched history of Columba’s operations. The unit’s agents were pigeons, and in Secret Pigeon Service Corera succeeds admirably in detailing their hitherto unsung contribution to the Allied victory.Unlike many other branches of espionage, pigeon intelligence has failed to attract a glamorous legend. No Fleming or Le Carré has immortalised the service of birds whose homing instinct, so usefully exploited by Columba, remains to this day scientifically inexplicable. Pigeon communication has an honourable history: the Baghdad caliphate made use of it in the 12th century, the Reuters news service began with avian couriers, and the besieged citizens of Paris employed it during the siege of 1870. Nonetheless, there remains something Pooterish about the lowly pigeon, that whiff of suburban pathos upon which the comedian Graham Fellowes capitalised so brilliantly in his spoof 1998 Eurovision entry ‘Pigeons in Flight’. Corera’s attempts to inject jeopardy into his narrative can sometimes result in rather touching hyperbole — William Osman, one of the brains behind Columba, possessed an ambition which ‘would drive deep fissures within the pigeon world’, a world often ‘riven by bitter infighting’. The story of the Belgian resistance group, which is the focus of the book, Leopold Vindictive, in fact requires no such window-dressing. Led by the Catholic priest Josef Raskin, the group succeeded in using pigeons dropped by the RAF in a mission of pride and subversion which produced essential information for British forces, but which ultimately cost three of them their lives. A talented artist, Raskin had worked as an observer during the first world war, sketching maps of enemy positions. This skill, and the exquisitely tiny handwriting he had perfected as a missionary in Shanghai, enabled Leopold Vindictive to condense pages of intelligence into folded documents the size of postage stamps, carried in cylinders attached to the pigeons’ legs. Raskin’s intelligence and gift for improvisation gave the reports their precision, but the courage of the other members of the group, the Debaillie family, also gleams from the pages. Anne Sebba’s excellent 2016 study, Les Parisiennes, highlighted the importance of women’s role in covert resistance; here Corera pays tribute to Marie and Margaret Debaillie, whose talent for everyday espionage proved essential to Vindictive’s success. Pigeon communications had a 12 per cent success rate, which despite MI6’s sniffy attitude to ‘the Columba racket’ was no worse than many other methods. One of the surprises of this book is its revelation of how haphazard, not to say shambolic, were the intelligence services’ preparations in the run-up to the war. The sheer speed of the Nazi Blitzkrieg across the Low Countries found them hopelessly unprepared; MI6 in Brussels hurled their teleprinter out of the window to prevent documents falling into enemy hands, while agents took turns to guard a bonfire of intelligence with the single office Luger. In comparison with the average period of return for an agent report at the mid-point of the war of four months (by which time information was frequently superannuated), pigeons were fast — Columba could turn round a drop in just 36 hours. Columba’s success provoked surreal existential questions at the end of the war. The Parliamentary sub-committee on pigeons was wound up in 1950, but not before a vigorous debate as to whether pigeons ought to be awarded medals, like guard dogs. Since pigeons were following instinct, the Air Ministry suggested, could they be considered brave? Their champions countered that pigeons could choose to overcome risk and that therefore their ‘voluntary determination’ was worthy of decoration. Inevitably, there is a risk of bathos in recounting Columba’s history, and Corera does not always avoid it. Yet his meticulous unravelling of the workings of the secret pigeon service makes his book a significant, if idiosyncratic, contribution to military history. And at its heart is an element which grander accounts of the war often overlook. Groups like Leopold Vindictive represented the silent thousands whose small acts of resistance, at the risk of their own lives, contributed immeasurably to victory. Whatever the status of the pigeons’ instinct, that urge to return home, and the human hope it represented, takes on a peculiar resonance when measured against the enormity of the Nazi war machine. Review by Lisa Hilton.
- Davis, Tony, When the Moon Rises: Escape and Evasion Through War-Torn Italy. Re-published in 2016. Amazon describes it thusly: “In the face of the advancing Allied forces, Italy capitulated in September 1943, leaving thousands of Allied prisoners of war held in camps around the country to fend for themselves. Amongst those prisoners was Tony Davies who had been captured in North Africa. Determined to make the most of the opportunity, with two fellow companions in arms Tony set off on a 700-mile walk through German-occupied Italy with nothing to sustain them other than an almost schoolboy-like enthusiasm.The story of their adventures was received with great acclaim when this account was first published in 1973, and When the Moon Rises takes the reader on a roller-coaster journey through Italy from the River Po to Calabria, meeting a cast of exciting and voluble characters en route. Regardless of the ever present risk of recapture, Tony Davis and his comrades enjoyed street parties and drinking binges with the cheerful Italians who were happy to be no longer fighting the British.Repeatedly chased by the Germans, the tension mounts as the story reaches its dramatic climax, the little band never failing to maintain their wit and humor. When the Moon Rises is one of the classic escape stories of the Second World War. For further information from Amazon, click here.
- Delfosse, David, Liberte a Tout Prix, Editions Delattre. In French, it describes the evasion/escapes of the crew of the B-17 Flying Fortress “Sarah Jane”. Five of the crew were assisted by the Dutch-Paris escape line from Paris to the Spanish border. It is a very detailed account of the lives of the crew from induction into the USAF until return to Allied lines. For further information, click here.
- Dell, Frank, with Brett Piper, Mosquito Down, The Extraordinary Memoir of a Second World War Bomber Command Pilot on the Run in Germany and Holland, Fighting High Publishing, 2014. Chris Collusi, reviewing it in WW2 ELMS Newsletter, No. 37, 2015, wrote as follows: “(Frank Dell’s) story is of flying a Mosquito of 692 Squadron on an operation to Berlin when he was brought down by a night fighter over the Duisberg-Munster area. His navigator was killed and he landed safely by parachute. He walked at night into Holland where he met up with the Dutch Resistance. Frank still keeps in touch with the families. It is a story of hiding and moving on to different safe-houses continuously in Holland and the help given him by the brave Dutch helpers. We also learn what happened to his helpers. Eventually Frank returned to England. After the war Frank flew with BEA and became their chief pilot (technical). I enjoyed this book and not just because Frank is a good friend.” For an interview with Dell, click here. To order a copy, click here.
- DiGeorge, Pat, Liberty Lady: A True Story of Love and Espionage in WWII Sweden. Described as follows: LIBERTY LADY is the true story of a WWII bomber and its crew forced to land in neutral Sweden during the Eighth Air Force’s first large-scale daylight bombing raid on Berlin. 1st Lt. Herman Allen was interned and began working for his country’s espionage agency, the OSS, with instructions to befriend a businessman suspected of selling secrets to the Germans. Soon Herman fell in love with a beautiful Swedish-American secretary working for the OSS, their courtship unfolding amid the glamour and intrigue of wartime Stockholm. As Swedish newspapers trumpeted one of the biggest spy scandals of the war, two of the main protagonists walked down the aisle in a storybook wedding presided over by the nephew of the King of Sweden. To order a copy, click here.
- Di Mattia, Gabriella, Campo 78 – The Aussie Camp, Museo Italiano, 2016. “Gabriella Di Mattia was born in Melbourne in 1961. When she was 10 years old her parents decided to return to Sulmona in the Abruzzo region of Italy, where they were both born. Initially Gabriella felt lost and disillusioned by this decision of her parents, but an extended tour of Italy with them and her younger sister helped her improve her command of the language, appreciate the culture and start enjoying the new lifestyle. At school Gabriella continued to study English in order to maintain her links with her aunts, uncles and cousins back in Melbourne. She attended university in Abruzzo. Gabriella subsequently initiated research into the Prisoner of War Camp, “Campo 78″ located 5 kilometres from Sulmona. On the wall of one the huts she identified the Australian Commonwealth Emblem, sparking an interest in her that she had not foreseen. Her research led her to estimate that the over 3200 POWs who were captured in the North African campaign and known as the “Desert Rats” included approximately 500 Australians. Gabriella has written a bilingual English and Italian history of the Australians who were detained at the camp. Her effort is testament of her enduring love and respect for Australia, the country of her birth. The book was officially launched in Sulmona on 21 November 2015, in the presence of a representative from the Australian Embassy. Australian Ambassador to Rome Mike Rann (former Premier of South Australia), whose father had been a POW during WW2, visited Sulmona and Campo 78 10 days later.” For further information, click here.
Evans, Bryn, Airmen’s Incredible Escapes: Accounts of Survival in the Second World War, Yorkshire, England and Havertown, PA: Pen and Sword Books, 2020. “Allied air power made a major, arguably decisive, contribution to victory in The Second World War both in the European and Pacific theaters. The cost in men and machines was horrific with Bomber Command suffering 50% air crew casualties. While many perished, others shot down over enemy territory or water survived only after overcoming extraordinary danger and hardship. Their experiences often remained untold not just for the duration of the War but for many years. The author has gathered together a wealth of unpublished stories from airmen of many nationalities, be they British, Commonwealth or American. Some involve avoiding or escaping from capture, others surviving against all the odds, braving extreme elements and defying death from wounds, drowning or starvation. Importantly the accounts of those who survived the battle in the skies cheating the enemy and the grim reaper give the reader a chilling insight into the fate of the many thousands of brave young men who were not so fortunate. The result is an inspiring and gripping read which bears testimony to human courage and resilience.” Available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Casemate, and Pen&Sword Books.
Failmezger, Victor, Rome, City in Terror: The Nazi Occupation of 1943-1944, Osprey Publishing, 2020. rom the street fighting that heralded the German occupation to the Gestapo repression that followed, this is the gripping story of the German occupation of Rome from the Italian armistice in September 1943 until the Allied liberation of the city on June 5, 1944.
In September 1943, following wave upon wave of Allied bombing, Italy announced an armistice with the Allies. Shortly afterwards, the German Army disarmed Italian forces and, despite military and partisan resistance, quickly overran Rome. Rome – City in Terror is a comprehensive history of the nine-month-long German occupation of the city that followed.
The Gestapo wasted no time enforcing an iron grip on the city once the occupation was in place. They swiftly eliminated the Carabinieri, the Italian paramilitary force, rounded up thousands of Italians to build extensive defensive lines across Italy, and, at 5am one morning, arrested more than 1,000 Roman Jews and sent them to Auschwitz. Resistance, however, remained strong. To aid the thousands of Allied POWs who escaped after the dissolution of the Italian army, priests, diplomats, and escaped ex-POWs operating out of the Vatican formed a nationwide organization called the “Escape Line.” More than 4,000 Allied POWs scattered all over Italy were sheltered, clothed, and fed by these courageous Italians, whose lives were forfeit if their activities were discovered. Meanwhile, as food became scarce and the Gestapo began to raid on homes and institutions, Italian partisan fighters launched attack after attack on German military units in the city, with the threat of execution never far away.
This is the compelling story of an Eternal City brought low, of the terror and hardship of occupation, and of the disparate army of partisan fighters, displaced aristocrats, Vatican priests, Allied POWs, and ordinary citizens who battled for the liberation of Rome. Available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Bookshop.
- Felton, Mark, Holocaust Heroes – Resistance to Hitler’s Final Solution. Published in 2016. Amazon says this about it: “Holocaust Heroes is an inspiring book that examines the incredible―yet tragic―examples of Jewish resistance in ghettos and concentration camps during the days of the Nazis’ “Final Solution.” The Warsaw Uprising during the spring of 1944 is the most infamous rebellion, but there were other occasions of Jews and other prisoners fighting back―often with stunning results―against their murderers via the armed Jewish resistance. Destroying gas chambers, efforts to take over camps, and escaping en masse were just some of the brave methods attempted to stop the machinery of the Holocaust throughout Poland and the Ukraine. In virtually every case, the brave men and women who rebelled against their captors, paid dearly with their lives. Holocaust Heroes recounts the stories of these individuals who fought against victimization and acted with bravery, resourcefulness, and resistance to fight against their tragic fate. An important and original addition to the bibliography of the Holocaust, these stories are uplifting, inspiring, and profoundly moving.” For a link to Amazon, click here.
- Froom, Phil, Evasion and Escape Devices Produced by MI9, MIS-X, and SOE in World War II, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, expected date of publication December 2015. Publisher’s description: “This book describes the design, manufacture, covert shipment and use of the many ingenious evasion and escape devices provided to Allied troops during WWII. Following the fall of mainland Europe, hostile Allied actions against land-based Axis forces were generally limited to air attacks. However, as the numbers of those attacks increased, the number of aircraft and crews failing to return grew alarmingly: something needed to be done to provide these air crews with aids to enable them to evade to safe territory or escape captivity, or losses of irreplaceable crews would become critical. Britain’s MI-9 and U.S. MIS-X organizations were formed solely to support evaders and prisoners of war in occupied territories. They developed a wide variety of evasion and escape devices that were given to Allied Forces prior to operations in hostile territory or delivered clandestinely to POWs. It worked: the aids facilitated the return of thousands of men to their units.” Click here to connect to the publisher’s page.
Fry, Helen, MI9, A History of the Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in World War Two, Yale University Press, 2020. A thrilling history of MI9—the WWII organization that engineered the escape of Allied forces from behind enemy lines. When Allied fighters were trapped behind enemy lines, one branch of military intelligence helped them escape: MI9. The organization set up clandestine routes that zig-zagged across Nazi-occupied Europe, enabling soldiers and airmen to make their way home. Secret agents and resistance fighters risked their lives and those of their families to hide the men.
Drawing on declassified files and eye-witness testimonies from across Europe and the United States, Helen Fry provides a significant reassessment of MI9’s wartime role. Central to its success were figures such as Airey Neave, Jimmy Langley, Sam Derry, and Mary Lindell—one of only a few women parachuted into enemy territory for MI9. This astonishing account combines escape and evasion tales with the previously untold stories behind the establishment of MI9—and reveals how the organization saved thousands of lives. Helen Fry is a specialist in the history of British Intelligence. She is the author of The Walls Have Ears, The London Cage, and over twenty books focusing on intelligence and POWs in World War II. She lives in London. Available from Yale University Press, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
- Furst, Alan, A Hero of France, New York: Random House, 2016. “1941. The City of Light is dark and silent at night. But in Paris and in the farmhouses, barns, and churches of the French countryside, small groups of ordinary men and women are determined to take down the occupying forces of Adolf Hitler. Mathieu, a leader of the French Resistance, leads one such cell, helping downed British airmen escape back to England.” Alan Furst’s suspenseful, fast-paced thriller captures this dangerous time as no one ever has before. He brings Paris and occupied France to life, along with courageous citizens who outmaneuver collaborators, informers, blackmailers, and spies, risking everything to fulfill perilous clandestine missions.” Click here to connect to the publisher’s page.
- Gallagher, Mike, With Recce at Arnhem, The Recollections of Trooper Des Evans, A 1st Airborne Division Veteran, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, U.K.: Pen & Sword Military, 2015. “Determined to ‘do his bit’, Des Evans absconded from a reserved occupation in 1939 and joined the newly formed Reconnaissance Corps. He saw action in North Africa and Italy before being evacuated back to England with pneumonia in early 1944. Once fully recovered, he volunteered as a wireless operator with 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron. After parachute training, he joined C Troop in time to play his role in Operation MARKET GARDEN, the ill-fated but glorious attempt to seize the Rhine Bridge at Arnhem….Des was abushed twice and badly wounded. Fortunate to survive, he became a POW. After eight long months’ captivity moving between camps, Des escaped to American lines.”
- Gildea, Robert, Fighters in the Shadows, A New History of the French Resistance, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015. “The French Resistance has an iconic status in the struggle to liberate Nazi-occupied Europe, but its story is entangled in myths. Gaining a true understanding of the Resistance means recognizing how its image has been carefully curated through a combination of French politics and pride, ever since jubilant crowds celebrated Paris’s liberation in August 1944. Robert Gildea’s penetrating history of resistance in France during World War II sweeps aside “the French Resistance” of a thousand clichés, showing that much more was at stake than freeing a single nation from Nazi tyranny. As Fighters in the Shadows makes clear, French resistance was part of a Europe-wide struggle against fascism, carried out by an extraordinarily diverse group: not only French men and women but Spanish Republicans, Italian anti-fascists, French and foreign Jews, British and American agents, and even German opponents of Hitler. In France, resistance skirted the edge of civil war between right and left, pitting non-communists who wanted to drive out the Germans and eliminate the Vichy regime while avoiding social revolution at all costs against communist advocates of national insurrection. In French colonial Africa and the Near East, battle was joined between de Gaulle’s Free French and forces loyal to Vichy before they combined to liberate France. Based on a riveting reading of diaries, memoirs, letters, and interviews of contemporaries, Fighters in the Shadows gives authentic voice to the resisters themselves, revealing the diversity of their struggles for freedom in the darkest hours of occupation and collaboration. Click here to order a copy.
- Govers, Wim and Dries Majewski, Vleigtuigcrashes in Mol tijdens WOII, published by Verbroedering Vaderlandlevende Groeperingen (VVG), 2017. The price is €15 or $17.76. Envelope and shipping cost to the USA: €9,30 or $11. Total costs: $28,76. If you are interested, please transfer $28,76 on Account: BE82 9795 2738 5668, BIC: ARSPBE22XXX. Name: VVG Mol. Adress: Feynend 79, 2400 Mol. Note: name, full address and ‘book aircraft crashes’. Also notify Wim Govers at wim.govers at gmail.com, so he can tell their quaestor that an order has been placed. For further information, click here.
- Haem-Leclercq, Marie-Pierre, La Maison des Évadés, Brussels and Paris: Editions Jourdan, 2017. Google translation: “Louis, Louis, we have just received a phone call from railwaymen of Mouscron: in the fourth wagon of the train that goes from Belgium to Armentières are French escaped from Germany. They are six; all in military uniform. The Belgians gave them water and told them they were warning us. […] Louis immediately abandons his post and, at the run, this time, return home to get clothes. On May 29, 1942, six French prisoners of war arrive at the station Tourcoing yard, Stettin camp. One of the employees, Louis Saint-Ghislain, does not hesitate a second to help these men and brings them home at 6 rue Saint-Gérard in Wattrelos. Madeleine his wife, prepares them a meal and gathers clothes to dress them in civilian clothes. A few days later, the six men manage to reach their homes, some financially supported by the inhabitants of the district who mobilized themselves. Until June 1944, Louis, Madeleine and three of their daughters, MarieMadeleine,Jeannine and Marie-Paule, will save more than a hundred fleeing soldiers. With the aid of archives and testimonies, Marie-Pierre Haem traced the crossed destinies of these escapees from the stalags of IIIe Reich collected by her grandparents and her mother, who will be decorated many times after the war.” For further information on the book click here.
- Hannah, Kristin, The Nightingale. St. Martin’s Press, 2015. Historical novel set in WWII. ” With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.” For further details at Amazon, click here.
Harding, Stephen, Escape from Paris, A True Story of Love and Resistance in Wartime France. DaCapo Press, Hachette Book Group, 2019. Available from Amazon, Little Brown, and Hachette Book Group. “Escape from Paris is the true story of a small group of U.S. aviators whose four B-17 Flying Fortresses were shot down over German-occupied France on a single, fateful day: July 14, 1943, Bastille Day. They were rescued by brave French civilians and taken to Paris for eventual escape out of France. In the French capital, where German troops walked on every street and Gestapo agents hid around every corner, the flyers met a brave Parisian resistance family living and working in the Hôtel des Invalides, a complex of buildings and military memorials, where Nazi officials had set up offices. Hidden in the complex the Americans, along with dozens of other downed Allied pilots and resistance operatives, hatched daring escape plots. The danger of discovery by the Nazis grew every day, as did an unlikely romance when one of the American airmen begins a star-crossed wartime romance with the twenty-two-year old daughter of the family sheltering him–a noir tale of war, courage and desperation in the shadows of the City of Light.
Based on official American, French, and German documents, histories, personal memoirs, and the author’s interviews with several of the story’s key participants, Escape from Pariscrosses the traditional lines of World War II history with tense drama of air combat over Europe, the intrigue of occupied Paris, and courageous American and Allied pilots and French resistance fighters pitted against Nazi thugs. All of this set in one of the world’s most beautiful and captivating cities.”
- Harrison, M.C.C. and H.A. Cartwright, Within Four Walls: A Classic of Escape. Republished in 2016. Amazon’s description of it reads: “Within Four Walls tells the remarkable story of two British officers and their war effort, capture by the Germans, imprisonment and eventual escape to Holland.The authors were made to write a concise and accurate account of their incarceration in 1917 and 1918 for the War Office, the basis of which forms the narrative for this book. Although many points were censored while the war was still ongoing, the authors filled in the gaps before the book was published in 1930.The pair were both stationed in Mons at the outbreak of the war but were both captured and transferred to a PoW camp in Burg, Germany. Almost immediately after arriving the pair were planing their escape, akin to the events seen in The Great Escape. After tailoring and dyeing their own guard uniforms they simply strolled out of the Burg camp, enjoying nine days of freedom before being recaptured at Rostock, some 300km away. They were then moved to a camp in Torgau but soon after arrival they began plotting their second escape, this time by tunneling out of the camp.Several further escape attempts were made until they managed to escape for good in 1917 after a nine-day walk to Holland. Complete with a selection of original photographs and diagrams drawn by the authors during their years of incarceration, this book reads like the screenplay of a Hollywood blockbuster and is a riveting account from the first page until the last.” For further information from Amazon, click here.
- Hore, Peter, Lindell’s List: Saving American and British Women at Ravensbruck. Published 2016. Amazon says this about it: “Mary Lindell, the Comtesse de Milleville, was British-born but a largely forgotten agent. She combined a passion for adventure with blunt speech and persistently displayed the greatest personal bravery. The Germans denied that American or British prisoners were imprisoned in Ravensbrück, but Lindell smuggled out a secretly compiled list that detailed women who were agents of British Military Intelligence, Special Operations Executive (SOE), or the French Resistance. Lindell’s List details their survival and rescue under Mary’s heroic leadership. The work includes first-person testimony that has never been published before.” For further information, click here.
- I sentieri per la liberta (multiple authors). In Italian. Covers a number of escape line, Resistance, and Partisan routes throughout Italy. For further information, click here or here.
Janes, Keith, Express Delivery, 2019. This is the story of 119 Allied servicemen brought back from occupied France in 1944 by the Shelburn escape line. Some of the evaders had spent many months in enemy-occupied territory but once in the hands of Shelburn, the men (generally referred to as parcels) were returned to England within days–Express Delivery. Shelburn differed from other escape lines in France in that rather than taking the men across the Pyreness to Spain, it sent them directly to England from the north Brittany coast by Royal Navy Gun Boats. For further information on ordering a copy of the book, click here. For the Publisher’s Advance Information, click here.
- Janes, Keith, They Came From Burgundy, A Study of the Burgogne Escape Line. The following description is from the author’s website, “Of the three major escape lines running through France during the Second World War – the Pat O’Leary line, which covered most of the country, the Comete line, which ran from Holland and Belgium through France to the Pyrenees, and Bourgogne – Bourgogne (aka Burgundy) is the least well known. Escape lines are a largely unrecognised, or at least often overlooked, episode of the Second World War. For those who were involved – the helpers (mostly French, Belgian and Dutch civilians) or benefitted from them (mostly British, Commonwealth and American servicemen) – this was a personal war, which was, and remains, almost unknown to the outside world, despite the tragic loss of so many of those concerned. To the families of the servicemen saved, it must have seemed like a miracle to have their loved ones returned safely to them. For the helpers and their families who were caught, it often meant death. This study, which is based around contemporary reports and documentation, as well as extensive personal research by the author and others, describes the evasions of the more than three hundred Allied servicemen helped by the Burgundy line, together with details and the eventual fates of many hundreds of their helpers.” For further information, see the author’s website at http://www.conscript-heroes.com/escapelines/they-came-from-burgundy.htm .
- Jimenez de Aberasturi, Juan Carlos, Camino a la Libertad, La red de evasion Comete y la frontera vasca durante la II Guerra Mundial, Donostia, Spain: Txertoa, 2019. For the complete table of contents and a description by the publisher, click here. Available from Casa del Libro.
- Kaminsky, Sarah, Adolfo Kaminsky, A Forger’s Life. DoppelHouse Press, 2016. Quoting TED.com, Amazon describes the book as follows: Adolfo Kaminsky: A Forger’s Life is “worthy of the best spy novels” and tells the story of Sarah Kaminsky’s father, “the genius-forger who committed his know-how and convictions to serve the French Resistance during World War II, saving thousands of Jewish families, and many others over the course of 30 years for various causes around the world.” Amazon describes the book as follows: Best-selling author Sarah Kaminsky takes readers through her father Adolfo Kaminsky’s perilous and clandestine career as a real-life forger for the French Resistance, the FLN, and numerous other freedom movements of the twentieth century. Recruited as a young Jewish teenager for his knowledge of dyes, Kaminsky became the primary forger for the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Then, as a professional photographer, Kaminsky spent the next twenty-five years clandestinely producing thousands of counterfeit documents for immigrants, exiles, underground political operatives, and pacifists across the globe. Kaminsky kept his past cloaked in secrecy well into his eighties, until his daughter convinced him to share the details of the life-threatening work he did on behalf of people fighting for justice and peace throughout the world.” For further information, click here.
- Kent, Henry and Karen Kent, A Slice of Life: A Journey of Escape and Finding Meaning, 2014. The Amazon description of the book reads, “Experience a whole lifetime in Henry Kent’s inspiring memoir, A Slice of Life. Beginning with the German bombing of Rotterdam in 1940, this harrowing saga tells the true story of one man’s journey from Jewish refugee to American family man. Hans Kats is twenty-six years old when the Germans attack his hometown. After fleeing to the United States, he attempts to forge a life for himself in a tool factory in Springfield, Vermont. But Kats remains determined to help his home country and eventually joins the US Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps, changing his name to “Henry Kent” to disguise his Jewish ancestry. After ferreting out German spies, befriending concentration camp survivors, and gathering information for troop movements, Kent finally witnesses the end of World War II and returns home. Back in the United States, Kent makes a major life change by becoming a Christian pastor. This move, however, ultimately kindles a desire to reconnect with his Jewish roots, sending him on a spiritual journey that lasts a lifetime.” To connect with Amazon, click here. For the official Facebook page, click here.
Kirk, Kendrick, Messages in Handlebars, The Youngest Resistance Fighter, Brand: Kendrick Kirk, 2011. “During World War II, the French Resistance played a vital role in the Allied victory. Supported by Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) in London, Resistance networks were formed, led and equipped by SOE agents. The Auduc family provided essential support to the network formed around Le Mans, France, by an American OSS agent and a French SOE agent. The Auduc’s oldest son, Jean-Jacques, became the youngest Resistance fighter to be awarded the Croix de Guerre. He was also awarded the U. S. Medal of Freedom and the French Legion of Honor for heroism as a 12 year old. Several other members of this heroic family were similarly recognized. The downing of two B-17’s on July 4, 1943, brought the Auduc’s face to face with the five surviving U. S. airmen and changed each other’s lives forever as the airmen were first sheltered and then repatriated to England. The graves of those airmen who perished were resolutely guarded by French citizens. The Auduc family and their fellow resistants teach us how much people will sacrifice to gain freedom from an oppressor. American, British, Canadian and French worked in cloaked secrecy and harmony to rid the world of the greatest evil in recorded history. U. S. airman Sgt. David Butcher stayed with the Resistance for eight months, training its members in the use of the weapons parachuted to them. Other of these downed airmen were assisted by underground networks to escape to Spain and eventual repatriation to England. American Army Captain and OSS member Fred Floege twice parachuted into France on missions for the SOE. During his second mission, he organized and led a large group of resistants in the east of France who stymied German movements before and during the Normandy invasion. This is a true, previously untold story of undaunted resistance to the Nazis. Jean-Jacques father, Alfred Auduc, awes with his reckless determination to thwart the Nazis even while imprisoned in concentration camps along with his brother and other resistants from his region. Alfred’s mother at age 66 harbors a radio transmitter and its operator while receiving munitions drops on her farm. The end of the War is not the end of the Auduc’s story. Through them we learn how the Marshall plan helped to restart European’s lives. But we also learn how the deep scars of their incarcerations pain them throughout their lives. For many years, Jean-Jacques Auduc has been a senior member of a French association whose mission is to commemorate Allied sacrifices in liberating their country. Jean-Jacques relates his story to French school children; he proudly carries the American flag at commemorative events; and, he restores and maintains Allied monuments. Jean-Jacques chooses to use his meager funds in this way rather than on a TV set or a computer or the internet or other comforts. Perhaps the proceeds from this book may allow him some comforts in his eighties. My wife, Claire, who translated the several bios which are included in this book, Jean-Jacques, who so much wished to have his family’s and friends’ stories preserved, and I thank you for your interest. Kendrick Kirk This book has been endorsed by Sir Peter F. Ricketts, the British Ambassador to France and by General Robert Mansfield, USAF (ret).” Available from Amazon and ABEBooks.
- Koreman, Megan, The Escape Line: How the Ordinary Heroes of Dutch-Paris Resisted the Nazi Occupation of Western Europe , London: Oxford University Press, 2018. “In early summer 1942 a Dutch textile merchant living in Nazi-occupied France received a letter from a Jewish couple seeking his help in getting safe passage to Switzerland. John Henry (‘Jean’) Weidner barely knew the couple and had no experience in clandestine activities or direct connection to any underground organizations. Yet he and his wife, Elisabeth Cartier, decided to help, risking their lives to transport the couple from the French prison in which they were being held across the border to Switzerland. So began what became known as the Dutch-Paris escape line. Over the next three years it grew from a two-person border operation into one of the most extensive resistance organizations of World War II, running from the Netherlands through Belgium and France into both Switzerland and Spain, numbering 330 members and rescuing around 3000 persons…. Dutch-Paris largely improvised its operations–scrounging for food on the black market, forging documents, raising cash. In addition to Jews, it helped resistance fighters, saved Allied airmen (at least 120) who had bailed out of their planes or crash-landed, and spirited out young men looking to get to London to enlist. Dutch-Paris also acted as a messenger system for the Dutch government-in-exile, smuggling microfilm with news and information about the home front. Hunted relentlessly by the Gestapo, many members were captured and sent to labor camps. Yet Dutch-Paris continued to function until the war’s end.”
Originally published in Dutch as Gewone Helden – De Dutch-Paris ontsnappingslijn, 1942-1945, the English edition became available in May, 2018. For further details, see her website at http://dutchparisblog.com/.)
- Le Febvre, Marie, Risking and Resisting: Discovering the Untold Story of My Family’s Flight for Freedom in World War II. The Amazon description of the book says, “It all began with a letter from a stranger. A single message from across the Atlantic launched a journey of discovery to an unknown chapter of Marie Le Febvre’s family’s past-a chapter filled with extraordinary courage and unexpected connections. Marie’s journey uncovered a heritage of risking and resisting during World War II, and forged in her a new understanding of freedom.” For further information about the book on Amazon, click here. For a collection of original documents relating to the book, go to http://www.riskingandresisting.com/.
- Lett, Brian, An Extraordinary Italian Imprisonment: The Brutal Truth of Campo 21, 1942-1943, Pen & Sword, Jan. 2015. “This is the story of PG21, at Chieti in Italy, between August 1942 and September 1943. It was run by an Italian pro-Fascist regime who used violence and bullying, together with a lack of amenities, to try to break the prisoners down — little water, bad sanitation, few medical facilities and no heating in winter — it had little effect, morale remained high. Attention to the plight of the prisoners and the poor conditions that existed in the camp, was raised in the House of Commons and the International Red Cross requested to intervene. As a POW camp, and not a concentration camp, PG21 should have been administered under the rules of war. It is recorded that one recaptured escaper was severely beaten by the first Commandant and a recaptured RAF pilot was murdered by his Italian guards. Despite the oppressive regime, tunnels were dug, other escapes were planned, and a number of prisoners tried to get out through the sewerage channels. To add to their woes, in 1943 in the short time when the camp was unguarded, between the Italian Armistice and the arrival of German guards the Senior British Officer (SBO) refused to let the now ex-prisoners leave the camp before the Germans arrived. Bad feelings ran high — some men left the camp regardless, preferring to take their chances. Once the Germans arrived they promptly put the prisoners on trains bound for Germany. A number of POWs escaped in the confusion, some hid within the camp, but most were recaptured locally. After the war, a number of the Italian camp staff were arrested for war crimes and some SBOs were charged for preventing the POWs from gaining freedom when they had the chance — according to military law, it was their duty to escape.” (WWII ELMS Newsletter, No. 36, 2014. Pen & Sword, 2014. For more on the subject, click here.
- Martini, Frederick H., Betrayed: Secrecy, Lies, and Consequences, August 2017. The review by IndieReader describes the book thusly: “BETRAYED’s central focus is the author’s father, Frederic “Fred” C. Martini, an American bombardier and one of the Buchenwald airmen. The depiction of his father’s life and struggles, raw and unflinching in its honesty, is where the book truly shines. His wartime and postwar struggles are saddening and maddening, but his dignity and strength are remarkable. With his stubborn refusal to go down without a fight, Fred is a wonderful symbol of the Buchenwald airmen—indeed, all wounded warriors everywhere, and the price they pay for our freedom. Above all, BETRAYED is a scathing indictment of the U.S. intelligence agency that deemed it necessary to compromise the welfare of its own servicemen in the interests of “national security.” You just can’t help clenching your fists as the Nazi rocket scientist Wernher von Braun—brilliant, but an egotistical pig—gets rich off the government while the Buchenwald airmen are left to fend for themselves. There is much to be shocked at, as well. The descriptions of Buchenwald and its horrors break your heart and churn your stomach at the same time. Underlying the despair of captivity is the brother-like bond of the airmen themselves, a deep connection without which none of them might have survived. Like any good historical book, BETRAYED is chock-full of detail about WWII in general, along with helpful appendices at the end. It places the story in its overall context and emphasizes the high costs of war. If there is only one criticism to be made, it is the overly technical details of the Nazi’s rocket programs, which tend to be overwhelming and perhaps could have been simplified just a bit. BETRAYED is a thought-provoking and stirring tale of an injustice beyond imagining. It is a story of a tragic episode in American history that truly deserves to be told and must never, ever be forgotten.” For the link to Amazon, click here. For the author’s website, click here.
- Mellor, Gordon, ETA – A Bomber Command Navigator Shot Down and on the Run, Fighting High Ltd., 2016. Gordon Mellor served as a navigator with RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War, and ETA is the first-hand account of a conflict that tests not only his initiative and resilience, but also the ability to survive amidst the extreme dangers of a Nazi occupied Europe. For more on the subject, click here.
- Meyerowitz, Seth, The Lost Airman, A True Story of Escape from Nazi Occupied France, Berkley Caliber, January 2016. “The Lost Airman tells the suspenseful story of a truly remarkable American, shot down over enemy occupied territory in World War II, who amazingly managed to stay a step ahead of the Nazis for over six months and get back home. A terrific, thrilling tale you won’t want to miss.”—Alex Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of Avenue of Spies and The Liberator “The Lost Airman is a deeply researched, finely wrought gem. The story of Staff Sergeant Arthur Meyerowitz’s harrowing struggle to escape from Nazi-infested France across the snow-bound Pyrenees to Spain will haunt you long after you’ve put this riveting book down. The courage, quick wits, and sheer guts displayed by Meyerowitz and the men and women of the French Resistance who gambled their lives to help him are simply extraordinary.”—Jack Cheevers, author of Act of War, Winner of the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature. For further information, click here.
Minardi, Marco, Bugle Call to Freedom, Monte San Martino Trust, 2020. It was midday on September 9 1943, the day following the announcement of Italy’s surrender to the Allies. At PG 49, a prison camp at Fontanellato, in the Po valley, a bugle sounded three short blasts, the signal for the biggest mass escape by Allied PoWs in Italy during the Second World War. In camps elsewhere in the country there was confusion. Many prisoners of war, obeying orders from London, stayed put, only to be swept up by the occupying German army and sent to Germany, long before Allied forces could reach them. At PG 49, however, the Senior British Officer and the sympathetic Italian commandant came to an agreement. The wire was cut and 600 PoWs marched out of the camp into the countryside, in the nick of time before the Germans arrived. The prisoners were free but facing an uncertain future. Should they go north to neutral Switzerland or walk hundreds of miles south to Allied lines? Either way, they would rely on the bravery of peasants in the plains and mountains to hide them from the Germans and Italian Fascists. Drawing on both PoW memoirs and civilian eyewitness accounts, Italian historian Marco Minardi tells the compelling story of the escape and its aftermath. In this translation, published by the Monte San Martino Trust, the huge and, in some cases, tragic repercussions for the local community it become abundantly clear. The Monte San Martino Trust is a charity founded by former Allied PoWs in Italy to repay the kindness of the contadini. It arranges scholarships for young Italians to study English in the U.K. Available from Amazon and Barnes&Noble. To view a discussion of the book on YouTube, click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5HoXBNRYNY&feature=youtu.be.
- Moore, Stephen L., As Good as Dead: The Daring Escape of American POWs from a Japanese Death Camp, New York: Caliber Press, 2016. “In late 1944, the Allies invaded the Japanese-held Philippines, and soon the end of the Pacific War was within reach. But for the last 150 American prisoners of war still held on the island of Palawan, there would be no salvation. After years of slave labor, starvation, disease, and torture, their worst fears were about to be realized. On December 14, with machine guns trained on them, they were herded underground into shallow air raid shelters—death pits dug with their own hands. Japanese soldiers doused the shelters with gasoline and set them on fire. Some thirty prisoners managed to bolt from the fiery carnage, running a lethal gauntlet of machine gun fire and bayonets to jump from the cliffs to the rocky Palawan coast. By the next morning, only eleven men were left alive—but their desperate journey to freedom had just begun. As Good as Dead is one of the greatest escape stories of World War II, and one that few Americans know. The eleven survivors of the Palawan Massacre—some badly wounded and burned—spent weeks evading Japanese patrols. They scrounged for food and water, swam shark-infested bays, and wandered through treacherous jungle terrain, hoping to find friendly Filipino guerrillas. Their endurance, determination, and courage in the face of death make this a gripping and inspiring saga of survival.” For the Amazon link and more reviews, click here.
- Moorhead, Caroline, Village of Secrets, Defying the Nazis in Vichy France, Harper/Collins, 2014. “High in the mountains of the southern Massif Central in France lie remote villages, often difficult to reach, but all united by a long and, at times, difficult history. During the German occupation these villages hid and saved many people from the concentration camps. Security amongst the village people was good, there were no informers, no denunciations, and no one broke ranks. Resisters, Freemasons, Communists, and Jews were all given shelter, particularly the children. During raids the fugitives would be led from the villages to the fields and woods, carrying their belongings and provisions. Their cue to return was often the farmers’ rendering of a pre-arranged song. After the war, one of these remarkable villages, Le Chambon-dur-Lignon, was honoured by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among Nations.” The region has many stories to tell; this is one of them.” WWII ELMS Newsletter, No. 36, 2014. For a review by the New York Times, click here.
Pinto, Oreste, Spy Catcher, New York: Harper & Bros.,1952. A thrilling account of Counter-Intelligence in action, by the man Eisenhower called “the greatest living authority on security” – and who was personally responsible for the execution of seven spies. This is the true story of his adventures during World War II – first in England, where he was given the job of screening the thousands of refugees that poured into that country after the fall of France, separating the well-meaning unfortunates from those who tried to sneak in as Nazi spies. Later on the Continent, he served as chief of the Dutch Counter-Intelligence organization, attached to SHAEF. Each tale reveals a different aspect of successful spy-catching. Available from Amazon, ABE Books.
Rankin, Nicholas, Defending the Rock, How Gibraltar Defeated Hitler. Faber and Faber, 2017. Two months before he shot himself, Adolf Hitler saw where it had all gone wrong. By failing to seize Gibraltar in the summer of 1940, he lost the war. The Rock of Gibraltar, a pillar of British sea-power since 1704, looked formidable but was extraordinarily vulnerable. Though menaced on all sides by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Vichy France and Francoist Spain, every day Gibraltar had to let thousands of people cross its frontier to work. Among them came spies and saboteurs, eager to blow up its 25 miles of secret tunnels. In 1942, Gibraltar became US General Eisenhower’s HQ for the invasion of North Africa, the campaign that led to Allied victory in the Mediterranean.
Nicholas Rankin’s revelatory new book, whose cast of characters includes Haile Selassie, Anthony Burgess and General Sikorski, sets Gibraltar in the wider context of the struggle against fascism, from Abyssinia through the Spanish Civil War. It also chronicles the end of empire and the rise to independence of the Gibraltarian people. Available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Faber&Faber, and Kobo.
- Scharrer, Jos, The Dutch Resistance Revealed, The Inside Story of Courage and Betrayal, U.K.: Pen & Sword, “The Dutch resistance movement during the Nazi occupation was bedeviled by treachery, betrayal and poor organization coupled with lack of support from London. Despite these serious problems, the brave men and women of the Dutch Resistance, who refused to accept domination by their brutal oppressors, made a significant contribution to the war effort albeit at a terrible cost. Their contribution, which included escape routes for Allied aircrew and acts of sabotage, has been largely over-looked.” Available from Amazon, BookDepository, and Barnes&Noble.
Slofstra, Jan and De Boer, Jaap, Crew-Members on the Run: The Crash of the Seattle Sleeper Near Haulerwijk on 26 November 1944. (Dutch title: Vliegers op de Vlucht.)
The book Crew-Members on the Run has just been published by the Noordboek / Bornmeer publishing house, subtitled The Crash of the Seattle Sleeper near Haulerwijk on 26 November 1944. The authors are Jan Slofstra and Jaap de Boer. The book, written in Dutch, has 287 pages and is richly illustrated with photos, diagrams and maps. The price is € 22.50.
The crash of the American bomber Seattle Sleeper on November 26, 1944 near Haulerwijk is deeply engraved in the local memory. There are still elderly people who can tell about this. Later generations have also, through traditions, formed a picture of the crash and the fate of the pilots involved. However, this image has faded over time.
This prompted Jan Slofstra and Jaap de Boer to re-study the history of the Seattle Sleeper by using new data from archives, new publications about the air war and numerous interviews. This led to the detailed reconstruction of the events presented in this voluminous book.
What makes the book particularly special is the placement of local events in the broad context of the air war and the war history of the Frisian-Groningen-Drenthe border area. It is not just about Haulerwijk and its immediate surroundings, but also about the last year of the war in the South Western Quarter, the Drenthe North field and the Frisian Southeast corner.
On the basis of the fortunes of the nine pilots of the Seattle Sleeper, topics such as pilot assistance, terror and resistance are discussed in detail. The last chapter of the book is called “forget and remember”. It ties in with the central themes of the commemoration of the liberation of the Nazi yoke, 75 years ago.
Vliegers op de vlucht (Crew-members on the run) are available. Because the corona could not continue with a regular presentation of the first book, we decided to send the first book to John Weisgarber, the only surviving crew member of the Seattle Sleeper.
An article that appeared in the Dutch publication, de Woudklank, April 29, 2020, appears below. For further information, click here.
- Smith, Larry, Trouble, New York: Page Publishing Inc., late 2017 or early 2018. A TRUE story about a miraculous journey filled with antics of young men in the USAAF as well as many deadly encounters and near misses. The B-24 Liberator, nicknamed “Trouble”, was one of five bombers which were shot down over NAZI occupied France on Jan. 7, 1944. Sgt. Robert Sweatt, a waist gunner, was wounded in several places but survived the initial attack AND the plane’s explosion in mid-air, which knocked him unconscious. Bob regained his senses as he fell and was able to open his parachute. He was found by members of the French Resistance just moments before German soldiers arrived. He was given clothing to appear French. Later his wounds were tended and he evaded capture for 75 days even though he often found himself face to face with German troops. He lived with various members of the French Resistance while he healed and was eventually returned to England through the famous Shelburne Escape Line. His last stop was the House of Alphonse (“la Maison d’Alphonse”) before a walk through a minefield on a moonless night and a descent of about 200 feet down a steep rocky slope to a beach known as Cochat Cove. There are many other details of this story which are almost unbelievable. Read and enjoy. Excerpt: (Bob regains consciousness while falling after the attack.) “No matter how much I try, I don’t believe that I will be able to accurately convey my feelings when I regained consciousness. In fact, at first I didn’t believe that I WAS conscious. My first thought was … so this is what it feels like to be dead. It was very peaceful and I don’t think I have ever been calmer in my life. I was comfortable, not too hot, not too cold, no pain, it was very quiet. I was slowly assessing myself. All in all, I was happy with most of my condition … except that I couldn’t see. I blinked my eyes … yes, they moved, I could feel them move but it was still dark.
Wait a minute! MY EYELIDS MOVED? That isn’t supposed to happen if I’m dead. Then some of my other senses returned. Was that pain? YES! A burning searing pain in my left forearm. And my neck hurt, not nearly as bad, but a definite sensation of pain on the left side. So why can’t I see? I raised my right hand to my face and found … MY OXYGEN MASK! It had been knocked out of place and was completely covering my eyes. I jerked it up and off and threw it away. The daylight blurred my vision for a second or two but then I could see that I was in the air and falling VERY FAST.” To view an interview with Robert Sweatt on YouTube, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sp1tL_n0qWE&t=3581s.
- Snyder, Steve, Shot Down, The True Story of Pilot Howard Snyder and the Crew of the B-17 “Susan Ruth,” 2014. “On February 8, 1944, his plane, the B-17 Susan Ruth, was shot down over the French/Belgium border after a mission to bomb Frankfurt, Germany. The book tells the true story of events leading up to and after that harrowing day. Of the ten man crew, some died, some ended up in prison camps, and some evaded capture. What makes this book unique is the varied, detailed, and amazing story of what happened to each crew member, in particular Howard Snyder who evaded capture and was missing in action for seven months. It was created from the vast number of letters and journals of Howard Snyder; diaries of men and women on the ground who rescued, sheltered, and hid the crew; and interviews conducted by historians. Centered around the 306th Bomb Group in Thurleigh, England, it is informative, insightful, and captivating.” Author’s website and 8th AF News.
- Takle, Patrick, The British Army in France After Dunkirk, Pen & Sword, 2009. “While over 333,000 British and French troops escaped, on Operation Dynamo, from Northern France via Dunkirk between 26 May & 4 June 1940, thousands were left behind. Many had volunteered to stay with the wounded, others fought the gallant rear-guard actions allowing many others to escape. Churchill wanted a second BEF to be sent, together with air cover, which would have meant fewer numbers remaining to defend Great Britain, so the plan was delayed by senior Generals and Airmen. Despite the problems, many of those left behind got away from the Normandy and Brittany Ports, and from other areas further south including Bordeaux–some even from as far south as St. Jean de Luz. Altogether about 192,000 troops got away from other ports. leaving about 40,000 rear-guard troops to organise their own evasions in small groups. Many became the first evaders to reach England.” (WW2 ELMS Newsletter, No. 37, 2015.) To order, click here (US) or here (UK).
- Torres, Fernando A., A Habit of Resistance, Five Towers Publishing, 2015. The description of this novel on Amazon reads “A Habit of Resistance, is the exciting story of a quirky group of nuns who progress from having a small gun club to joining the French Resistance during WWII. Sister Marie’s latest novitiate is a young woman named Noele whose fiancé, René, fled to Paris only to find it overrun by the Nazis. Now back in sleepy Brassac, both René and Noele realize that decisions of love and liberation can never, truly, be avoided. Sister Marie is not unsympathetic to the emotions with which Noele battles; having gone through a similar struggle when she was young. The offbeat nuns must wrestle with how far to expand the margins of their vows, in hopes of saving their town and themselves. A Habit of Resistance is a humorous, but thought-provoking story of personal denial and redemption.” Part of the book deals with the experiences of a downed pilot of a Spitfire.
- Trimble, Lee with Jeremy Dronfield, Beyond the Call, The True Story of One World War II Pilot’s Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front, New York: Berkley Caliber, 2015. The description of the book on Amazon is “Near the end of World War II, thousands of Allied ex-POWs were abandoned to wander the war-torn Eastern Front, modern day Ukraine. With no food, shelter, or supplies, they were an army of dying men. The Red Army had pushed the Nazis out of Russia. As they advanced across Poland, the prison camps of the Third Reich were discovered and liberated. In defiance of humanity, the freed Allied prisoners were discarded without aid. The Soviets viewed POWs as cowards, and regarded all refugees as potential spies or partisans. The United States repeatedly offered to help recover their POWs, but were refused. With relations between the allies strained, a plan was conceived for an undercover rescue mission. In total secrecy, the OSS chose an obscure American air force detachment stationed at a Ukrainian airfield; it would provide the base and the cover for the operation. The man they picked to undertake it was veteran 8th Air Force bomber pilot Captain Robert Trimble. With little covert training, already scarred by the trials of combat, Trimble took the mission. He would survive by wit, courage, and a determination to do some good in a terrible war. Alone he faced up to the terrifying Soviet secret police, saving hundreds of lives. At the same time he battled to come to terms with the trauma of war and find his own way home to his wife and child. One ordinary man. One extraordinary mission. A thousand lives at stake. This is the compelling, inspiring true story of an American hero who laid his life on the line to bring his fellow men home to safety and freedom.” To order, click here.
- Tunstall, Peter, The Last Escaper: The Untold First-Hand Story of the Legendary Bomber Pilot, ‘Cooler King’ and Arch Escape Artist, New York: Overlook Press, 2015. “This autobiographical tale tells of the author’s time as a POW. He became a celebrated escape artist.” World War II History, June 2015. To read an excerpt, click on http://ducknet.co.uk/blog/extract-peter-tunstalls-last-escaper.
- Van Helden, H.B., De lijst van Haeck, Uitgeverij Heijink, 2017. Available only in Dutch. Jules (“Piet Hendriks”) Haeck was a Frenchman living in Hengelo, near Enschede, in Overijssel province on the German border when WWII broke out. He began by helping escaped French POWs in 1942 and his organization is credited with helping about 130 POWs. Haeck and his group went on to help “several tens of airmen” sending them south via Limburg. Haeck was arrested by the Germans in October 1944 and executed. A Dutch description of the book follows:
In oktober 1944 werd Jules Haeck door de Duitsers op vliegveld Twente vermoord. Hij kwam uit Croix in Frankrijk en had zich in 1918 in Hengelo gevestigd, nadat hij tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog uit het Franse leger was gedeserteerd. Omdat hij de Franse taal sprak, was het geen toeval dat hij in 1942 onbedoeld betrokken raakte bij de hulpverlening aan de uit Duitsland ontsnapte Franse en andere krijgsgevangenen. Om zich te rehabiliteren tegenover zijn vaderland haalde hij het medio 1942 in zijn hoofd de krijgsgevangenkampen in het Emsland tot de laatste man toe leeg te halen. Hij werkte hierbij samen met slechts enkele personen uit Hengelo, Zutphen, de Achterhoek en Echt in Limburg. Toen de eerste gestrande bemanningsleden van de geallieerde luchtstrijdkrachten verschenen, werd zijn ontsnappingslijn ook voor de ‘piloten’ gebruikt. Tot september 1944 werkte de ontsnappingslijn van Haeck zelfstandig. Hij was een solist die zelf de regie wilde houden. Zijn illegale werk werd alom gewaardeerd en gerespecteerd en medio 1944 werd hem door enkele verzetsorganisaties de coördinatie van de hulpverlening aan gestrande geallieerde bemanningsleden in Twente toebedeeld. To order a copy of the book, here are two of several sources: AKO Voor NU and Stadsboekwinkel Amsterdam.
- Williams, Louise, A True Story of the Great Escape: A Young Australian POW in the Most Audacious Breakout of WWII, Shot down in 1942, Australian pilot John Williams became a POW in the notorious Stalag Luft III camp in Germany. John and his best mate Rusty Keirath were among the 76 POWs who tunneled their way out of the camp in what became famous as the Great Escape. John’s family was never told what happened to him. His niece Louise Williams has pieced together his life, from his upbringing in a tight-knit family hit hard by the Depression, his exploits in the air, the inventive collaboration of the POWs, to the tragic outcome of their escape. Allen & Unwin, 2015. For more information, click here.
- Zeeman, Pieter Rudolph, Luck Through Adversity: The Memoir of a Dutchman’s Flight to Freedom Through the Dutch-Paris Escape Line of World War II, John Henry Weidner Foundation, 2020. Luck Through Adversity is the memoir of a remarkable evader of the Nazis during the Second World War. Pieter “Rudy” Zeeman’s escape to freedom from Nazi-occupied Holland led him across four countries and thousands of miles by rail, car, foot, and sea. With the aid of the members of the Dutch-Paris Escape Line (founded and led by the intrepid John Weidner), as well as others, he reached safety after passing through a long and winding gauntlet of Nazi patrols and other dangers. Luck Through Adversity is not only the story of Zeeman’s flight to freedom during World War II. It is also the story of his subsequent experiences in the former Dutch East Indies as a member of the Free Dutch Forces, of his courtship and marriage to Marie Bernadette Mortimer, of his post-war life, and of his immigration to Australia as his adopted home. This book is a vital act of memory that will help to keep alive the story of the Dutch resisters and evaders of World War II, and their inspiring resilience, for future generations. It is filled with keen observations from a life well-lived. Available from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Luck-Through-Adversity-Dutchmans-Dutch-Paris/dp/1734699914).
For more book reviews, see the WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society’s page of reviews at http://www.ww2escapelines.co.uk/?page_id=913. See also
- 1. http://www.belgiumww2.info website: http://home.clara.net/clinchy/neeball.htm. Go to the list of headings on the left of the page and scroll down to the Bibliography.
- 2. Conscript Heroes website: http://www.conscript-heroes.com/Bibliography.htmll
- 3. Netherlands Escape Lines website: https://wwii-netherlands-escape-lines.com/library/escape-and-evasion/