been shot down living in his house waiting for instructions to move them on. The station was bombed while the flyers were there and along with the station the house where the flyers were kept was destroyed. Upon investigation the Nazis found the dead flyers, and immediately took the Underground helper into custody. This broke the chain by which I was to start to Spain. The Underground had no choice then but to keep me until they worked out another route.
Somewhere near the end of the 45 days Bos came to tell me he had made arrangements to take me to Amsterdam where I could proceed through another arm of the Underground to freedom. The gamekeeper took my shoes and dyed them from brown to black and stole a hat -- a nice derby hat -- out of a barber shop someplace for me. The rest of my disguise was a stiff-collared shirt, some trousers, a nice overcoat and tie. Then, dressed as a businessman of some prestige, money, and influence, carrying a forged ID (passport) in case I was stopped, I was ready to move. Spanhaak (Spykerman) bought 2 tickets for Bos and me at the station, and then we were ready to walk to the railroad station.
As we walked down the path from the Gamekeeper's house where I dressed in my travelling clothes, Spanhaak came by returning from the station (the other way) and handed us the two tickets. Upon arrival at the station there were quite a number of people waiting for the train to Amsterdam. Bos stood at one end of the platform and I, the other, as schooled, reading a Dutch newspaper. My panic was so total that it took me a few minutes to observe that I was holding the newspaper upside down, and this gave me a start, but obviously no one noticed the error. As another part of my disguise I carried a box of very fancy cigarettes that most ordinary people could not afford -- just Germans in very high places. There were occasions when Gestapo agents and other Germans dressed in civilian clothes and would frequent places
like the rail stations, on the trains, etc. These agents were of a type that even the Germans and Dutch police didn't want to get entangled with them -- so they didn't bother to disturb them -- and hopefully, my disguise would put me in this category.
Apparently my disguise worked; no one bothered to speak to me. Before the Amsterdam train pulled in another train arrived and offloaded a large number of female German soldiers. These girls were dressed in green, were young, and ran up and down the platform, and generally speaking, I guess they were having fun and were footloose and fancy free for the moment. This caused me concern because I worried that I wouldn't know what I would do if one of them came up and tried to speak to me. I was lucky; they didn't; and eventually Bos and I boarded the train. He boarded at a different entrance and walked through the train and found a compartment where he could sit on one side and I could sit on the other. This was a 6-person compartment which was standard on trains in Europe at that time.
By the time the train departed Vorden it was almost dark and by the time the conductor came by to collect the tickets it was dark; the lights on the train were very dim and with the window shades pulled down it was very hard to see from one person to the other. To avoid being drawn into conversation with any of the people in our compartment I pretended to be asleep. The conductor came in with a flashlight and asked for tickets and everyone gave him their ticket. He spoke to me and I had my eyes closed and I didn't answer. He then shined his flashlight in my face and I immediately opened my eyes and realized that it was time for me to produce my ticket. I did so and my companions laughed and he took the ticket and left the compartment. For the rest of the trip no one disturbed me.
Upon arrival in Amsterdam we were met by another Underground agent and Bos departed. My new companion took me via streetcar and walking to a house occupied by a family named Goedkoop. Jan Goedkoop was, of course, a member of the Underground but did not work in the area of moving short-down pilots. He and his family occupied a rather large house and he had an extra room so I was billeted there to board, so to speak.
The Goedkoop family consisted of Jan Goedkoop and his wife, Thea, and a 5-year-old daughter, Dewitcher, and a son, Jan Hymer, about 18 months old at that time. All of this family were highly intelligent and spoke some 5 languages fluently. Both Jan and Thea spoke English. Thea had been in school in England about 2 years as a girl and she had also attended school in Switzerland where American and English girls were also in attendance, so this made me quite comfortable living with them as I was able to communicate with the family.
After about 5 or 6 weeks the Underground moved me to another billet across town. My new hosts consisted of a man, R. de Jong. his wife, Anke, and baby who lived in an apartment complex. (Marowijnestraat 8-II, Amsterdam, W. Holland) The couple were natives of Friesland and although the husband spoke English, the wife only spoke a few words. I had only learned a few Dutch words at this time so we did not communicate well. The apartment complex was a large square with a courtyard in the center and most of the residents were Frieslanders and the women would go into the courtyard daily to do their laundry and gossip. They mostly wore long, black dresses down to their ankles much like the Amish people in our country. On their heads they wore a strange looking little white bonnet. With nothing to do all day, watching them became my regular pastime.
The husband was a Dutch policeman and he, too, was connected with the Underground to the extent that he would keep people in his house. When I arrived they had a young fellow of Italian extraction from New York that had been a gunner on a B-17 living with them. By the time I arrived at this new location I was more than anxious to be on my way back to freedom; the months of sitting and waiting were beginning to more than pale -- I was ready for action. So, after about 2 weeks at this new billet I was anxious to move on. One night while getting some exercise (walking) with my GI roommate and our host, quite early in the evening, we heard a woman scream at the top of her lungs and we ran down to the corner to see what was going on. The policeman stopped at this point and we went no further. We observed 2 or 3 Gestapo agents drag a man out of the front room of his house and down the street. Finally, the man got to his feet and the Gestapo had him between them and took him off. Of course, that is what caused the woman to scream.
Upon inquiry of our policeman, he told us that the agents were the Gestapo and that when they arrested a man and dragged him off the wife and/or family knew that they would never see him again. Our policeman had his gun with him; a pistol, but he did no care to interfere with the Gestapo. Dutchmen were deathly afraid of the Gestapo and I can't say that I blame them very much.
When I determined that I had to leave this billet I asked the gunner if he wanted to go with me and his reply was that he was comfortable and safe, had plenty to eat, and he saw no purpose in exposing himself to danger in order to get back to England. I promptly told him it was the duty of any man in uniform to return to his own forces if he possibly could. That's one more reason why I never had much use for Italians either the ones in America or in Italy.
At any rate, I explained to my host that I wanted to move on although he was very kind and did everything he could do for us. I hoped that I could be returned to the Goedkoops and he consented. The trip back was uneventful on the streetcar except for one small incident. The car was very crowded and many people were standing in the aisles and I accidentally stepped on a lady's toe. Out of instinct I turned around and said, "Sorry." Nevertheless she let me have a piece of her mind in no uncertain terms and some of those who overheard her laughed. The laughing didn't bother me but I was afraid that I had identified myself as an American, and was relieved to find out later that the Dutch use the same word under the same circumstances many, many times, so there wasn't any difference in my pronunciation and their pronunciation.
At any rate we got off the streetcar a couple of blocks from Jan's house and walked the rest of the way. When the door was answered to our knock I was greeted with open arms although they were surprised and taken aback that the policeman had brought me there. Not that he was a policeman but that someone else knew where their house was and what they were doing. In the long run, I found out later that it didn't make any difference.
After the war, I received a letter from my friend DeJong:
"Amsterdam, May 4, 1946
Very often we have been thinking and speaking of you, but up to now we did not come to writing a letter to you. We are very anxious to know whether you returned sound and safe home again. We sincerely hope you reached
your base pretty son after you left us and that you were not taken prisoner of war.
We are doing splendid again, we are living again at our former address at the Marowijnestraat 8-II in Amsterdam (W.) where you stayed with us. In the beginning of 1945 we had to duck all of us, because the SD (German Secret Service) raided our home and at first arrested me. They had got no evidence by then and set me at liberty pretty soon afterwards. It proved to be a good decision to duck immediately, because when the SD realized that they surely needed me as a prisoner, they could not find me. We necessarily lived at three different addresses in Amsterdam, hunted after by the SD. At one address they did find at last my uniform and part of my guns and we had a narrow escape. You still understand we lived through difficult times, but it were hard and trying times for every Netherlander then.
At the time we were liberated I was commandant of the Western line of the K.P. (Underground Forces) in Amsterdam, but in our city there almost was no fighting against the Germans before the Canadians reached Amsterdam. But I lost many of my men who were shot by the Germans before the liberation, among others Herman, Hans and Max; can you remember them?
Now we are all busy to restore the severe damage caused by the invaders in every sphere. Though we get enough food now, it are only the essentials we get; there is still little variation; but we mostly feel our poverty in other lines: clothes, shoes, furniture, cigarettes etc. are distributed on a very small scale and in rather poor quality. But by working hard the Netherlands hope to regain a part of their old standard of living.
Our family is now composed of four; a second son was born in November lst year, so Anke is very busy now.
I am an inspector of police again, detached as head of the provincial department of the Netherlands Security Service at Amsterdam, a rather interesting duty, but very busy.
I am writing this letter to you as if I knew everything is O.K. with you and I hope very much that this is the case. We are anxious to know how you went on after you left us and hope you will not forget to answer my letter.
I hope this letter will reach you and your family in good health. With kindest regards from us all, also from the Meeuwis family (Johan or Carl).
Yours s/R. deJong"
Upon returning to the Goedkoop house I found two other American flyers who had been shot down. One of them was a bomber co-pilot and he was only there just a few days after I came; I can't even remember his name now. He was taken somewhere else. The second man was Floyd Stegall, a young fighter pilot from Illinois. He was only 19 years old and had been shot down 2 or 3 weeks prior to this time.
NOTE:HERE I AM AMENDING GASTON'S ACCOUNT WITH DETAILS OF GASTON'S ADVENTURE AS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF GASTON'S TRAVELLING COMPANION, FLOYD STEGALL, WHO FROM THIS POINT FORWARD WAS FRIEND AND TRAVELLING COMPANION UNTIL THEY REACHED THE AMERICAN HEADQUARTERS IN ENGLAND. HIS COMMENTS I WILL PUT IN A DIFFERENCE FONTS.(Dorothy Alford, Gaston's wife and typist)
"They got the three of us tickets to Amsterdam. I was told not to be afraid. If we bump shoulders with the German Gestapo, not to step aside. I bumped shoulders with one (I was afraid, but did not act like it).
"The location we were supposed to meet "Thea" in was about one mile from the center of Amsterdam. It was beautiful and was well kept with lots of flowers. This was in the last of April. The instructions that my helpers had been given were great. As we entered the park we were able to go to the spot where "Thea" was sitting waiting for us. We introduced ourselves to each other and my helpers started their return to Wormaveer.
"Thea" and I were both excited, it was great to be able to carry on a conversation in English. Thea told me all about their family and their part in the underground. They had a dutch soldier that had been captured by the Germans and had escaped so they gave him a home. He did all the preparing of the meals and kept the condo spec and span. The first night I was there we had dinner together - the children Jan, Thea and I. The table was set just like it was in the U.S. and their table manners were the same as ours. We all spoke English, even the children. When we had finished dinner they wanted me to tell them about my family and where we lived in the states. Then they wanted me to tell them of what caused me to crash and what had happened to me since I had been in Holland. As I was about half way through I noticed they were smiling and looking at each other. Thea spoke up and said: "Floyd, the reason we are smiling is you are using a lot of dutch words as well as English. We have had several Americans here but none that could speak our langage and we are enjoying it very much.
"I was here four or five days and there was a knock on the door one evening. It was Lt. Col. David Gaston Alford, a b-17 bomber pilot that had been here at the Goedkoops for a few weeks prior to my coming. He had been shot down in eastern Holland and the underground had moved him this far. The underground had moved him to another home in the hopes of getting him moved further in his effort of getting back to England. This member of the underground was also a member of the Amsterdam police force. David had been there a short time but there was not much indication that he was going to be moved on very soon. He asked the underground policeman if he would return him to the Goedkoops.
"My new friends were "Jan and Thea Goedkoops". They lived in a real nice three story condo that was real well furnished. Their home was on "Prince Gracht" which was one of the nicest streets and canals in Amsterdam. As most of you know "Prince Gracht" is the street that Ann Frank lived.
"Thea" was a small and very pretty lady whose parents were from Dutch East Indies. She was a very well educated and could speak five languages. She also had a great personality.
"Jan", her husband, was a very handsome man with a great personality. He could speak six languages and was a born dutchman. He and his parents owned and operated a company that operated barges that served the small villages and the large cities in Holland. Jan and Thea had a daughter 3 and a son 2. They could speak and understand English. The Goedkoops spoke English all the time in the house and the children were told they were speaking German. The children were told when they were around other children they should speak dutch because the other children wouldn't understand German if they spoke German to them. "
The Goedkoops were fine people and they could tell I was very restless and they knew it was time for us to try to move to our next stop on the escape route to Spain and back to England. Consequently, about 2 weeks after my return arrangements were made through the Underground to take us to Maastricht, Holland which is in the southeastern part of Holland and near the Belgian border. Our guide was Wienik Everts, a brother of Mrs. Goedkoop, who was also working in the Underground as one of the two printers that moved the Underground press daily (to keep the Germans from finding it) and who were able to print and/or reproduce any of the documents that were used during the war -- IDs, passports, visas, food stamps, and even replicas of the bearer bonds resting in banks -- he was not assigned to the task of escorting evadees but volunteered for the task of escorting Floyd and me to Maastricht.
Weinik, as well as Jan Goedkoop, was a most unique individual and not large in stature or vastly strong physically, but he managed to hold his own with the Germans. One evening he was moving some parts of the Underground press on his bicycle that would have identified him as part of the Underground when he was ordered to halt by 3 Germans who wanted to search him and he knew this could not be, so he threw his bicycle at one of them and hit another one and then ran, but the third German shot him in the back and ruptured his spleen. Even wounded Wienik rounded a corner, kept running and entered the first house he could find which was a standard 3- or 4-story house of the area which operated as a meat market on the ground floor. He raced through the market, up the stairs to the roof, asking the occupants not to tell that they had seen him. He was successful in getting away and lay on the roof all night and through the next day and somehow managed to get in touch with his sister, Thea Goedkoop. The Underground managed to get him over to her house where she nursed him back to life and sheltered him until he got well.
"We had been here about 4 weeks and both of us were getting anxious to get moving towards England. Weinik, Thea's brother, was well educated as the rest of the family and we enjoyed visiting with him so he could tell we were getting anxious to get on the move. So he took it on himself to find us a place to go south. This wasn't a part of his duty in the underground. He just wanted to help us. He went to Maastricht, got acquainted with some of the underground, and made arrangements for us to stop at Dr. Van der Ley's home for a while. That was a big move for us since it was better than half the length of Holland in one move. Weinik bought the tickets and acted as our guide. We got on the train which was made up of compartments that the passengers sit facing each other, Weinik got in one compartment and Dave and I got in the one next to him. There were almost all German soldiers on the train and three of them got into the same compartment as Dave and I. One of them got out a cigarette and he asked for a lucifer [a match]. Both of us knew what it was so we both started to give him a light and he took Dave's
book, lit up his cigarette and gave Dave his book back. The Germans carried on a conversation and didn't include us, for which we were glad. The train stopped halfway to Maastricht and some soldiers got off and other got on but ours didn't change. The soldiers had their rifles and we had our passports and I.D.s. The soldiers got off the train the last stop before Maastricht, of which we were glad. "
Wienik took Floyd and me to the rail station, bought our tickets, and boarded the train to Maastricht with us. He did not, of course, sit in the same compartment with us in case we should be caught. We were dressed by the Underground in civilian clothes and had passports and identifications papers furnished to us. Soon after occupying one of the vacant compartments, two German soldiers joined us. They had their rifles with them and fortunately did not try to strike up a conversation with us. We were terrified! One of the soldiers wanted to smoke a cigarette and asked me for a match in Dutch. Fortunately, that was one of my few Dutch words so it wasn't a problem. I gave him a box of matches, he hit his cigarette and handed them back. My heart was in my throat! However, not to worry, this was the end of our conversation; he then turned to his companion and there was a constant flow of conversation between them the entire trip. If I remember correctly, they departed the train just before our stop in Maastricht.
Certainly, both Floyd and I were a bit nervous about this situation and I figures out what I would do if we got into trouble with them; I'm sure Floyd did the same. My plan was to throw them out the window if we didn't get thrown out first, for that was about all we could have done. Thank Heavens we didn't have to put the plan into operation!
"Upon our arrival in Maastricht railway station Weinik led us to a predetermined place and turned us over to another man that had identfied himself by a signal with Weinik. They had never met but they had ways of knowing who each were. Weinik returned to Amsterdam and our new man took us to Dr. Van der Ley's home. "
Upon arrival in Maastricht railroad station a predetermined meeting place had been set up and Wienik led us there and turned us over to the Underground man waiting there for us. Wienik had, of course, never met the man, but they identified each other in some manner and the transfer was made and Wienik left us and returned to the station to return back to Amsterdam. This gentleman walked us to the house and office of Dr. von der Ley Another 35 years passed before I saw Wienik again.
Dr. von der Ley was a practicing physician who had been in practice in Maastricht since finishing medical school. He came from the Friesland area of Holland which is predominately Protestant and the Maastricht area is predominately Catholic. Perhaps this was one of the reasons that he did not get along well with the other medical doctors in Maastricht and was never invited to join their medical society or association. He was a rather large, well-built man and had represented Holland on the Dutch Olympic Team of 1928 as a swimmer and had been able to maintain his good physical condition, although he was about 40 to 45 years of age at the time I was there.
The office of his practice was on the ground floor of the 3-storied house he occupied. In addition, there was an attic. The ground floor in addition to his office contained a dining room, kitchen, and small parlor. Dr. von der Ley's wife was Jewish and had been taken to a concentration camp 2 or 3 years prior, right after the occupation of Holland by the Germans. Dr. von der Ley was quite bitter toward the Germans, even more so, I think, than the ordinary Dutchman. The house contained 2 bedrooms on the other 2 floors;
one was occupied by Dr. Von der Ley and his live-in nurse and the occupied by Floyd and me. The attic contained a radio that came from the United States Signal Corps. It was a low-frequency one that was operated by an Underground Dutchman who came daily to report the weather back to England.
"Dr. Van der Lay was an M.D. who had been practicing in Maastricht since he first got out of medical school. He was from the northern part of Holland, which is primarily protestant and Maastricht is the most southern city in Holland on the border of Belgium and is mostly catholic. For this reason and probably others he never did get along too well with the other doctors. They never did invite him to join the local medical society or medical association. He was very athletic and had been on the dutch olympic team as a diver in 1928 and still at that time was well built.
"Dr. Van der Lay's office was in the first floor of his house, which was a three story brick house with an attic. On the first floor were also the kitchen, dining room and a small parlor. His wife was Jewish and had been in a concentration camp for three years at the time David and I were there. He was very bitter toward the Germans. He had two bedrooms. David and I were on the top floor with the Dr. and his live-in nurse in the other bedroom. In the attic was a radio that came from the United States signal corps. It was a low frequency radio used by a dutchman to send weather reports back to England each day. I also sent in the report when the planes started flying over on June 4th & 5th & 6th going towards the channel and every thing with wheels was going through Maastricht from the north part of Holland and Germany. The Maas river funnels the traffic through Maastricht because the only bridge crosses the maas river at this point for miles from the north. "
Dr. von der Ley and I got into the habit of playing 2-handed honeymoon
bridge each night. Floyd and the nurse (neither played bridge) played checkers or some other game, or read. Each night as we played bridge Dr.von der Ley and I managed to drink up a bottle of Dutch Jeneva (gin). As we played our games we drank and speculated on when the Allies would invade the continent, etc. I might add that the Jeneva was not of first quality and of low alcohol content, but wartime products never measured up to those of peace time. We were just happy to have any spirits to drink to help us through those bad days.
As we wasted the nights away, we, occasionally, could hear the American and British bombers come over and every day and every night we could hear some German aircraft -- a few -- flying by. The night before the invasion (D-Day), June 6, 1944, Dr. von der Ley and I were doing our usual thing, playing bridge and drinking Jeneva, when along toward midnight we began to hear more and more German planes coming across our location and going toward the West and we immediately guessed that the invasion was beginning. Sure enough, the next day, late in the evening on the BBC, on our radio we learned that the Allied troops had indeed landed in Normandy.
For the next several days there was a tremendous amount of German activity in our area. About 3 or 4 blocks from Dr. von der Ley's house was the local German Army Headquarters. The street in front of the house was one of the main streets going from Germany and the north part of Holland down to the Maas River where there is a bridge that would take you down through Belgium into France. This was one route that was used quite heavily by German traffic.
On one occasion I saw a large contingent of horse-drawn artillery move down the street and I heard later that a bunch of P-47s (US Fighter Planes) caught a horse-drawn artillery outfit somewhere down in France and pretty well wiped it out. Whether or not this was the same one I saw, of course, I don't know.