Some interesting shots from Floyd Stegall's WWII military career:
Fifty years ago I had an experience very few people have had during their life-time.
February 21, 1944 we were briefed on our mission to escort b-17 bombers on part of their way to a bombing mission to Germany. In England it is often solid overcast from the ground up to 20,000 feet or more. This particular day it was 23,000 feet. When the overcast is solid the bombers will be flying above it so we have to take-off in a formation of four planes with our propellers three feet from the wing tips of the plane we have to follow. We do this so we won't lose sight of our leaders. When we get through the clouds we spread out and get in formation with the three other flights in our squadron. Then we join the other two squadrons in our group. Our leader assumes the heading so we will be at the point where we will meet the bombers at the right time. Each group has to replace the group that has been protecting the bombers ahead of them. The length of time that each group spends with the bombers depends on the distance they have to fly to return to their own base. The planner of the flight has to calculate it so we can at least get back across the channel. Many times we have to land at fields before we get all the way to our own base. On one mission I had landed and as I pulled into my parking place I reached up to turn my engine off and it died. I was watching one of my buddies as he was getting ready to land and he ran out of fuel. He landed in a plowed field and his plane flipped over on its top. He was not injured.
I was flying a P47 fighter plane, it was the largest fighter plane at that time. It used 100 gallons of fuel in an hour, the main tank held 400 gallons. On the longer missions the mounted wing tanks on each wing that carried 100 gallons each were used.
My plane was equipped with an experimental propeller. The main control was hydraulic and emergency control was electric. Were flying at 25,000 feet and had just crossed the Holland and German border. My hydraulic control failed. When this happens the propeller blades go flat and cease to pull the plane, without an engine, seven tons of steel sinks fast. I switched to my emergency control and was able to catch up with my flight. I was there a short time and my electrical control failed.
At this time at 25,000 feet I had an option. I could use my parachute. Or try to go through one of the holes in the clouds over the Zieder Zee and land in the water. They had told us at the briefing that there was usually fishermen in the zee and often they would rescue us, if we were lucky. I had said several times "if I ever get the chance I am going to use it". I was wrong. I had the chance and I didn't. I discovered that I had a yellow streak down the center of my back and I couldn't get both of my feet off the floor of the plane at the same time.
I decided that since I didn't know whether the parachute was going to open and since if it didn't open I couldnt get back into my plane, I wouldn't take the chance. So I headed for what I hoped was the Zieder Zee. I had never prayed very much but at a time like this I knew I needed help. My plane only had room for one person so I asked "God" to help guide my plane to one of the holes in the clouds so I could make a safe landing.
Well, I was lucky he heard me because as I approached one of those holes I could see water below me. When your engine isn't running the glide rate is about 1000 feet per minute. That was the longest 25 minutes I ever had. Before I went into the clouds I unfastened my seat belt and my parachute because when you go into the water in a P47 you sink almost immediately. I entered the clouds at 600 feet and I came out at 400 feet and directly in front of me was a dyke. I had enough height and speed to go over the dyke and make a wheels up landing. I put my left hand on the gun sight to brace myself so when I stopped my head wouldn't hit the gun sight and I had to keep my right hand on the stick so I could keep the nose of the plane up in the air and it would be the last part to hit the ground. I started to dragging the tail of my plane at 160 m.p.h. and stopped just after my plane crossed a small canal. I thanked "God" jumped out and started running to the road to the left.
The field I landed in was between two small villages, Volendam and Edam, about 12 miles north of Amsterdam. I saw people coming from Edam so I started running the other way. There were 6 or 8 people there watching me. I said "je suis american" and they didn't say anything so I ran behind the nice brick house. In Holland the barn is a part of the house. There were two men putting hay up in the loft. I climbed up the ladder and motioned for them to cover me up with hay. Before they could do that a young man climbed up the ladder. The young man's name was Dick Veerman, 17 years old, and motioned for me to come down. When you are in a country that you can't speak the language and they can't speak English you use your hands and communicate with motions. We went to a small building back of the house, he took off his coveralls and motioned for me to take off my flight suit. I put on his coveralls and he gave me his old felt hat with a piece of binder twine under my chin, which made me look like a dutch farmer. When we left the shed, a man with a bicycle was waiting for us to come out. He motioned for me to sit on a carrier he had on the back and we went down a small road by the canal that led into Volendam. When we came to a farm house on the other side of the canal he gave a whistle and a teenage girl came out and he asked her to turn the "john-boat" across the canal so we could cross. We then started to circle the town. About halfway around we came to a small duck farm he put me in a shed and went into the house to tell the farmer I was there. He then came back and asked me if I wanted him to turn me over to the Germans or try to go back to England. I told him I wanted to go to England. He showed me on his watch that he would be back at 8 o'clock with a man that could speak English. As he was leaving he showed me the window I could look out of and see my plane. Shortly the farmer came out and gave me a hard-boiled duck egg. We tried to converse using our hands and motioning without too much success.
At 8 o'clock the bicycle man and the one that could speak English came and brought me a coat. I put it on and it felt good. The bicycle man left and the new man and I walked into the village. We each got on a bike and rode over to Edam, about two miles. When we got there we visited several homes. People had gathered at the homes so they could see an American pilot and ask questions. Very few of them could speak English so the gentleman had to interpret for us. They were mainly interested in my family and how close we lived to the Chicago gangsters. Then he took me to his mother's home. She lived in a two story row house with an attic. In one of the upstairs bedrooms was a square hole in the ceiling that I crawled through to get to the area I would spend the next three days. He told me that his mother would pass food up to me each day. It was bread and jam in the morning and later in the day it would be cooked vegetables. The attic was floored and there was a light up there but no windows. He told me he would come back on the fourth night and get me and someone would take me to another home.
On the fourth night they took me down from the attic and gave me a new I.D. Card. It said that I was deaf and dumb, for me that was easy to prove. That was so if we got stopped they wouldn't expect me to talk. There was a person dressed in coveralls and a jacket and two bicyles and I was told were going to ride to another town called Purmerend 7 miles away. I assumed the person was a man. Four years ago Pat and I visited in Holland. We visited the first person to help me, Dick Veerman, he was the one that gave me his coveralls and felt hat. He had an article put in the newspaper that said that "Floyd Stegall" an American pilot that had crashed landed between Volendam and Edam during the war was visiting him. That he had helped me when I first landed. And that a man from Edam had taken me by bicycle to Purmerend on the next part of my escape from the Germans. After our first visit with Dick, Pat and I tried to find some of the other people that had helped me in Holland and Belgium. Many of them had died or had moved to a different area. We returned to Dick's the next Friday and he said a lady from Edam had called and said she wanted to see me if we returned to the area, because she was the one that took me on the seven mile bike ride to Purmerend. She was a 16 year old girl at that time dressed like a man: "Frieda Hermen-Molenaar". It was hard for me to believe a 16-year-old girl would risk her life to help me. She knew that if she was caught the Germans would probably shoot her on the spot. She couldn't speak English so she brought her niece to translate for her. She said "I can't believe it's you - I want you to identify yourself". What was I told to say if we were stopped by the Germans? I was supposed to motion with my hands by putting them to my mouth and my ears and shake my head no. She said "that is right: I can believe you are Floyd." I also found out that the man that brought me to his mother's house was her father.
The underground had contacted the family in Purmerend to make sure they would take care of me until they could find a way to get me back to England. When Frieda and I arrived at my new home she stayed across the street while I went to the door. As soon as I knocked the man opened the door and invited me in. I waved good-by to Frieda as she turned and started back home. The man that welcomed me had a wife, a daughter 3 and a son 1. Also a dutch soldier that had escaped from the Germans.
The family's last name was de Bore. He was respected by the members of the underground and unknown other people in the area. It was against the laws of Germany for anyone in Holland to have a radio. However, the de Bores had one. The dutch soldier operated it and they also had a typewriter so he would listen to the German broadcast the news then he would type 15 copies making 5 carbon copies each time. A member of the underground would stop by each evening, pick up the bulletins and he and some helpers would deliver them to known members of the underground. They had to be careful who they passed them out to because the Germans offered special favors to anyone that turned people in. Some people even turned in their relatives.
They have coffee and tea which they used their water for but they never drank it. I asked them if I could have a drink and they went out in the kitchen to watch me drink. None of the adults in the house could speak English so if they knew of any reason for not drinking the water they couldn't tell me. A week later I got sick so the underground had a doctor from the Dutch East Indies that was living in Holland come see me. He said I had diphtheria so he gave me shot of 60 cc of something in my seat. He told me I would swell up in my arms and legs in 7 days and they would be so sore that I wouldn't want to walk then 2 days later the swelling would start to go away. He was right in his predictions. And as you know I survived.
A couple of days later a member of the underground stopped by to see me. I asked him if the could get a school book that was used to teach English. He stopped the next day with two books: one with dutch sentences and the other with the same sentence in English. He would read the dutch version and I would read the English version. We worked on this from daylight until dark. By the end of three weeks we were able to converse with each other in either language. He would listen to the German news and type his bulletin and I would type the English bulletin after I listened to the british broadcast. This way the dutch people in the underground had both versions of what was happening with the war. A man would stop by after dark and pick up the bulletins and they would be delivered to other members of the underground.
While I was living with the de Bores an airman gunner from bomber had to parachute to a field near Purmerend and the underground placed him in a home just a small distance from where I was living. His bomber had been hit by flak and was about to crash when they all bailed out. He was from "Milwaukee". The people that took "Victer Kruger" in was "Schrieken". They could speak English. Mrs. Schrieken invited me over on my birthday to have dinner and a birthday cake with them.
Three times while I was living in Purmerend the Germans came and searched the homes, looking for Americans. Whenever a plane crashed they would come. We were lucky they would call the police in the town before they came and there were always underground men on the police force that would notify us and tell us to get on the bicycles and go to a certain spot out in the country. When the Germans left, someone would come out and tell us it was safe to come back. The third time they decided to move us.
Before we left they gave me a new I.D. Card that showed that I was a miner and was deaf and dumb. Miners were allowed to be on the streets at all hours and they couldn't use them for anything else to help fight the war.
A young man came after us in a little car and we drove across the fields. It was a little rough and we didn't have any lights on. When we got to where we were going, he dropped me off two blocks from where I was to stay. The driver went on down the street. Another man met me there and took me to his home. I knew no names. This was a protection both for me and them. The driver delivered Victor to another home, but I didn't know where. Everything was very secretive.
In my new home lived a husband, wife and little boy. Every day I went for a walk with the husband and a family friend who could speak English. This was so I could get used to being with other people. As we walked we would carry on a conversation in English unless other people were around speaking dutch, and then we would speak dutch. This girl helped me speak fluently. I stayed with these people for three weeks until they found me a new home in Amsterdam.
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.
In addition to helping airmen they were the headquarters for the distribution of forged food stamps for members of the underground that needed help. Thea's brother was an important man in the underground. He was in charge of printing the food stamps, false I.D. Cards and any other false documents. David Alford and I helped with distribution of the food stamps. They would give us the names of the people [false underground names] and the amount of the stamps to put in each envelope. This would keep us busy for three or four hours each day. Every one in the underground had a code name so if a helper was caught he couldn't give the Germans anyone else's name or address. While we were here we had very good food and were treated like kings. Jan had an electric shaver that still worked and he gave it to me to use while I was there. One day Thea called dinner and I was shaving so I just laid the shaver down and went down to eat. David and I spent most of our time on the third floor so if any one came in we were not seen. As we finished eating Thea said "Floyd, you are letting your mustache grow." I said, "oh, I forgot to shave it off when you called dinner." She said you should let it grow - a lot of dutchmen have mustaches. I let it grow for 14 years before I shaved it off. Dave and I spent most of our spare time playing honeymoon bridge. For us there was not much else to entertain ourselves.
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.
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.
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.
About a week before the invasion of Normandy, Dr. Van der Lay went to town and didn't come home that night for supper. We had heard from his nurse that some times he drinks too much and gets into trouble with the German soldiers. Some times he tries to whip too many of them and he got put in jail.
Early the next morning the station called his office and said he was there. The man that operated the radio came right out and packed the radio in the two suitcases and David and I went out the door each one carrying a suitcase filled with a U.S. Radio. The radio man was a block ahead of us. There was a funeral across the street from our front door and we had to go right by it or cross the street. We just walked east and didn't pay any attention to what was going on and no one paid any attention to us. We had everything we needed in two suitcases to set up a radio station with U.S. Signal corp printed on the outside of the cases. I said to David, do you realize what would happen to us if they stopped us with these suitcases? We started to walk as fast as we could without looking like we were running from something. We followed the man for several miles not knowing where we were going. We went out of town and headed for the hills. We found out that these hills were full of caves.
Mount St. Peter is a hill south of Maastricht [110 meters high], formed by erosion of the valleys of the rivers Meuse and Jeker over 80,000,000 years ago. It is made of marl, a kind of sandstone, that has been used since 1770 for the buiding of forts, churches, houses and any other building or structure needing to last for years. It is a sandstone which can be cut with a handsaw in any shape needed.
Some of the caves were cut by the erosion of the rivers when the hill was formed. When the people discovered the caves they found that they could saw the sandstone of which they were made, so they started using it for construction. The stone cutting has continued to this century. As a result there are over 20,000 passages. At several places they have made large galleries in which art treasures were stored when taken by the underground from Amsterdam when the Germans took Holland. At some areas they have found fossils in walls and ceilings: shells of sea-hedgehogs, sharks teeth and some times actual pieces of petrified bones of reptiles. A petrified giant turtle was also found. The passages are so many that they have all been charted. No one is allowed to go in without a guide that has a chart.
In early days the dutch built a fortress on the north slope of the hill which was connected to a northern gallery system and they had a spiral staircase inside the fort for going down into the system. At that time the hill was the cause of some battles between the dutch and the french. The farmers in the area sometimes took refuge in the galleries with their families and livestock. There are still signs of their stay: an oven, a well, and troughs for the cattle. During World War II the galleries were large enough to shelter 50,000. In case of air raids, ovens were built, hospitals were furnished and even a chapel was built. As the allied troops reached Maastricht in September 1944 the people that lived near Mount St. Peter took refuge in the caves. There are many galleries in the hill and some of the galleries are nurseries of mushrooms which is ideal with its constant low temperature and high humidity. David and I spent three nights in the caves and got to see some of the galleries. The dutch were proud of their discovery and the use they had made of their find.
The fourth night an underground man came and took us down to the city to a large garage. Inside they had a panel truck that the owner used to haul produce from Liege, Belgium to Maastricht. He was paid by the Germans and they gave him a permit so no German troops could stop him. The truck had a dummy front in the cargo section so when we stopped at the border the guards would check his papers and when they looked in the cargo area it was empty as far as they could see. When we entered the garage two men were removing a section of the roof over the front of the cargo area about two feet wide and covered from one side to the other. When they got it off they told us to climb up and slide down in the compartment, it was only 12 to 14 inches wide, two other air men had joined us after we got in the garage so they slid in also. It was a little crowded but we didn't complain. The men screwed the metal roof back on and we headed for the border. The dummy front was of steel and 1/4 inch thick. I had a small hole right in front of me so I watched as the guards checked the cargo area and told the driver to go on. Some times "little" things like this are exciting. We rode for two hours over a very bumpy road and it was difficult to keep your head from hitting either the front of the truck or the dummy front. The area we were in was so narrow we couldn't stand with our feet straight out. So after two hours we were glad the ride was over. When we got to Liege the driver pulled into a shoe factory he owned and the Germans had forced him to close. We spent the night sleeping on some benches. His home was nearby so he said "I'll see you in the morning."
The next day he took us down to the center of Liege across the street from a large hotel. He took Dave and me first: he told us to walk behind him about 50 feet so no one would know we were following him. When we got to the hotel we saw the ladies wear store across the street. He went into the store and after stopping for a few minutes and acting like we were having a conversation with each other, we crossed the street and went in the store. He introduced us to Mr. and Mrs. de Lairesse. They were the owners and operators of the store. The store was on the first floor, they lived on the second floor with their three daughters, and Dave and I along with the other two air men were to live on the third floor. After the introduction of Dave and me to the de Lairesses, Mr. du Moulin went back to his shoe factory and brought the other two air men to the store.
As we were adjusting to our new home we could observe the Germans going in and out of the hotel across the street. It seemed to be the main center of their dormitories, Gestapo, S.S. troopers and other soldiers. It didn't seem to bother our new helpers. Mr. du Moulin came by every day and would take us one at a time for a walk through the business district. We would stop at the coffee shop for coffee and observe the people. Other than that we would visit with our new family. The girls were teenagers so they had a lot of questions. We had good food and enjoyed the family. We were here two weeks, then Mr. du Moulin was told by the underground to take us to the rail yards. There was only one house in the area and no buildings: everything had been destroyed by our bombers except this one house. It was a two story brick home. He took us there one at a time. There were several air men there and since there weren't any other houses within a couple of blocks the fellows were playing ball and having a good time. I didn't like the situation and Dave felt the same way. So when the underground man came by that evening we told him we wanted to leave before the Germans came and took every one prisoner. The other two air men that came with us didn't care about leaving with us so a young girl and an older lady brought food for the bunch twice a day. The underground man was very upset and told us if any of his people got killed by the Germans because of us leaving he would hunt us down and shoot us. He showed us his gun. He was the only person I met that was not great and eager to help. I told him we wanted to go on our own by walking cross country to get back with the invasion forces. He still was unhappy with us but said he would take us to a couple on the southwest part of the city.
The couple was nice and said they would help us. They didn't have any children and were between 35 and 40 years old. They lived in a housing addition that was nice. It was a brick row house that formed a square. The people and children mingled in the center of the square. The first night we were there the lady fixed us all Belgium waffles. After we were through eating I told them we wanted them to show us the way to France. We thought it was too dangerous for them if we stayed there. We thanked them and started to leave. The lady said "wait, I want to fix you some waffles to take with you." We were happy to wait: it was good to know we would have some food. She gave us each three waffles. We thanked them again. The gentleman said he would take us to the edge of the city and show us the road to take. He told us we shouldn't walk after 10 o'clock at night and before 6 o'clock in the morning. There was a curfew during the hours in between that no one was allowed to be on the streets or roads. He showed us the dirt road we should take. It ran parallel to the main road that the Germans always traveled. But it could be seen most of the time from the dirt road we would be on.
We walked until 9 o'clock and started looking for a place to hide and sleep. We found a small timber with a lot of trees so we each found a tree and went to sleep with our raincoats over us. We were both awake before 6 o'clock and could see the people going to work walking or on their bicycles. We thought it would be best if we waited until the rush was over before we started. We walked till noon when we came to a village with a few houses and a crossroad that had a pump in the middle of the intersection. There wasn't anyone in sight so we sat down and ate one of our waffles. It tasted good and we washed it down with water. We sat for a few minutes then started walking again. We didn't have a lot to talk about. We had lived together for three months both doing the same thing. Seeing the same people, hoping the same things so we didn't have much to talk about while we were walking. There wasn't much to see so we just kept walking until almost 10 o'clock. We found another grove of trees to sleep under. The next day we started walking about 7 o'clock. We hadn't had any water the day before and we had one waffle left so we waited until noon before we tried to eat it. If you want to do something different some time, go without water for 30 some hours then try to eat a waffle that is three days old. That last waffle kept getting bigger and bigger. Finally I said to Dave don't you think we better ask for some water. He agreed and the next farm house was close to the road so we went up to the door and knocked. A boy about 12 years old came to the door. He had a smile on his face and I tried to say water please. He said why don't you speak English. I can speak English. We have been watching for you. I asked how did you know we were coming? We pass the word along to our neighbors. He gave us all the water we wanted. We thanked him and complimented him on his good English. Dave and I were refreshed and walked on to the next village. This next village had a Catholic church so we thought maybe the priest could help us. He said he was afraid to help because he thought someone in the village might report him to the Germans (a priest of little faith). He told us to ask at two other houses. No one answered the door at either. So Dave and I went into a small timber and slept under the trees.
It rained pretty hard most of the night and a bull in the pasture came up to our fence, which was about 10 feet from where we sleeping. He serenaded us with his deep voice until daybreak and then he went away. A couple of hours later Mrs. Eva Prison and her 12 year old son started walking across the pasture the bull was in. Since I didn't know how tame the bull was I walked down to where they were to warn them about the bull. She was singing "It's a long way to Tipparary" in English. I was concerned with her safety and didn't realize she was singing in English. As I came near her, she said "are you one of the Americans?" I said yes. She asked where is the other one and where did you sleep last night. I told them under the trees. She said I can see you are a little wet. As we were walking up to where we slept and I introduced them to Dave she said "I am going to take you to a farm house and you can have some breakfast." They had us put on some day clothes so they could dry ours while we ate. You really appreciate a good meal after waffles for four days. They had an old fashioned wash tub that they bathed in so we accepted their offer to use it. Hadn't had a bath for a few days so we appreciated that luxury also. We visited for a while and then they told us to go back to the timber and sleep where we did the night before and two men in a truck would come down in an old truck and stop on the road and whistle. When we heard the whistle we were to come out to the truck and get in the back. The old truck had a gadget on the back where we were, that looked like an old hot water heater and it had a fire in the bottom of it that was burning wood. I never had a chance to have them expain how it operated but somehow it produced gas that operated the engine. As we rode along we would stick some wood in the bottom to keep the fire going so the engine would continue to run. We went down some little used roads, crossed some fields, crossed two small streams and after going on a path through a timber and past a small cement block building there was an open field. We stopped and they explained: there were five or six fellows about the age of Dave and me that lived in this building. They were a part of the underground and tried to do their part in defending their land from the Germans. The open field was large enough for planes from England could fly low and drop supplies for the underground. They wanted Dave and me to spend the night here so Dave could direct the plane in the dropping of the canisters that the supplies were in. The supplies consisted of guns, ammunition and explosives. They wanted Dave and me to stay and show them how to use the guns and help them to blow up some bridges. We declined their offer but we did help them put the guns together and show them how to use them. Later an underground person came to move us on. They insisted that we take one of the English bren guns, a small machine gun. The underground person lead us cross county to a small village and on to a farm which consisted of a man, his wife and his daughter. They served us a very good meal and we were able to converse with people that couldn't speak very much English and we couldn't speak very much Flemish (half dutch and half french). When it was time to sleep the daughter took us to a small building some distance from the house on the edge of a pasture. She told us some one would come in the morning to move us to another place.
A man came the next morning to take us to our new dwelling place. It was the first of July and we were used to sleeping in the out of doors. The weather was hot and pretty dry. We walked past several farm houses: one was a very large house with a few smaller buildings near. It had a large stone wall that encircled the area of all the buildings. The small narrow road that ran to the left of the buildings went on down to a chateau which was close to the river. The road turned just before it came to the chateau and it ended about 200 yards at the river. There was a pine timber to the left of road before the road turned and our guide turned into the tember. We walked in the timber about 15 feet from the path they called a road. When we got down to where the road turned our guide said "this is where we think would be the best place to make your camp." The tarp was there and the weather balloon, that the English had sent up. The allies used the balloons to report the weather by radio the night before the bombers mission over Europe. The balloons were set to stay in the air for a specified time then they crashed.
The man helped us tie the tarp up for the roof and we spread the balloon on the ground for our bed. They had also brought some straw that we placed on the ground under the balloon. They had brought some rope that we strung around the area on three sides that we wove pine branches to form walls. The burp gun that the fellows forced us to take at the supply drop we buried about 150 feet from our shelter if the Germans had found it in our camp they could of taken us prisoners or shot us. We didn't want either to happen.
The underground made the provisions for us to stay here because the Germans were starting to retreat and it was too risky for the farmers to get caught helping us. The Germans just shot them but would take us prisoners. During the day Dave and I would play honeymoon bridge and lay in the sun. We started playing honeymoon bridge when we were in Amsterdam in our spare time. It did help to pass the time of day. Now that many years have passed it is hard to imagine just sitting around with nothing to do. We did watch the sky for our planes to fly over on their missions and then to see some of them come back. We often saw planes that were hit by flack and damaged so bad they couldn't continue all the way back and the men would have to bail out. Dave and I knew what these men were thinking. It is unbelievable but you don't think about dying. You only think about what you are going to do when you hit the ground. Often older men would come to see us: we would sit in a squatting position and try to converse. By pointing and saying words we were able to teach each other some of the basic words.
The chateau was close enough to us so we could see it from our camp. The owners of the chateau came one weekend to spend a few days and they were told we were nearby so they asked us to have dinner with them. They were from Brussels and had a factory that made tires so they were allowed to have a car and fuel to operate it. It was a one of the great days we had.
On past the chateau there was a good swimming hole. A catholic priest and the young people of the area would come down there. One day the priest stopped to visit with us and I asked him if it would be alright if we went swimming. He told us that they could only swim after four o'clock because they were supposed to be working before that. He said if we had something to wear in the water we could go swimming with them. The next day I asked the woman when she brought us the food if she would bring me scissors, a needle and thread. She couldn't imagine why I would ask for them, I told her I wanted to make some swimming trunks so Dave and I could go swimming in the river. Dave and I both had light weight raincoats so I took the linings out, since we both wore jockey shorts I used them for a pattern and cut out swimming trunks and sewed them up. In order to keep them up I made a strap with a button hole, took a button off the raincoat and we went swimming when the other young folks went swimming.
As time passed we could see a main road about 1/2 mile on the other side of the valley. The Germans started retreating on this road, and any thing that would roll was going up this road. Dave and I were sitting in our dwelling one morning eating our bread and jam and we heard a vehicle coming down the little used road past our camp. Our camp was just a few feet from the road and this vehicle had a cannon on the front and there were several German soldiers in it. It went roaring past us and turned left to follow the path north down to the river. They could see other of their vehicles going up the road on the other side of the valley but they couldn't get there so they came roaring back by us. They couldn't see us but we were as close to them as we wanted to be. We knew it wouldn't be long before our troops would be close to us.
The villagers told us on September 6th that the Americans were in the villages to the southwest of us and the troops had been told by the villagers that we were there. The forces both German and allies were shooting cannons over our heads: we were in no man's land. The farmer that lived in the big farm house that had a big stone fence around it came to us and told us that all the villagers were going to spend the night in the basement of their house. They thought it would be safer there. A few days before this the priest brought another pilot to join us. We went up to join the villagers and when they were getting ready to go to the basement I asked the farmer who was going to sleep in the beds upstairs. He said no one -- we are afraid to with the shells going over our heads. I asked if we could sleep in them and he said we could. I told him the shells were going over us and that it was only the allies shells and they wouldn't fall on us and the Germans were not shooting back, they were too busy going the other way.
The next morning we got up and the farmer let us use his razor Dave and I had finished shaving and we were watching the villagers in the courtyard anxious to see the U.S. Soldiers. Shortly a jeep with a driver and an officer came thgough the gate. They all went over to the jeep and they didn't have room for the soldiers to get out. The villagers had brought their wine bottles to celebrate. After a short celebration the visiting soldiers said where are the Americans? We all looked alike to them in street clothes. We held up our arms and said "here we are" they said "are you ready to leave" we assured them we were and got into the jeep and they took us back to the troops.
The guys wanted to give us clothes - uniforms, good shoes - they were just as glad to see us as we were to see them. They gave us a good American breakfast: bacon, eggs, American coffee and toast. When they asked me what I flew and I told them a P47. They really were happy and wanted to give me what ever I wanted.
After we finished breakfast and a great welcoming the soldiers went back to their duties of fighting the war. The firing of the guns had quit and many of the Germans were surrendering. The ones in this area had no bridge close by to cross the river: you might say they were trapped. The main duty was to search them and load them into trucks and take them back to prisoner of war camps.
The prisoner trucks were large troop trucks with bench seats on the side. However when hauling prisoners there were so many that the seats were folded up and there was standing room only. The Germans in this area had run out of food and they crowded in to the truck without any urging. The drivers had a gun and whenever they stopped for a rest stop all the driver had to do was start the engine and the prisoners jumped in the truck. They were hungry.
Dave and I each rode in a truck with the driver. Some of the prisoners that could speak English asked questions. They wanted to know why Dave and I were in civilian clothes. When we told them we were pilots that crash landed in Holland and had traveled this far without getting caught, they didn't think it possible.
We had to drive all day to get to a prisoner camp. Our troops were advancing so fast they had trouble making camps to keep them in and feed them. Most of the officers that were captured were in their dress uniforms, black shiny boots. Apparently they had the feeling they were going to be taken prisoner. The next day Dave and I and the prisoners were taken to another camp just outside of Paris.
From here Dave and I were taken in a command car to a hotel in Paris. When we checked in at the hotel the captain at the desk said, we would be there for a few days waiting our turn to be flown back to London. We were still in our civilian clothes. Dave said "I am a Lt. Col. and Floyd and I want to be the first plane to London tomorrow." The captain said "the first plane is scheduled to leave at 9 o'clock if the weather is good, and both of you can be on it." Dave and I spent all day and evening sight-seeing.
The next morning we were ready to fly to England and check in at 8th air force headquarters. We were kept in London and were interrogated for three weeks -- then they sent us back to the states for two weeks' vacation.
The rest of my life has been wonderful.