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The Path of a Warrior by Jetty Cook:

Jetty Cook wrote a book about the fate of the crew on 20 July 1944.
However, this book has never been published.
I have supplemented missing pieces myself after a lot of searching.

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July 20, 1944 was indeed another day! To the utmost surprise of Jetty and his fellow sleepers, they were awakened at three in the morning with admonitions to "Get with it, guys!" There was a sizable amount of grumbling over their postponed crew rest and trip to London as they went about their routine preparations for the unexpected mission. They all recognized and accepted the priorities of war but they sure didn't have to like them!

This time the blanket revealed that the target was Leipzig - again. According to the briefing officer, the Germans had made great strides in repairing the destruction caused by their massive raid of two weeks earlier and the powers-that-be had directed another maximum effort to send the Nazis back to square one. They were advised to keep their eyes open since the skies would be particularly full of aircraft that day. Other bomber streams from both England and Italy were to hit targets across Germany from Saarbrücken and Cologne in the west to Leipzig and Munich in the east. Light and medium bombers would

attack areas in France and Belgium. The briefing officer said that considering the fighter escorts for the bombers, there would be well over 4,000 aircraft manned by more than 25,000 airmen crowding all available sky. (Later the Associated Press headline for that day simply stated, 'Skies Over Germany and Occupied Territories Blackened by Massive Force.")

When Jetty made his customary visual inspection of the aircraft that had been assigned to them for the mission that day, he noted that it was named "Berlin Special" Jetty knew that this was one of the ten or so planes that had managed to take off just ahead of that terrible collision on the runway twelve days before and he absentmindedly wondered if this was a good omen as he continued his check of the bird. His unspoken question would be answered several hours later

The 92nd didn't have enough serviceable aircraft to form their own group so they filled the "holes" in other groups which then went on to form a wing and finally, the armada of the 1st Air Division. The Stein crew was unfortunate enough to draw the number two position in the "tail end Charlie" element [1] of the formation.

The skies were exceptionally clear that day and they could see the many contrails of their companion formations on the way to other targets as Jetty's division crossed the North Sea and climbed to their bombing altitude of 28,000 feet.

On their way to Leipzig, they first skirted Bremen and then Hannover and the intensity of the flak over those two cities indicated that this mission definitely would not be another "piece of cake." A minute or so before they reached the Flak near Halle, their worst fears were realized when they saw the huge black, puffy curtains surrounding Leipzig.

They seemed to be totally impenetrable and so thick that, as Jetty says, "You felt as though you could get out and walk on them?

About that time, the group commander advised that reconnaissance by P-38 aircraft indicated that their Leipzig target had been pretty well obliterated by the 3rd Air Division raid that had preceded them that morning and that their target now was totally

[1] The nickname given to the the last element of a formation. An element usually consists of three to nine aircraft and, depending on the size of the formation, there may be more than one "tail end Charlie" element. From a gunner's point of view, this is the least desirable position in a bombing formation. In truth, any position in the periphery of a formation was most susceptible to fighter attack but the "tail end Charlie" aircraft did not even have minimal protection if they were hit and had to fall back and there was the ever present danger of late bombs dropped from the higher; forward elements of the formation.

 

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obscured by smoke and weather so they would proceed to their secondary target, an aircraft engine factory located at Kothen, about 35 miles northwest of Leipzig. The weather was better there and the flak was supposed to be much lighter. They all breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed with another laugh at Lord Haw Haw, who it seemed had missed the boat again.

About ten minutes before reaching their IP for Kothen, Jetty noticed that another B-17 had joined their formation. This, by itself, was not unusual; it was normal to join another group if an aircraft became separated from their own for any reason. This one, however, was completely stripped of all guns and turrets and was flying in the near center of the formation with markings that did not correlate to those of the units assigned to this mission. Jetty advised Lt Stein of this intruder. The group commander shortly advised that the aircraft was a captured and repaired B-17 flown by Germans to spy on their formation and bombing altitudes. The destruction of this aircraft was highly desirable; however,

everyone was fully aware that this was virtually impossible because shooting at the centrally located aircraft would undoubtedly result in the loss of more than one of their own birds. The intruder suddenly dropped out of the formation just before they hit the flak barrage at Kothen. Some of the ball turret gunners were able to fire a few bursts at it but it escaped without any apparent damage. It also managed to exactly pinpoint the formation and radio this deadly information to the anti-aircraft batteries on the ground.

Because of that single intrudec the Germans now knew the exact height of the high, middle and low elements of the formation as well as the distance from the lead to last plane of each element. With this knowledge, they were able to set up a 'firing box' barrage with the fuses of their 88 millimeter shells set to explode at the exact altitude for each element of the formation. The previously projected 'random light flak' now became "extremely accurate and heavy flak."

Almost as soon as the intruder left the conflation, one B-17 went down in flames andseveral others were hit although they managed to stay with the formation. They proceeded to the target at their predetermined altitude because the bombardiers did not have sufficient time to reset their bomb sights to a new bombing altitude; however, the accuracy of the flak [2] had inadvertently caused a slight deviation in their routing and they did not get to hear the anxiously awaited 'bombs away.'

A second approach was considered necessary if they were to avoid a return trip the next day but, again, the bombardiers did not have the time to reset their bombsights for a new bombing altitude. In spite of the high accuracy of the flak" on the second bomb run which is, of course, the most dangerous part of any bombing raid, there were some damaged aircraft but no losses during that run: it was most successful and the bombers immediately headed west toward England.

As soon as he heard the "bombs away" call, Jetty checked the bomb bay to insure that all of the bombs had fallen and that the bomb bay doors could safely be closed. (This normally was the job of the bombardier but Jetty could do it more safely and within 30 or 35 seconds by a quick step down from his turret and a look through the bomb bay door whereas the bombardier would have to use a walkaround bottle to crawl through the flight deck and back which would take four or five minutes. This timing was important for the open bomb bay doors created a heavy drag on the aircraft.)

When he stepped back into his turret which was already pointed towards the 6 o'clock position, he immediately noticed a flak burst about 500 yards behind them. 

[2] Although the intruding bomber was the primary cause of their flak problems that day, Jetty learned in an OSS (Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor of the CIA) debriefing later in London that the Germans had an anti-aircraft artillery school staffed by highly proficient warrant officers at Kothen. He feels that if that infortnation had been known before this nission, perhaps the German students might not have received such an excellent OJT (on-the-job-training) on this particular day.

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A few seconds later there was another burst about 300 yards behind and then still another at 200 yards.

Jetty immediately called the pilot for evasive action but before Lt Stein could clear the other aircraft, there was another burst about 50 yards behind them and just then all hell broke loose!

There were two more bursts - only a second or two apart - about 35 feet above the bird. The first exploded over and slightly to the left of the rudder and the second, almost directly above the left wing. Golf ball sized pieces of hot, searing shrapnel tore through the thin skin of the plane's fuselage and, if they didn't rip through whatever they touched, they ricocheted until they passed through the plane or fell smoldering to the floor. (Mel Crouch still has a piece of that shrapnel which struck just a few feet forward of his tail-gunner position in the rear of the plane.) In spite of the roar of the engines, the confusion of noise accompanying those explosions was incredible! It was as though 10,000 hailstones had hit a tin roof all at the same time and the rupturing of the oxygen storage tanks only added to the violence of that din.

It was a thousand years of terror squeezed into a few seconds of time! But the crew didn't have the time to be terrorized. Worried? Yes, but not panic stricken for their adrenalin was in free flow and they could only react to the needs of the moment.

(Earlier in Chapter 6, we spoke of the airman who does what must be done while under fire and doesn't even know that he had done it without some other later form of evidence.

Now you will see another type of airman: one who is fired up by adrenaline and knows precisely what must be done and does it without any sense of fear, only urgency. In short, he is simply too busy to be afraid and, in addition, the whole situation becomes simply too unreal.)

The plane had lurched violently to the left as a result of the tremendous concussion and Stein and Kennedy used every ounce of their strength to regain control. And they managed to recover it just in time to avoid a collision with another B-17 which surely would have resulted in the same flaming destruction of both aircraft that they had seen over the Zuider Zee on their first mission to Leipzig.

( Over the years since this incident, Jetty often has wondered if he could have possibly spotted the tracking pattern of that flak and alerted the pilot in time for evasive action if he had not spent those few seconds insuring that the bombs were indeed 'away." In all probability, it would not have helped a bit but like all of the other "what ifs' and " if onlysn in all wars, it is a haunting question that can never be answered!)

Jetty had been momentarily blinded by the brilliant, white flashes of the exploding flak shells and had just regained his eyesight when a rocket barely missed the fuel tanks as it passed through the right wing and exploded about three hundred feet overhead. He remembers thinking, at the time, that the rocket must have been armed with a timed fuse for if it had been an impact or proximity fuse, the "Berlin Special" and all of it's crew surely would have been destroyed.

But there was no time for such thinking; he had to complete his battle damage survey and report their condition to Lt Stein. However, Jetty already knew that his plane was mortally wounded and that they would not be returning to Podington this day, if ever. So he took a brief moment to say goodbye to those who were viewing the final agonies of the "Berlin Special.' He turned his turret towards his fellow flight engineer, Ray Schlobohm, who was just off their left wing in "Old Dutch Cleanser." (A plane that Jetty's crew had used on several prior missions and, "Oh, how I wish I was with her now!") He slowly

raised and lowered his guns as a gesture of farewell from one air comrade to another and Ray responded in the same way. (Many months later  Jetty was truly saddened when he learned that on August 25, 1944, the "Old Dutch Cleanser" took a direct hit in the

 

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still-loaded bomb bay over the Netherlands with disastrous results. None of the crew, including the flight engineer, Ray Schlobohm, survived. Ray had been one of Jetty's closest friends since their days together at Amarillo.)

Suddenly, there was no flow of oxygen in their face masks so the entire crew switched to the emergency oxygen walkaround bottles until the extent of the damage to the oxygen system could be determined. At the same time, Lt Stein put the ship into a steep dive to get below 20,000 feet -where the oxygen would be almost adequate for normal breathing and a reduced but not immobile activity.

Time has little meaning for those who are in circumstances such as these: it seems to either stand still or to take an eternity for even slightest effort. In this case, it seemed to be an eternity but it couldn't have been more than a very few minutes after that blinding flash when Jetty started to do his damage survey. And, that was an exhausting struggle against the tilted floor of that plunging dive and the unexpected load of that walkaround bottle!

But, the survey had to be done!

Miraculously, not one crewmember had received a single scratch although the floor was liberally littered with pieces of shrapnel. The other news, however, was not so good. The once sleek and threatening "Berlin Special" was now a battered lady with gaping holes - some bigger than a man's fist - scattered throughout her fuselage, her wings and other flying surfaces. That rocket had left a two foot hole in the right outboard wing and the horizontal stabilizer looked more like sieves than aircraft control surfaces. (Jetty would learn later that there also was a three foot hole in the vertical stabilizer.)

They had “lost” their oxygen and hydraulic systems and the radio antenna. The radio, itself, was riddled! They were no longer able to communicate with the outside world but, much to their amazement, they could still talk to each other on the intercom system.

Without oxygen, they couldn't stay at altitude for very long and without hydraulic

pressure, control of the plane would be difficult at best or at worst, impossible which, of course, raised the possibility of abandoning the bird. (That was not a pleasant thought under any circumstances but, considering the fact that they were over enemy territory that they had just bombed, it was an absolutely terrifying idea!)

Worst of all, two of their four engines had been so badly damaged that they had to be shut down. The number one engine had been successfully "feathered' but the number four engine simply windmilled which only added more to the drag that already was threatening to pull them down into the not-so-tender mercies of the enemy fighters.

Jetty's damage survey only confirmed his earlier assessment of the plane's condition and he dreaded his report to Stein: all damage and no possibility of controlling it. It was, at the very best, a bad, bad situation!

In spite of his breathing difficulties and the extreme angle of the plane, a very exhausted Jetty Cook stumbled to the cockpit to give the pilots a full damage report. Lt Stein's response was calm but just as disturbing as Jetty's report. He told Jetty that they needed some more oxygen walkaround bottles if they were to stay awake and function properly until they reached a safe oxygen operating altitude.

Lt Stein then said the much dreaded words over the intercom, "We are going down!'

Although he spoke quietly, the words, themselves, were like thunder in the ears of the crew. The thought of bailing out was bad enough but, if they had to do it at all, they wanted it to be anywhere except over this particular bit of enemy territory. Then Stein gave them all a little ray of hope. He went on to say, in a very positive voice, that he and Kennedy would keep them flying as long as they could and that they (the crew) could help by "throwing out everything that isn't nailed down." He cautioned them to wait until they got down to where they could breathe on their own and, 'I'll let you know when to start tossing.

 

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In the meantime, take it easy and conserve your oxygen." His comments were a big morale-booster for the crew and they began to think that they might get out of '"this mess" after all.

Jetty told John Kocon to collect all of the walkaround bottles except those already in use and pass them foiward for the pilots. Bill Clerkin  and Lt Burbank passed theirs to Lt Kennedy. Jetty arranged all of the bottles for easy access so that the pilots could focus on keeping the plane in  the air. After that, Jetty lurched back to his own little niche to conserve oxygen while he waited.

In an odd sort of way, the release of their extra walkaround bottles was a kind of a relief to the crew. They knew that they would pass out from a lack of oxygen [3] but that they would recover if not deprived of it for too long a time. Even more importantly though, they now knew that they could not bail out and face a horde of angry Germans who, as we noted before, were not known for their solicitude to captured fliers.

Then Jetty quietly went to 'sleep" with the rest of the crew while Stein and Kennedy continued their struggle with the violently plunging aircraft.

The pilots were able to pull the plane out of its dive at 17,000 feet and Jetty and the rest of the crew regained a sluggish consciousness that seemed to improve with each loss of another foot of altitude. Even though he knew the radio was shot, Lt Stein tried to advise the group commander of their status but couldn't. (Their plight was reported in the mission debriefing and they were simply listed as 'missing in action." The last time the other crews had seen the B-17 named "'Berlin Special" was when it was plunging downward and had just disappeared into a thick layer of clouds 5,000 feet below the formation. Jetty could almost hear the crews of the other ships muttering, "'Those poor bastards"' as they returned to their own consciousness that a similar fate might lie ahead for them before that day was over)

An immediate assessment of their situation indicated that they were alone in the sky and safe for the moment but that they couldn't sustain their altitude because of the still windmilling engine. This meant a slower flight (if they could maintain it at all) al a lower level and with considerably more danger from roaming enemy fighters. Lt Stein told the crew that, "'Now is the time to clean house." The rear access door was propped open and out went flak suits, guns , ammunition, rations, flares, coffee and water bottles, flying gear, the radio, the putt-putt and their steel helmets. After they had thrown out every thing that they could think of, they started firing all of the ammunition already loaded for their guns. Jetty fired his guns aimlessly until they were too hot to fire any more. Then he delinked the ammunition remaining in the canisters and dragged these partially full containers behind him as he crawled down to the lower deck so he could drop it all through the open nose hatch of the plane.

Next he crawled back into the turret and field stripped the guns and again crawled back to the nose hatch to dump them too. But the combination of the thin oxygen at that level of flight (probably 15,000 feet), the exertions under this oxygen deprivation and the excitement proved to be too much for him and he simply passed out. It was only for a brief time until his body was able to catch up to tile conditions at hand and when he came out of it, he could only remember that he was headed for the nose hatch so he started for it again. He had his head and shoulders out of the hatch when Bill Clerkin spotted him and pulled him back into the plane by the seat of his pants.

 

[3] The deprivation  of  oxygen  to  the  brain  is  known  as  "anoxia." All  aircrewmen train for it in allitude chambers.

Although it can be fatal survival is assured by a return of oxygen to the blood stream  "within a few minutes.'"  

 

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Jetty did not have his parachute pack on! He had taken it off because he couldn't wear it while in the turret and it would only have slowed him down as he went between the turret and the hatch to throw out the excess weight.

No matter what the dangers are, there is usually at least one little happening or

occurrence that seems to lift the spirits of those who are in the deepest trouble. And one of these occurred, once again, with our friend, Bill Clerkin. After their disorienting rapid descent from the high skies, Stein asked Bill to provide a heading for England. Bill twiddled with his sharp pencils for awhile and then blandly admitted that he had no idea of where they were. Then, with a completely deadpan face, he very politely asked Lt Stein to return to Kothen so that he could get his bearings to figure out the proper vector.

This request was met by a stunned silence and Bill very nearly went the way of the other excess baggage. (In all fairness to Bill, the crew realized that some of his vital navigational tools had also been thrown out to lighten the load.) Obviously, Stein did not comply with Clerkin's polite request but 'the load' of the crew was surely lightened and they were able to take a fresh look at their situation.

The drag created by the windmilling engine was still pulling them closer to Mother Earth and they renewed their efforts to discard whatever they could. Someone suggested dropping the ball turret but this was a major decision because if they were able to make it back to the English Channel, they could not safely ditch the plane with that very large hole in its belly.

Lt Stein made a command decision to drop the ball. Their chances of making it to the English Channel were slight and, even if they did, they couldn't contact the British Air-Sea Rescue Service because their radio command channel was out. Survival in the cold, fast-moving waters of the channel was next to impossible without a near immediate rescue.

So the crew got busy and removed all of the the restraints on the turret except the major one. Then they waited until a small German town passed below them and released that final restraint. Thus a small German village had the dubious honor of being bombed by a several hundred pound four foot ball of steel and plexiglass dropped from one of the dreaded American invaders of the air. The crew never saw the 'bomb" land but they knew it didn't explode.

Meanwhile the pilots were finally successful in their efforts to feather the windmilling prop of the number 4 engine which was very fortunate since it was highly doubtful that the engine mounting could have withstood the extremely severe vibrations much longer. This was certainly a good omen for all of them.

These two events somewhat restored their morale - for awhile.

They continued on their westward course for another hour or so but they were still losing altitude despite the full power of their two remaining engines. Suddenly four American P-38 "Lightning" fighters joined and escorted them. This was a heaven sent gift: their worries about German fighters were over and the P-38 flight leader would alert American controllers of their plight and position. But for some unknown reason he apparently never did or the communication got lost in handling because Podington never got any word on them except that they were last seen in a steep dive into heavy clouds and that there was no

radio communication from them.

The P-38's continued to provide cover until they had to refuel. They left with the

traditional thumbs-up wave and the Stein crew was once again alone in the sky. By now they were down to a couple of thousand feet and Lt Stein advised them all that if he could find a reasonable place to crash land in the undulating ground below, he would do so but a

 

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bail-out was more likely to occur first. Jetty and the pilots had eyes only for the aircraft instruments and let the others watch for the remaining dangers in the skies. They were all prepared to jump but not quite ready for it when Lt Kennedy's sudden yell that the the number three engine (one of their two remaining good engines) was on fire forced their hand [4].

Stein punched that bail-out bell!

Jetty made a quick trip amidships to make sure that all in the rear of the plane had heard the bell and arrived in time for a final wave by John Kocon as he followed the others out through the hole where the ball turret had been. So Jetty scrambled back to the cockpit just in time to see Clerkin and Burbank dive through the nose hatch. Jetty, Stein and Kennedy were all that were left and the plane was going down. A quick "Good Luck" and Jetty was sitting on the edge of the nose hatch [5] ready to fall out of the ship which was only about 900 feet (275 meters) in the air. He must have been terrified that his arms would flail about in the air flow and he wouldn't be able to find the rip cord handle or maybe that he would open his parachute too soon because he held the handle firmly with his right hand, placed his left forearm over his 'chute pack and grabbed his right wrist tightly with his left hand.

Then he bent his head to his knees and fell headfirst through that rather small hatch. In his first panicky reaction, he remembers thinking, "What if my left hand won't let my right pull the handler?" He tumbled two or three times, then straightened his arms and legs and as he did so he found himself looking straight at the plane just as Kennedy and Stein bailed out. His first (and fanciful) thought: 'We're all safe!" Then he pulled the rip cord and suddenly all of that lovely white silk started flowing past his face. But he panicked again: "What if the shroud lines weren't tied right? And he tried to grab the chute to him so that he could check it and then throw it back out into the air. Fortunately, he couldn't

catch it and that beautiful white flower simply blossomed over his head."

He thought that that billowing canopy and his gentle swinging in the air beneath it were the most wonderful and beautiful sensations of his entire life and, of all things, he suddenly burst out into "We're off to the road to Morocco . . . ." (a song from one of the Hope/Crosby "Road" movies that he had recently seen at the post theater). Why not? Wasn't he alive, well and gently floating in the sky under a gorgeously balmy July day? And to add to his fantasy, he could see little twinkling fairy lights and hear the chatter of magpies from the fawn colored grassy plain with the magical green speckles of a few bushes that was

sweeping so softly toward him from below. His singing didn't last long because reality quickly shattered his euphoria when he suddenly realized that those "twinkling fairy lights" and "magpies" were really gun flashes and shots from angry Germans below who were using him and his companions in the sky for targets. Nor was the ground so "magical!' In fact, it was nearly devoid of any cover except for a few clumps of bushes scattered here and there and some fairly large groupings of trees two or three miles to the west and southwest. Suddenly he was filled with a terror common to all airmen: was he being strafed by enemy fighters as he hung helplessly in the sky? A quick scan of the air relieved him of this worry but his collective worries and unfocused thoughts caused him to do a seemingly foolish thing that probably saved his life

and certainly saved him from the anguishes of life in a POW camp.

Jetty was about 500 feet above the ground when he realized the source of the gunfire and came back into the "real' world with the thought, "If I gotta die today, I'd rather it be by sudden impact with the ground instead of having my body ripped apart by bullets."

 

[4] They were fortunate, indeed, that it was engine number three, and not number two, that had caught fire. If it had been number two, they could not have used the nose hatch and would have had to hail out of the hole where the ball turret had been. In view of their altitude at the time, it is highly doubtful that either Kennedy or Stein could have made their bail out.

[5] This certainly was not the normal bail-out routine that dictated pilot, copilot and flight engineer escape through the open bomb bay doors; however with only one good engine left, any attempt to open the bomb bay doors would have resulted in an immediate stall and an equally immediate crash with little chance of survival. It is also important to recognize that all of this action took place in a matter of seconds. not minutes.

 

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 And he "dumped' the air from his 'chute and plummeted towards the ground! Purely by estimate, he released the riser about 200 feet above the ground and, by the grace of God alone, it worked! That beautiful white flower once again blossomed over his head.

(All military airmen receive some training in maneuvering their parachute through the use of one or both of the main "risers" in their parachute shroud lines. This is an emergency procedure that, in over simplified terms, allows the ichutist to slip the air from under one portion of his chute and thus change his rate and direction of descent - either individually or simultaneously. It is not a procedure that is to be used lightly and certainly not when in close proximity to the ground!)

Fortunately he landed in a heavily grassed area with his knees slightly bent to cushion his fall, rolled on his left shoulder and raised to his knees for a better view in the direction of the gunfire. With his head just barely above the top of the grass he saw three German vehicles speeding in his general direction. He dropped to his hands and knees and hurriedly pulled his 'chute canopy to him and then crawled to a thick bush that was about seven feet tall and 15 feet away. There he raised his head and shoulders into the bush while he kneeled on the canopy and tried to make himself as invisible as possible. He could see John Kocon unsuccessfully trying to hide behind a lone and very skimpy bush about

400 yards to the east. As he watched, three large jeep-like German field vehicles drove up and stopped close to John. About ten Germans with three or four dogs got out. They soon located John and put him in one of the vehicles. Then they drove towards Jetty. The three vehicles stopped about 50 yards south of his hiding place and then, inexplicably but very fortunately for Jetty, the vehicle containing the dogs moved slowly off to the west. Jetty did his best to merge with the ground and his bush as he breathed a prayer that the three of them would become as one. Eight to ten German soldiers climbed out of the remaining two vehicles and looked around in apparent confusion for they were sure that they had seen one of the parachuting airmen hit the ground there but there was no sign of him now. So they spread out to check the area. Several of them passed about 15 yards from his position and paused as they peered at his by now, very meager bush with their rifles and machine guns at the ready. Perhaps they were just as tired and scared as Jetty was because they just looked and then walked on. Once again, God seemed to be on Jetty's side and Jetty fully realized that probability the instant he found that he had forgotten to carry his pistol that day in the hectic preparation for the unexpected mission.

(A single pistol definitely is no protection against a dozen soldiers armed with automatic weapons, rifles and pistols!)

By cautiously moving only his head while attempting to remain dead still, Jetty had seen Kocon sitting in one of the vehicles with a very scared look on his face. Now as the Germans walked towards the west followed by their vehicles, Jetty trailed them with his eyes as they joined the vehicle with the dogs. The German soldiers in that vehicle already had picked up Lt Kennedy who had hit the ground about 75 yards west of Jetty and, like Kocon, had the misfortune to land in the knee deep grass of an open area that was virtually without any protecting bushes. Then the Germans drove around the area for another 15 or 20

minutes before they headed for their bivouac area.

Jetty remained with his faithful bush while he tried to gather his thoughts. He was all alone and as safe as he could possibly be but only for the moment. It was precisely 1 pm, Friday, July 20, 1944 and he was just two months and nine days short of twenty years of age.

Perhaps not so oddly as one might think, his first thought was, "Friday the thirteenth is a week late this year' His second thought was, "I sure am hungry and thirsty.Then he rested as well as he could.

The combination of his extreme fatigue and the fear, loneliness, hunger, thirst and plain

 

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despair robbed him of his realism. He got out his map with idea of plotting a very careful and detailed route back to the English Channel where he would commandeer a fishing boat and triumphantly sail back to England. But then he remembered that he didn't have any idea, even approximately, of where he was nor did the map have a scale for distances. A plan of such futile desperation breeds only in the mind of an equally desperate man!

Jetty stayed in that area until nearly sundown and he carefully watched for any intruder as he inventoried his assets. He had his dog tags, his identification bracelet from Curtis and his "double Er" kit but he didn't have his weapon and he had lost his survival knife sohe couldn't salvage any of the shroud lines and panels of his parachute that would have been useful in his evasion efforts. He was without any water or food. His last asset was his dark green flying suit but he really wasn't sure if that was an asset or a liability. It, unfortunately, very effectively absorbed the warmth of a blistering afternoon sun on a hot day in July and served more to add to his thirst than anything else. And his protective bush

provided little real shade. So he quickly buried the 'chute in a shallow hole and started out in a westerly direction.

After a final check of the area, he headed west crouching as low as possible to maintain a low profile against the almost barren horizon. A mile or so later he came to what seemed to be an isolated bomb crater about 12 feet deep and filled with a dirty, but ever so lovely and wet water. After searching the surrounding area for any possible threats, he crawled down into that crater and had a long reviving drink of water. That drink was almost his downfall for the soil in the crater was near the consistency of quicksand. He got out of that crater but only with great difficulty and exertion.

As daylight quickly faded away he continued his westward walk skirting close to a

small road when about a half hour later he saw a man who seemed to be a farmer cutting across Jetty's line of travel about a 100 yards ahead. Jetty knew that he had to take a chance sometime and this seemed to be the most opportune moment. So he approached the man with a thumping heart, a smile on his face, his hand stuck out in the universal gesture of friendship and the words, 'American! American! American!" The man's face lit up; he grabbed Jetty's hand and pumped it wildly while chattering in some language Jetty didn't

understand. Jetty's relief was almost physical!

Jetty took out his escape map and showed it to the man who pointed to an area denoting northeast Belgian. Still excited, the man then pointed to the west and held up five fingers while repeatedly telling Jetty, "Leopoldsburg (display of fingers) kilometers." The man who obviously was a farmer chattered some more, patted Jetty on the back and went on his way Jetty felt much reassured and headed for what he assumed to be the town of Leopoldsburg (apparently too small to be on his map) but he was still very cautious despite his apparent warm welcome.

It was almost 11 pm and he was again thirsty and hungry and exhausted. In the part of his mind where he tried to keep his spirits up, he remembers thinking "Well, Jetty, you wanted to get away from Big Spring and see exciting places and meet different people but isn't this just a little bit ridiculous?" He pressed on and finally began to see more farm houses silhouetted against the starlit sky but he carefully avoided those with telephone lines, dogs or voices. It was well after midnight when he came on a small rundown farmhouse with a few small outbuildings that looked like a perfect candidate for his needs.[6]

Jetty was both mentally and physically exhausted and had not eaten in nearly 24 hours yet he approached that door with great apprehension and he was fully prepared to run at the first sign of hostility.

 

[6] As part of their training, the airmen had been told to look for the poorest family in the area as a strong indication that the occupying family did not collaborate with the Germans. Today, he says that he probably found the poorest family in all of Belgian.

 

10

 He knocked quietly. And after a few moments, a man [7] opened the door Jetty started repeating: 'American! American!' The man looked around outside and quickly motioned Jetty to come in. He entered into a very small and sparse, almost barren living room and stood there. A woman, a young boy and two teen- age girls entered the room. The family and Jetty stood and stared at each other until Jetty made some eating and drinking motions with his hands. It was almost as if they had forgotten themselves at the sight of this strange foreigner: they promptly sat him at a table and rushed around to get what they could for him, some bread and what he thought was water but was really cold ersatz coffee. The bread had a harshly strong taste and the coffee was terrible but it was better than filet mignon and champagne to Jetty at that moment and at least his hunger and thirst were satisfied.

 

                      Peter Stessens                                                   Maria (Jansen) Stessens

 

The farm from the family Stessens

 

The man dressed and after reassuring Jetty as best he could, rushed out the door and returned in about 45 minutes with a young man who spoke a little English and was younger than Jetty. The new visitor told Jetty that he was about three kilometers north of Leopoldsburg and that the language was Flemish. He tried to ask Jetty some questions but his exhaustion was quite apparent and the young man gently took Jetty by the arm and lead him to the hayloft in the barn. Jetty covered himself with hay and slept.

The airborne warrior was now bound to the earth!

[7] Jetty arrived here with the family Stessens who lived at that time at Kerkhovenweg 59, Leopoldsburg. He was a poor farmer and was married with Maria Jansen. They had 8 children. The 4 oldest were boys, the 4 youngest were girls. During Jetty's visit in 1994 he visited that farm and met Rosa Stessens, who was 13 years old at 1944 and Josée Stessens who was 12 years old at that time. See Visit 1994

 

11

When Jetty awoke from his exhausted sleep in the hayloft, lie found a young man about 16 years old sitting on a nearby bale of hay, loosely dangling a pistol over his knee, and closely watching him. The lad greeted Jetty in very good English and asked if he was hungry. Jetty nodded eagerly and preceded the lad down a ladder to a table that had been set up in the barn. One of the young girls that he had seen the previous night served him with bread, cheese and some more of that ersatz coffee. He ate ravenously. The young man sat across the table and amiably chatted while Jetty ate. (One of the little things Jetty learned was that the coffee was made from acorns.) But that gun never wavered from Jetty's direction!

 

After breakfast, the young man began to ask Jetty some pointed questions as well as the usual name, rank and serial number He wanted to know things about Jetty's unit, aircraft and targets and about those of other unit's too. Jetty, rather carefully, explained that under the Geneva Conventions, he was required to give only his name, rank and serial number. Just as carefully, he went on to say that as a soldier it was his duty to evade capture and to attempt escape and evasion if he was captured. He emphasized that these were facts also recognized by the Geneva Conventions. The young man responded that he represented the Belgian Maquis [8], that Jetty was not a prisoner of war and that he must answer their questions if he wanted their help.

Jetty asked why all of this information was necessary. The chilling answer was simply that many German agents had previously bailed out of captured aircraft in an attempt to link to the underground. When the members of the underground were identified, they were arrested by the Gestapo and tortured to make them reveal information about the overall Maquis operations and its other members. A few of the captured freedom fighters were then sent to slave labor camps in Germany but the great majority of them were executed after they had been drained of information. Thus these questions were absolutely necessary to insure that Jetty actually was an American and not a masquerading Gestapo agent.

After some more discussion, they mutually agreed that Jetty would respond to all of the personal information asked but that he would provide nothing that dealt with military matters. The questions were many and covered such oddly mundane things as his mother 's maiden name, the middle names of his brothers and the addresses of various friends and relatives. The young man told Jetty that this information would be verified through unidentified Maquis channels and then he most cheerfully told Jetty that he would remain in that barn, under armed guard, until the verification was completed. Although Jetty knew that his identity would be verified, he felt more than a little uncomfortable when the young man wished him well and said goodbye.

For the next two days Jetty waited under the 24 hour armed guard of some very pleasant young Maquis men. They were indeed friendly but their guns were always painfully evident.

The farm family hovered over Jetty as though he were visiting royalty. The kids were always peeking at him until they were shooed away by the family or the Maquis. 

[8] French, literally "The Thicket". Generally connoted to a hiding place for fugitives, guerrilla fighters, etc. Hence: the French and Belgian underground forces during World War II. It applies to single individuals and to the resistance forces as a whole. The primary purposes of the Maquis were to gather information for Allied intelligence, disrupt German operations and sabotage German facilities. The rescue and aid of Allied airmen and escaped POW's and channeling them to neutral countries such as Sweden, Switzerland and Spain was purely a secondary role. In the eyes of the Maquis, the defeat of Nazi Germany was of overriding importance. More widely known in Belgium as "La Resistance."

 

12

The family Stessens did their very best to satisfy his limited needs despite their obvious poverty. Breakfast and lunch consisted of their black bread, cheese and coffee and for dinner, boiled potatoes were substituted for the usual cheese. That Sunday, the farm woman slaughtered an old red rooster which seemed to be the only chicken that they had. As the guest of honor, Jetty was given the choice piece, the thigh. It looked delicious but it was so tough that Jetty could not even bite into it. Finally, he laid it aside with an apologetic gesture. One of the young girls snatched it up and hastily finished it off while Jetty feasted on his boiled potatoes. Jetty felt a certain affinity for their plight and he wanted desperately to help them but there was nothing he could do. Not one single thing!

On Monday morning Jetty tensed as he saw the first young Maquis approaching the house. Then he relaxed with a soft sigh for the young man's face was creased by a broad grin and there was no gun in sight. Jetty knew that his identification had been verified before the lad even told him so.

Jetty stayed hidden by his humble hosts for another two days as the young man briefed him on his options and taught him some European habits and customs that would help him if he was stopped by the Germans or German sympathizers.

At the start of his indoctrination to the world of "escape and evasion', he was given two options: first, the Maquis could arrange his safe surrender to the Germans for internment as a POW. Secondly, he could join the Maquis in their operations while they tried to smuggle him either to Switzerland or to Spain (with a very remote possibility of his return to England).

Jetty briefly pondered these possibilities. He felt that since he was a non-commissioned officer he probably would be treated humanely by the Germans. (The key word there was "probably") As for the alternative, he could well be caught by the enemy and executed as a spy. (And of course the key word in this case was "executed.") Neither option seemed particularly desirable to Jetty but he knew that he had to make a decision and that it was his and his alone to make. He thought of his responsibilities and his earlier strong desires to punish Hitler and his minions for their inhumanity to man. This brought him to thoughts of Lidice, Czechoslovakia where, as a retaliatory action against the local resistance for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the deputy to Nazi SS [9] leader Heinrich Himmler the SS and the Gestapo slaughtered all of the men of the village. The women and children were sent to concentration camps where most of them perished. Then the village was erased from the face of the earth with bulldozers. (For all intents and purposes, these 1,200 people and their village ceased to exist.) And he thought of the brutality of war, the deaths of his fellow airmen and how he, himself, had come to realize both the futility and the repugnance of war and killing. As these thoughts raced through his mind, he knew that he had already made up his mind and that a decision really wasn't necessary: he would join the Maquis and continue the struggle although he now loathed the very idea of mankind killing each other. In more simple terms, he would do what he had to do!

When Jetty announced his intentions, the young Maquis told him that he would have to give up everything in his possession. Jetty gave the Maquis everything he had except the ID bracelet given to him by Curtis. His retention of this bracelet was a matter of concern to the Maquis and he warned Jetty to be very careful about any display of it. Jetty was then given some civilian clothing which fit him fairly well; however, the young Maquis had to show him how to put on the detachable collar used by the Europeans. He also taught Jetty how to tie his shoelaces and to use a knife and a fork in the European style and then went over some of the local customs and more common traits prevalent in Europe. 

[9] Schutzstaffel- or "elite guard": A Nazi organization created to serve as the personal guard of Adolph littler. It was later expanded to include the responsibility for intelligence, central security, general policing and, in particular the extermination of "undesirables.""

 

13

(Even a momentary slip in any of these areas would result in instant arrest!) Jetty learned his lessons well.

When the Maquis came again on Wednesday, he told Jetty that he would soon have some company and, about an hour later, Mel Crouch, Stan Jones and Fred Noble arrived at the farm. Their reunion was subdued but joyous. They laughed when they saw that Jetty had picked what he called 'the poorest family in Belgium" for his refuge. And as they related their stories to Jetty, it soon became evident that their first place of refuge was much better off than his.

Fred's and Stan's parachutes had brought them down almost together near the town of Eksel, Belgium and about six miles northeast of where Jetty had landed. They had practically fallen into the arms of four Belgian girls who were members of the Maquis and the girls had hidden them in a cornfield until the searching German soldiers had moved on to other areas. After the Germans had abandoned their search the girls took Fred and Stan to a well-camouflaged door in a small cave smothered by a covering hedgerow Fred silently indicated their thirst to the girls by sign language and two of the girls left while the other two maintained a loose watch over the area. The first two girls returned with a bottle of cognac which both Fred and Stan considered to be a highly acceptable substitute for the water that they had expected. Then the girls left.

They returned early the next morning and took Fred and Stan to a doctor's house in the village of Hechtel, Belgium. There they met Mel who was already "in residence."

Unlike the other two, Mel had landed smack in the center of the Hechtel town square! (Hechtel is about two or three miles east of where Jetty landed.) He was quickly surrounded by the villagers who rapidly hurried in his direction as a German truck loaded with soldiers raced towards them from less than a mile away. When the Germans arrived some of the more nervy villagers fended them off while other villagers hastily removed various articles of clothing and passed them to Mel. A minute or two later the villagers disbursed and the only evidence of an enemy parachutist that the Germans ever found was a parachute, a flight suit and a pair of GT brogans. Mel had been whisked away to the doctor's house and was enjoying a fine lunch with wine when Fred and Stan arrived the following day.

Unlike Jetty's hosts the doctor had cows, pigs, chickens and his own vegetable garden and the three of them had eaten much better than they had since leaving the States.

Then the doctor and the Maquis people decided that they should have a party with Fred, Mel and Stan as the honored guests. One of the young Belgian girls tuned the doctor's radio to the BBC and found a program of good dance music. The doctor brought out some more cognac and the dancing began but with two of the Maguis girls keeping a close watch for any German patrols that might be poking around the neighborhood. It was a good party with Mel getting a round of applause from his high-kicking antics. Poor Fred, however, received his only wound of the war when Mel accidentally (?) kicked him in the butt during one of those antics. (Many years later Fred told Jetty that that was some party," and that he never could understand why the Germans didn't hear it. He also said that he still vividly remembers that kick-in-the-butt bestowed on him by Mel.)

The three of them stayed with the good doctor (and his fine food and wine) until the following Monday when the Maquis brought some civilian clothes for Fred and Stan. Then the three bid the doctor adieu and left following a Maquis escort who was riding a bicycle. Their guide led them through the center of Hechtel where hundreds of German soldiers were milling about as they waited for a train. Fortunately, they remembered the guidance to walk with their hands in their pockets like the Belgians did. They followed their guide for another circuitous ten miles or so until they came to Jetty's farmhouse refuge.

 

14

After the excitement of their get-together had worn off, it was decided that another celebration was in order. Fred had spotted an old wind-up phonograph player and the good farmer provided a couple of bottles of wine. Then they all, American fliers, Belgian hosts and Belgian Maquis, had a party; somewhat subdued of course but still a party. As they were taking turns dancing with the farmer's wife and daughters, the party came to an abrupt halt when the Maquis look-out spotted an approaching German patrol. Everyone except the family raced to the barn and hid. The family rapidly hid the signs of their celebration. Jetty and the others watched through the cracks in the barn as the Germans drove slowly past the front of the farmhouse. They examined the place carefully but, fortunately, they did not stop for a physical check. When they were gone, the group breathed a sigh of relief and rejoined the family in the house. The celebration went on but very quietly and without the music and dancing.

Just after returning to the house, another member of the Maquis arrived with Jetty's new Belgian identification papers. He now was Jean [9] Louis Delrey; a carpenter by trade and a deaf mute. (This disability would prove to be very useful in some later events.) He was then advised that he would be leaving his refuge very shortly.

 

He said his goodbyes to the family and to Mel, Stan and Fred. They wished each other luck and Jetty had his last laugh with them because it was now their turn to go on limited rations. Soon afterwards, a very attractive blonde lady arrived to guide Jetty to his next destination. They would leave on bicycles provided by the Maquis and Jetty was instructed to follow the blonde lady and to maintain a 150 to 200 yard distance behind her at all times. (This was done for the protection of both of them in the event either one was stopped by a German patrol.) Another quick 'goodbye" and they left.

Rudy Kenis: This blond lady was Elisabeth Cox, the woman of Robert Van Parys. During the war, Captain Van Parys was a POW (Prisoner Of War). Elisabeth told me that she and her husband wrote to eachother what looks like  normal letters but in fact there was a code in it so they could share secret information.

 

(Some months later when Jetty, Mel and Fred met again, Mel said that he and Stan left the farmhouse about three days after Jetty and that Fred would have too but he became quite ill, apparently with a type of food poisoning. Fred said that he had run a very high temperature with extreme chills. It was so bad, he said, that the farmer's older daughter had climbed into bed with him to provide her body heat. And of course being the nice guys that they were, Jetty and Mel kidded him about it being the only time in his life that he had been unable to perform in bed with a gal. (And Fred admitted it.)

The blonde lady went first and Jetty followed at the prescribed distance. They took what seemed to be a most circuitous route for about an hour and finally came to the center of Leopoldsburg.

(Jetty later was told that this route had been followed so that he could never find his way back to his place of refuge. It also is interesting to note that he was never able to learn the real names of his hosts at that farmhouse nor of any of the Maquis whom he contacted. It was only during his last few weeks behind German lines that he learned any names at all. At first, Jetty was a little puzzled by this. He felt that it was a lack of trust but he soon learned the reason behind these seemingly extreme measures: if he was captured by the Germans he could never reveal any specifics concerning names and places that would result in the capture of these resistance heroes by the dreaded Gestapo.)

Jetty saw the blonde lady make a right turn at what apparently was the main intersection in this very small village but when he came to the corner, she was nowhere in sight nor was anyone else. (Unbeknownst to Jetty, this was the time of day when most Belgians had a quick nap — much like the Mexican siesta time.) The thought of a trap flashed through his mind but then he spotted her bicycle leaning against the side of a building. He rode over and leaned his bike against the building and, with a deep breath, he boldly walked through an open door just a few feet away

[9]The French reach equivalent of our "John.”

 

15

He found himself inside of a small Belgian bar with ten or so German soldiers drinking beer at a half dozen rough hewn tables. None of them seemed to take the slightest interest in him and Jetty was about to turn around and calmly walk out of the bar when he looked at the bartender who surreptitiously motioned towards a stairway in the back. Jetty coolly walked through the 25 feet of the bar and climbed the stairs to the second floor. (That was the longest walk of his life!) He knocked on the door and it was quickly opened by his guide, the blonde lady. She was well guarded by a huge growling dog with the largest head that Jetty had ever seen. A word from the blonde lady and the dog approached Jetty with a wagging tail and they made friends. Jetty breathed a great sigh of relief. It seemed to him that he had been holding his breath ever since he first lost sight of his blonde friend!

 

                                               Picture: Rudy Kenis during Jetty's visit in 1994

 

The blonde lady explained to him that the clothes he was wearing had belonged to her husband, a former Belgian army captain who had been captured by the Nazis and had been in a POW camp for more than four years. Presumably, the dog caught his master's scent in the clothing that Jetty was wearing and that was why he turned so friendly. Whatever the reason, Jetty was extremely happy that the dog had accepted him and he even liked its constant presence by his side during his stay. The bartender brought his food up to him that evening and Jetty went to sleep that night in a real bed, his first in the week since he had bailed out of his aircraft. He remembers his last thought, "Has it really been only seven days?'

He awoke during that night in great fear: a siren unlike any he had ever heard before was screaming "just outside" his window. The dog was growling fiercely! He jumped from bed and threw on his clothes to escape his imagined Gestapo raid. Before he ran, he peeked through the wooden window shutters and to his great relief, there was a fire engine just down the street with firemen jumping out to extinguish a blaze in a small building. He shook his head at his own willingness to panic, undressed and went ruefully back to bed.

Jetty had been cautioned to stay in his room and out of sight while he was there but his curiosity got the better of him the next day when he heard the noise of some large trucks. He opened the shutters and stood to the side of the window as he peered outside to see what was going on. Less than a block away, there were two large German army trucks pulling flatbed trailers. On the first trailer, Jetty could see the fuselage of a B-17; the name, "Berlin Special' was painfully evident on its nose. The second trailer carried the wings of the bomber. Jetty inspected the damage to the plane as closely as he could from his vantage point. He could see the badly burned nacelle of engine number 3 and many, many shrapnel holes of varying sizes. At least half of the vertical and horizontal stabilizers were so severely damaged that the jagged ends of many spars and stringers were clearly evident. And, for the first time, Jetty could see a large, three-foot hole in the vertical stabilizer. Nevertheless, the aircraft appeared to be completely repairable and Jetty wondered if it would ultimately become another spying intruder of Allied air armadas. He hoped not as he silently bid his faithful lady-of-the-sky farewell.

That evening his hostess explained some of the facts of life under the German occupation. As you might have expected, people often simply disappeared and were never heard from again. And the constant patrols stopped people at random to check their papers. It was not unusual for a person to be whisked away during one of these checks. Homes and businesses were frequently raided without any apparent rhyme or reason. With great contempt, she told Jetty how the Germans tried to fool the locals by rushing their damaged war gear through the village under the cover of tarpaulins and darkness while on the other hand they literally 'paraded" Allied aircraft and other major weapons of war throughout the countryside. She also said that the German soldiers seemed pretty well demoralized at this point in time (July 1944) and that they were required to sing patriotic songs of the Fatherland whenever a group of four or more were walking along local roads and streets.

 

16

This tactic did not fool the locals either; they were quite up to date on what was going on, thanks to the Maquis. She and they knew that the Allies and the people would prevail!

Early the next morning, his blonde lady awakened him and told him to get ready to leave in a short while. He gathered his kit (toothbrush, razoc shaving brush, comb and spare collars) and he was sitting in the front room with the blonde lady when there was a knock on the door. She opened the door and Jetty leaped to his feet in complete shock for there stood a tall middle-aged German SS officer — resplendent in his full uniform of black with silver piping and insignia and the Nazi iron cross with eagle. Before Jetty could react, the man smiled at him and in perfect English asked him if he was ready to travel. His hostess then explained that their visitor was a member of the Maquis and, in fact, he was the man who had arranged for Jetty's false identification papers.

Rudy: this man was Arthur Schalenborgh

 

Arthur Schalenborgh

 

Jetty followed his new guide downstairs. As they passed through the bar, all of the drinking German soldiers jumped to their feet and saluted. Jetty's "officer" casually threw a Nazi salute and a "Heil Hitler" in return and passed on through the door with Jetty right behind. (Jetty clearly remembers thinking, "This man is as cool as a cucumber!")

The "officer" mounted a motorcycle and Jetty got into the sidecar (which boldly flaunted the insignia of the SS) and they left the village of Leopoldsburg. Jetty thought, 'Gee, this is going to be easier than I ever imagined. VW should be in Switzerland in two or three days." How little he knew what he had yet to face!

They headed in a southerly direction on a narrow macadam road with rolling fields of grain on both sides. About an hour later they rounded a curve in a forested area and saw a German checkpoint just ahead. The roadblock was manned by four German soldiers armed with machine guns. Jetty's "officer" looked at him and Jetty nodded as though to reassure his new found friend that he was ready. They drove boldly up to the checkpoint and stopped. Before the German soldiers could say a word, the "officer", who had assumed the arrogance natural to the SS, began berating the soldiers and waving a large, very official looking pouch at them. In the meantime, Jetty sat in the sidecar with what he hoped was an exasperated expression on his face while he drummed his fingers on the side of the sidecar. The soldiers were thoroughly intimidated. They stiffened to attention, mumbled a few words and finished off with a snappy Nazi salute and a strong 'Heil Hitler.' The 'officer" simply ignored them and drove on through the roadblock. It all happened so quickly that Jetty really never had a chance to feel afraid.

There were no more incidents thong the road and they arrived in the city of Hasselt about a half hour after they left the roadblock. They finally stopped at a nice looking house in a middle-class neighborhood. There they were greeted by an elderly couple who were regarded with great affection by his companion. The 'officer" turned to Jetty and said, "You may call me 'Captain Kurt.' These are my parents. Please address them as 'Madame' and 'Monsieur.'" They lived at Rue Hubert Krains, Waremme.

Captain Kurt showed Jetty around the house and he noted a bathroom with a flush toilet with great delight. After a whispered conversation with Captain Kurt, Jetty hastily availed himself of the bathroom. Captain Kurt even had to knock on the door a couple of times to make sure that Jetty was all right. (It seems that back at the farm there was a three-holer built under a small overhang in the barn. Every time jetty tried to use that "facility" he was joined by one or both of the farmer's daughters. He became very uncomfortably constipated until that ride in the sidecar which seemed to break everything loose. He was badly in need of relief!)

Jetty finally emerged with a very satisfied grin on his face. It was almost as if he were home.

 

17

His new hosts prepared a special dinner for Jetty that night even though it must have cost them dearly in ration coupons. It was a roast with all of the trimmings. The meat had a rather strong taste but he told them that it was the first roast that he had had since he'd left the States and that it was delicious. (He was already aware of the fact that about the only fresh meat available through rationed sources was horse meat.) And he really did appreciate their efforts to make him comfortable.

After dinner, Capt Kurt took Jetty down to the cellar and retrieved a shortwave radio that had been hidden behind a dust bin. They listened to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) VVorld Services radio for a short while. Then Jetty heard the resounding "bong" of London's "Big Ben" as it tolled the hour followed by the opening chords of Beethoven's `Fifth Symphony." Next the speaker produced a number of announcements that seemed both meaningless and crazy to Jetty. Vs.ith his clipped British accent, the announcer would say something like, "Mrs Smith's cow gave birth to twin calves' or "If Uncle Tom in South Hampton hears this, call John" or 'The Times published two special editions today." Each announcement was repeated three times in English, French, German, Norwegian and occasionally in other languages too. Jetty realized that these were messages to "someone' but he thought they were somewhat on the melodramatic side. And of course they were, but they were also very necessary for communication with resistance organizations within territories occupied by the Axis [10] forces. These cryptic messages went on for about a half an hour and one obviously was for Capt Kurt because Jetty saw him smile and make a couple of notes on his pad of paper after one of the announcements.

When the broadcast was over and the radio re-hidden, Capt Kurt explained the broadcast to Jetty. They had been listening to coded messages of instruction or advice from the Allied intelligence agencies to the various resistance groups throughout Europe. Only the specific sender and the intended recipient would know the meaning of the message. The messages, for example, could be telling Tito's partisans in Yugoslavia that an arms drop would be made at a certain time and place, or, informing the Maquis that an RAF "Mosquito" bomber would land at a certain time and place to pick up an Allied agent or a downed airman, or instructing the Danish underground to blow up a certain power station. Jetty was fascinated and he thought it was a great way to pass on information.

The next morning after breakfast, Capt Kurt asked Jetty if he could drive a car [11]. Jetty said, "Yes." Kurt then explained that he was the leader of a resistance group that was about to rob a bank for sorely needed ration coupons. (It seems that they were hiding so many downed Allied airmen and escaped POW's that they were having real difficulty in the feeding of their guests.) He also stated that the robbery had been planned in some detail and that the danger of being apprehended by the Germans was minimal.

Then he did a surprising thing. Jetty had already agreed to join the Maquis, but now Kurt asked him if he would be willing to help in the operation. (It seemed as though he was giving Jetty a second chance to say, 'No.') Jetty simply said, "Yes." Kurt replied, "Good. We'll talk more about it tomorrow." Then he left on some unknown business and Jetty spent the remainder of the day resting in his room.

[10] The general name denoting Germany and all of its allied countries.

[11]Very few cars were available in Germany occupied countries at that time. Most of the young men and many of the older ones too never had an opportunity to learn to drive and even when they did, there simply wasn't any money available to buy one

 

18

Kurt briefed Jetty on the robbery plan early the next morning and they left his parents' house together around ten that morning. They rode Kurt's motorcycle (now without the sidecar) to a deserted barn in a remote wooded area outside of town. There were ten other members of Capt Kurt's band awaiting them with three cars. They all gathered in the barn and reviewed their plan until everyone was satisfied and then they broke into groups of four and went to their assigned cars. (Much to Jetty's delight, he would be driving a 1939 Ford sedan.)

The plan was simple: Kurt's group would park in front of the bank and do the actual robbery. The second car would park in an alley adjacent to the bank and take care of any bank guards (i.e., German soldiers) who might fire at Kurt's escaping vehicle. Jetty and his group would park at an intersection just past the bank and take care of any vehicles that might follow in pursuit. Each of the raiders was armed with a sub-machine gun of one kind or another. (Jetty's was an American .45 caliber, one which he had been trained to use when he was at Kingman.) Each one of the cars also contained a box of hand grenades.

The plan worked to perfection. Capt Kurt and his team parked and went into the bank; they returned in about a minute, jumped into their car and drove off. Two German soldiers ran out of the bank and raised their rifles to fire at the already speeding get-away car. The Maquis in the alley shot both of the soldiers and then sped off in a direction opposite Kurt's car. Jetty waited about 30 seconds after Kurt's car had passed but there was no pursuit so he drove off in yet a third direction and followed a very roundabout route (as directed by one of the Maquis in the car) back to the deserted barn.

When everyone returned to the barn, Capt Kurt elatedly told them that they had gotten all of the food and gas ration cards that were in the bank and that there was enough to support a number of underground families for a couple of months. Later, when they were returning to his house on the motorcycle, Kurt told Jetty that the Germans normally would cancel that particular series of ration coupons; however, he didn't think that it would happen this time because of the growing chaos generated by the increasing intensity of the war.

Jetty felt very good about his role in this effort and to be perfectly honest about it, he was a little bit disappointed that there hadn't been more action.

That evening after dinner, Jetty was alone in his room and slightly astounded over the events of the last ten days since his parachute trip to the Belgian earth. First, he had safely eluded the German soldiers; then he had found a temporary sanctuary and, later, had a couple of nervous journeys to two more refuges. Now he had helped rob a bank. True, it was done for all of the right reasons but he still couldn't believe that he had really done it. He rather ruefully thought that he just might see a wanted poster with his name on it in the next day or so. Tie was thinking of whether he'd prefer to be known as John Dillinger or as Jesse James when there was a knock on his door.

It was Capt Kurt who had come to advise him that he would be moving on to Liege the next morning. He would be there for a couple of days before moving again to the Ardennes Forest in southeastern Belgium and then to France where the Maquis hoped to smuggle him into either Switzerland or Spain.

The next morning Jetty was pleasantly surprised to see that his escort for this journey would be his old friend," the blonde lady". She briefed him on what to expect on their journey and gave him a book in French that he could pretend to read on the train. She told him that she would be speaking in French rather than Flemish since they were going to the French-speaking section of Belgium. (It was during this conversation that Jetty first heard the derogatory term, Le Boche.[12] ) And she reminded him that he was now a deaf mute.

[12] French, roughly translates as "bard-skulled or -cabbage head.-

 

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Jetty said goodbye to Capt Kurt and his parents and followed his blonde lady to the local train station, about a mile from the house. She bought their tickets and they boarded the middle car of a ten car train. (Jetty almost nervously giggled because the train looked like ten connected trolley cars instead of the normal train cars that an American would expect. It seemed more like the Toonerville Trolley" of our old comic strips.) The interior of the car was full of single-backed seats with the seat portions facing to the front and to the rear. Jetty took a rear-facing seat near the front of the car and his escort took a front-facing one several seats away and on the other side of the aisle. This gave them an unobstructed view of each other. At this time the car was about half full.

The conductor came to collect tickets and when he got to the blonde lady she must have given him some sort of a signal for he glanced quickly at Jetty with a brief nod. Jetty gave no sign of acknowledgement but he assumed that the conductor was a member of the Maquis.

At the next stop a number of German soldiers climbed aboard the train. One sat down in the seat next to Jetty and two more sat down facing him. There was very little room between the seats and Jetty's knees continually rubbed against those of the German soldier facing him. Jetty held his book in his lap and periodically turned a page as though he was reading. The Germans did not say anything even between themselves and soon drifted into sleep. Jetty decided that they were pretty much like the typical American GI who would grab any opportunity to sleep.

The journey continued without incident although Jetty admits to more than a little nervousness. The train began to slow down on the outskirts of Liege and his blonde lady gave him a signal that they would be getting off now. When they got off the train in the rail yard and not at the station, she told him that the conductor had indicated that Gestapo agents were at the station and would be boarding the train there for a check of all identification papers.

They started walking toward the center of Liege with his escort about a half block ahead of Jetty. They crossed a long bridge over the Meuse River with German soldiers guarding each end but, fortunately, there were too many people around for the Germans to do any real checking of papers. Unfortunately, these same people caused Jetty to lose sight of his guide so he stood at an intersection and pretended to read his book. Twice someone came up to him and said something but he simply shrugged his shoulders as though he wasn't interested or didn't understand and they left him alone. After nearly ten minutes, his escort passed him and he followed her for another half block and then they entered an apartment building. They walked up four flights of stairs, knocked on a door and were admitted by a man in his mid-thirties. Once inside, Jetty leaned his back against the door and let out a big "Woosh!" That seemed to sum up his relief very well!

Greetings were exchanged in French with Jetty's escort and she introduced him to the man, his wife and a daughter who was about eight years old. (And the young girl curtsied so nicely.) Then his escort left him once again. Another man came in and introduced himself as “Jack," (Jack Gouinlock) a downed flight officer of the Royal Canadian Air Force. He had been shot down in his British “Lancaster" bomber and had eventually been picked up by the Maquis. Jetty was elated that he had an English speaking roommate.

The apartment was very small with a kitchen, bath, living room and two tiny bedrooms. Jetty and Jack shared the living room. From a window in the living room Jetty could see the bridge that he and his escort had crossed on his way to the apartment. Another in one of the bedrooms revealed a second bridge over the Meuse about six blocks to the east.

Jetty told Jack all about his experiences since he was shot down and they both got a chuckle out of the episode with the flush toilet. But then Jack told his story which was much more fascinating to Jetty

 

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It seems that Jack had been shot down last May after bombing German installations at Leopoldsburg but, luckily, was able to bail out and land safely. It was late afternoon and after he buried his parachute, he started walking towards a small village that he had seen a few miles away. He was fairly fluent in German and thought that he would be able to communicate with the Dutch people in the hope that lie could contact the underground.

Just outside the village, he met a Dutchman and in his best German, he explained that he had been shot down and was very hungry but instead of asking the man for the underground, he asked him where he could get some food. Apparently the man understood him well enough to know that he was hungry but not enough to know that his uniform was not German. He directed Jack to an establishment in the town. When Jack arrived at the building he could smell the delicious aroma of the cooking food and he boldly walked in the front door. Inside, he looked around and saw nothing but German Luftwaffe officers enjoying their evening repast. He turned to beat a hasty retreat but just then the maitre d' asked if he could be of service. Jack, again in his best German, asked if there was a private room in which he could be served dinner. The maitre d' smiled knowingly and led him to a small private dining room. Jack was served an excellent dinner complete with a good bottle of wine. The maitre d' let him out a side door after his dinner and Jack went on to finally locate the Dutch underground and was now on the same escape route as Jetty.

They had a good laugh over this experience but Jack frankly admitted that he had been more than a little tense and that he was very lucky that the maitre d' had seemed to be a member of the underground or at least he must have hated the Germans. At any rate he had enjoyed a very excellent dinner courtesy of a German Luftwaffe's Officers' Club. Jetty said that it was all very funny but privately he thought, "This guy's got more brass than a brass monkey.'

In the afternoon of his third day in the apartment, a Maquis came rushing in and told Jetty and Jack to get their things, they were leaving now! The urgency in his voice was enough and they soon scampered down the stairs into a car that awaited them in the front of the building with its motor running. They sped off to the east and crossed the bridge that they had seen earlier from the window. Then they turned west and stopped at a vantage point just across the river from the apartment they had just left. In a few minutes, four or five speeding German vehicles squealed to a stop in front of the apartment building and about 15 SS troopers and Gestapo agents jumped out of the cars and ran into the building. At the same time the sentries at the two bridges began to halt all vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Perhaps 20 minutes later, the Germans returned to their vehicles literally dragging Jetty's former host, his wife and his little girl. The Germans viciously threw the Belgians into the cars and then they drove off. Jetty was shocked at the unnecessary roughness of the Germans.

Jetty's group also drove off and after the usual meandering around for an hour or so, they finally stopped behind a walled-in building. They passed through a narrow gate and entered, of all things, a convent. (Jetty was becoming more and more impressed with the scope and depth of the underground's strength.) A nun lead Jetty and Jack to a very small nun's cell that contained a single straw mattress, a shelf, a candle and a chamber pot. Later, another nun brought them a second straw mattress and some excellent soup and homemade bread.

The next morning another Maquis escort arrived and told Jetty and Jack that they would be leaving the convent in the next hour or so. He also gave them the bad news that the Germans had summarily executed the arrested Belgian family including that little eight year old girl. The escort told them that the underground was certain that the family had been betrayed by a Belgian collaborator and that they (the Maquis) were desperately trying to find the guilty party for punishment

 

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The callous murder of the young girl absolutely appalled Jetty (how could she possibly hurt the Nazi's [13] and he was surprised that another Belgian could betray his or her own people. (It was only much later that he learned how really pervasive the collaboration actually was, especially in France.) It was at this precise moment that Jetty developed a deeply embedded hatred for the German people that would remain with him for many years! The derogatory "Le Boche" immediately became a regular part of his vocabulary.

When noon time came, Jetty and Jack followed their new escort through the back streets of Liege until they came to a more densely populated area near the center of the city There Jetty noted many bars and restaurants in the area but very few people. (It was the Belgian nap time.) They turned down an alley and stopped after a short distance so that their escort could give them some further instructions. He told them that they were about to enter a house of prostitution, that they should remain as casual as possible while they followed him up three flights of stairs and if they were stopped, he would do all of the talking. (Incongruously enough, Jetty's first thought was, 'I'd better not tell Mama about this.") They entered the house and passed through what appeared to be a parlor. Out of the corner of his eye, Jetty saw five or six German soldiers sitting on chairs or couches, each with a girl beside him and a bottle of schnapps or cognac in his hand. They seemed to be pretty well occupied and never even looked up at the passing parade of Allied airmen.

Jetty and Jack were assigned to separate rooms with a connecting bath. A short time later, the madam of the house entered and greeted them. She explained that they were probably in the safest place in Liege because it was highly unlikely that the Germans would ever suspect their presence in what they thought was their particular House of Pleasure. She laughed as she proudly told Jetty and Jack that all of her girls were members of the resistance and that they were able to extract much information from their 'customers" that was very useful to both the Maquis and Allied intelligence operations. Before she left them, she told them to stay in their rooms and that either she or one of her girls would bring them their food.

For the next two days, they talked themselves out and then slept most of the time even though their sleep was frequently interrupted by the raucous revelry of the Germans or by the sound of their jackboots as they clomped down the hall and in the rooms above.

By the end of the second day, they were both bored and restless in their necessary confinement and Jetty found himself day dreaming. It was now August 8, 1944 and just 18 days after his landing in Belgium. It seemed to him as though that was a very busy eternity ago. He wondered if Virginia would have a boy or a girl (in the last letter he received just before this mission, she had told him that he was going to be a father). He prayed that everything would turn out all right for her and that included his safe return. Then he thought of Mama and her most oft stated wish that she would always be surrounded by her children. In his mind he tried to send her a message that he would never leave her again but in his heart he knew that it wasn't the truth. The world was too big and there were too many things to do and see. And Dad, dear gentle and patient Dad with his caring love and consistent contentment. Gee, I wonder what Curtis is doing now —and Beatrice and the rest of the family too. Suddenly Jetty realized that he was only depressing himself so he changed his thoughts to the events of his life in the service.

Like most of the men who flew the B-17, Jetty had become convinced that it was simply the best aircraft in the world and he began to recall various events and discussions that had served only to reinforce his faith in the B-17. He thought of how his bird had protected him in the crash landing in Florida; the struggles of another aircraft as it tried to bring him

[13] The memory of this killing has always remained with Jetty. In 1953 he was able to visit Liege once again and he drove back to the same vantage point where he had watched the Germans arrest that murdered family. He sat there looking at that apartment house for some time as he replayed the events of that August day in 1944 and thought of that innocent young girl. It was a most emotional experience for him.

 

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safely across the Atlantic and how about those engines that restarted so beautifully after failing over Munich. And then there was the very dutiful 'Berlin Special." That old girl had labored so hard to bring her crew safely back to England but she just couldn't make it. Again, he silently wished her well. Yes, the B-17 was a great aircraft and he was very proud to have been a member of one of the crews who had served on her.

[14] As he thought of the B-17, his mind turned back to some of the stories that had been bandied about by his mates in their bull sessions back at Podington. He thought of the crazy lead navigator who didn't want to bomb Bonn, Germany because it was where Beethoven had gone to school so he led his entire formation to the alternate target and they bombed that instead. Then there was the sergeant named Arizona Harris who fought the German fighters to the very end; he was still shooting his machine guns even as his B-17 slipped beneath the waves of the Bay of Biscay. And a badly wounded pilot named William Lawley who ordered his crew to bail out of their severely damaged B-17 only to find that eight of them were wounded with two so badly hurt that they couldn't possibly bail out. So Lt Lawley fought his floundering 'Flying Fortress" for hundreds of miles until he slipped into oblivion and the bombardier took over He kept the plane in the air until he spotted a landing field in England and managed to wake Lawley up. With a herculean effort, Lawley was able to keep himself conscious while he safely landed the ship with its wheels up. He and his ship saved the crew. (This is a very short synopsis of the many heroic ads by both Harris and Lawley during their mission. Both received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their deeds; Harris' was awarded posthumously.) And of course there was the bomb group known as "The Bloody 100th." This was a group of seemingly normal American youths who fitted the picture of "the boy next door." When their bomb group was formed back in the States, they could do nothing right but when they got into combat, they could do nothing wrong. They suffered heavy losses but they seemed to have had more than their fair share of heroes and their bombing success rate was phenomenal.

All of these thoughts flashed through Jetty's mind just as all day dreams do and eventually lulled him into sleep but before he dozed off his last thought was that he now had some more things that he could talk about with Jack.

The next morning Jetty answered a knock on the door and to his great surprise Capt Kurt entered the room. Kurt briefly greeted Jetty and Jack and asked if they would both like to assist in another Maquis operation. He said their help was needed because they could both drive. Their 'Yes" response seemed most natural to Jetty and Jack. Capt Kurt said, 'Good' and that he would be back in the morning to pick them up since the mission was scheduled for late in the evening of the next day

That mission was to be a turning point in Jetty's life: one that he would never forget and one that would prove to him that war was the ultimate idiocy of man!

[14]  All of these were just "stories" that Jetty had heard about. Many years later, he bought a book about the B-17 so that he could learn more about the aircraft. The book was named "Flying Fortress" (by Edward Jablonski. published by Doubleday and (Company. Inc- Garden City, NI, 1965 by Edward Jablonski). Each of Jetty's beard "stories" are verified by this hook. The crazy navigator (IA Harry Crosby, page 177), Arizona Harris (page 103), William Lawley (page 149) and "the Bloody 100th" (chapter 12, page 171).

 

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Capt Kurt came to pick them up about eleven the next morning. The three of them walked to a train station some distance to the south of the city and boarded a fairly empty train. They rode for about forty-five minutes and then got off of the train in a remote area in the country and started walking again. Their route followed about three miles on a little traveled country road that turned into a dirt surface through a heavily forested area for the last mile or so. Then they came to a deserted barn much like the one on Jetty's earlier mission with the Maquis. There were four cars and probably 20 men who had been waiting for them. During the greetings, Jetty recognized quite a few faces from his previous mission. He also noted that about half of the group were around his age with the rest spread within the 30 to 60 age group. To Jetty, they seemed to represent all walks of Belgian life, from upper middle class to the less well off, from merchant and banker to laborer and, for all he knew, thief. And they seemed determined to rid themselves of the much despised aBoche."

Capt Kurt addressed the group briefly on the target before going into the specific details of their attack. He advised that he had received a message via the BBC World Services radio requesting that they destroy a railroad bridge over the Durth River that was being used to transport men and materials to the German front. (Jetty immediately recalled the note that Kurt had made back at his parent's house when Kurt and he were listening to the BBC.) Kurt went on to explain that until recently this bridge had not been used; however, the Allied bombers had pretty well destroyed the principal rail lines and bridges which had forced the Germans to seek alternate routes. In addition, the daily aggressive interdiction by the Allied aircraft had caused the Germans to hide their trains in forested areas and tunnels during the day since travel during the dark of night was safer. Kurt concluded this portion of their preparation by saying that this bridge had now become of major importance to the Nazi war effort and that there was a train scheduled to pass over the bridge tonight. Their mission was to destroy both the bridge and the train.

The group gathered around a map while Kurt briefed them on the mission itself. First he pointed out a small anti-aircraft battery located on a ridge above the bridge. This battery should not be a significant problem because its location prevented lowering the gun barrel sufficiently to fire at their positions. There were no pillboxes around the bridge so the German guards would have to defend themselves and the bridge without the advantage that the larger gun would have provided.

Once again, Kurt's plan was simple. There would be five teams: one to cut the telephone wires on the far side of the bridge (those on this side would be cut by one of the other teams) and then join another team in the attack on the bridge guards. A third team would attack the off-duty guards. The fourth team would cover the approaches to the bridge and the fifth would set the explosive charges. In addition, there would be other Maquis positioned along the roads to alert them to German patrols or new roadblocks and the always possible arrival of any German reinforcements during their attack.

The group went over the details of the raid again and again until there were no more questions and everyone was satisfied that they knew their roles well. Then they prepared for action. There were several large boxes of clothing and shoes in the barn and those who were wearing lighter colored clothing or "street clothes" now changed into darker and heavier sweaters, trousers and jackets or coats. Most exchanged their shoes for athletic shoes that were similar to those worn by soccer players but there were others who much preferred the regular "GI brogans" which seemed to be readily available to the Maquis.

 

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Next they chose their weapons from a large supply of different types that apparently had been prepositioned in the barn. Jetty picked out a .45 caliber US Army automatic and a German P38 machine pistol. (One of the English speaking Belgians checked him out on the use of the machine pistol.) He wrapped several spare clips of ammunition in cloth to muffle any rattling sound and stuck them in a satchel hung over his shoulder. He also stuffed a garrote in a pocket.

(If there can be such a thing as "an interesting weapon,' the garrote qualifies for that title. It was originally developed in the middle ages by the Spaniards who used it to execute prisoners by strangling. Today it is used mostly in clandestine military type operations to quietly silence sentries guarding an area to be attacked. It is an efficient weapon and death is usually quick and silent. Most garrotes of today are made of serrated piano wire anchored at both ends to wooden handles. The attacker usually approaches his victim from behind. Then he 'loops" the wire, quickly places it over the victim's head and around his throat and pulls strongly on the handles.)

The other men selected a variety of pistols, machine guns, rifles and hand grenades and most of them also pocketed garrotes. (Jetty didn't take any of the grenades because he had never used them before.) The leader of each group or squad also took compasses and hack watches that looked like those used by US airmen.

After these preparations were completed Capt Kurt checked them over to insure that nothing had been overlooked and then they all sat down to rest until it was time for the mission.

Just before 11 pm Capt Kurt gathered them together again but they had no more questions so they went with their respective groups to one of the vehicles. Kurt drove the first car; Jetty, the second; Jack, the third and the fourth brought up the rear. They did not use their car lights but the stars in the clear sky and a sliver of moon provided just enough light for them to see their way and the car in front of them. They drove over dirt roads through heavily forested areas for about an hour and finally pulled off the road and several hundred feet into the forest. They piled out of the cars and gathered around Kurt for a last check of the map and a warning to whisper "from now on." Each man slung his satchel over his shoulder and weapons were carried in their pockets and belts or slung over the other shoulder. Then, team by team, they started walking towards their target. Fortunately, there had been a heavy rain that afternoon and that along with an almost complete lack of underbrush helped them to keep up a good pace with very little noise.

Jetty found himself sweating as he walked along and he knew that it wasn't from his exertions. He was full of a nervous anticipation of what was to come. He wondered just what in the world he had gotten himself into. He tried to tell himself that it was just like the "cowboy and Indian" games of his childhood but he couldn't really convince himself of that. The intensity and seriousness of their preparations told him quite clearly that this wasn't a game and there would not be any suction-capped arrows and caps nor even BB guns and pea-shooters. This was a deadly "game!' To his knowledge he had never killed anyone before and he wondered if he would have to now — or if he even could. The thought of not being able to kill when it was necessary raised a very unsavory question: 'Could someone on this team die because of my failure to act?" He remembers silently praying to God to give him the necessary strength to do what had to be done and to acquit himself well in the eyes of his comrades. He knew that he could do little more than that except to strengthen his determination and press on with the job at hand. Nevertheless, he couldn't help thinking, 'I wish I wasn't here," as he walked along.

After about two miles Capt Kurt gave a hand signal and the five teams proceeded to their respective areas for the attack which was to begin at a predetermined time. Jetty went with his five man team to assault the guard shack. He had his P38 in his right hand and the garrote in his left.

 

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 The moon now was behind a cloud which lessened the possibility of being spotted but did not inhibit them to any degree. They stealthily approached the shack and split to the left and to the right when they were within a few yards of it. By now they were crawling. Jetty could hear a radio in the shack that was loudly playing German music which helped to mask arty noise that his team might make in their approach.

As Jetty crawled towards the shack he spotted a German soldier sitting on the ground several feet in front of him. Because of the heavy tobacco smell of the strong German cigarettes and the glow that silhouetted the soldier 's head, Jetty could tell that the smoking soldier 's back was towards him. When he got a bit closer Jetty laid his P38 on the ground and silently inched the last couple of feet. Then he rose up and looped the garrote over the soldier's head and pulled it tightly. At the same time he exerted a heavy forward pressure on the German's back with his knee.

The soldier struggled and Jetty lost his grip on one of the garrote's handles. He pulled heavily on the remaining handle and the soldier fell back to the ground with a horrible sound as the air erupted from his lungs. As the soldier fell back, his helmet had fallen off and his face was staring up at Jetty who saw that he was not the expected seasoned enemy warrior but only a young man of uncertain age but surely younger than Jetty. "My God, I've killed a little kid!" the suddenly old man of 19 said to himself and he felt sick but there was no time for that.

One of the team apparently had attacked another guard on the other side of the shack and when the guard fell to the ground he must have hit the side of the building. It seemed to make a very loud noise and the rest of the team immediately rushed into the shack. Jetty didn't have time to find the P38 so he grabbed his forty-five from his waist and ran in with the rest of them. He saw a German on a top bunk reach for a pistol hanging at the end of the bunk. Jetty was about eight feet away and he fired as he was moving forward. He missed. So he stopped in his tracks and fired again. The soldier dropped. The other five soldiers were killed by the rest of the team.

Jetty grabbed the gun - it was another P38 - from the soldier he had killed and they ran outside to see where else they could be of use. They could hear the engine of a train as it labored towards the bridge and the sound of gunfire on the other side of the trestle. The team ran down a small hill and stopped behind some trees near the river Jetty could see that the bridge was about 100 yards long and 30 feet above the river. Kurt had said that around 1,000 German soldiers were expected to be on the train and that they should shoot as many survivors as possible.

The train was moving at about 30 miles an hour when it started across the span followed by ten cars that appeared similar to the old 40 & 8's" of World War I vintage. Jetty estimated each car would hold 60, maybe 70 men at most. When the engine reached the far end of the bridge there were two loud, almost deafening explosions — one at the far end and one in the middle of the span. The locomotive and the first five cars plunged into the river at the far end with four more cars falling from the center The tenth car remained on the bridge with two wheels dangling over the abyss created by the explosives.

The air was suddenly full of the screams of the injured Germans and the noise of shooting coupled with that of exploding grenades as the Maquis attacked the survivors and the Germans remaining in the car on the trestle fired at their attackers. Suddenly there was a very loud whining overhead and a tremendous explosion about 100 yards behind Jetty as the anti-aircraft battery tried to reach the attackers. More of these shells followed but none of them were effective. The men from the car on the trestle exploded from the car and tried to attack the Maquis. Jetty was behind a concrete bridge abutment as he fired at the Germans with the P38. He fired and replaced one clip and then another and ran out of ammunition

 

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this move was necessary. Their refuge of yesterday was no longer considered safe enough in view of the rampaging Nazis. Jetty was to leave first and Jack would follow later and they would not be going to the same place. Jetty asked Kurt about the possibility of a pick up by a [15] RAF 'Mosquito.' Kurt responded that it was no longer safe enough to attempt such a rescue. He said that it was just too risky to move in the open any more than was absolutely necessary and in view of the rapid advances of the American army through France, it would be safer to hide in one place and await their arrival.

Then they all got some rest. Jetty made himself as comfortable as possible and briefly reflected on the last very busy twelve hours or so. To him it was a period of intense action that had left him without time for fear He greatly regretted the death of the boy-soldier but he could not think of any other options that had been open to him. Overall, he really wasn't sure if he should feel happy about the success of the mission or sorrow over the death of so many including that young boy. To this day, he does not know the answer to his own unspoken question.

In the early afternoon Jetty said his last goodbye to Capt Kurt and Jack and then he and his guide left the barn on bicycles. As usual, his escort went first and Jetty followed.

[15] A very efficient and effective British lightweight bomber made of wood. It was often used to pick up Allied airmen from remote locations behind enemy lines.

 

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Jetty and his escort spent the night with an elderly couple on the southern outskirts of Liege. They were a lovely old couple, very friendly and full of talk about how they were so anxious to be free of the despised “Le Boche."

As he and his guide were preparing to leave the next morning, Jetty found that his bicycle had a flat tire. Since they didn't have any way to fix it his escort told him that he would have to leave it and follow on foot. He also said that he would ride a few hundred yards ahead of Jetty and then stop as though he was having trouble. They proceeded with this routine for another two hours until they arrived at the small city of Seraing. There were few vehicles on the road and equally few civilians. In the near distance they could see several large industrial type buildings which later proved to be steel mills.

A few blocks later Jetty turned a corner and saw his guide about four blocks ahead and pedaling very fast. Then he saw why About 200 hundred yards in front of him there were a half dozen German guards at the entrance to one of the steel mills. He had little choice other than to continue traveling in the same direction as his guide so he went on but he crossed, hopefully, to the better safety of the other side of the street. He was working hard to be as inconspicuous as possible by being casual and unhurried. He could only hope that it worked.

Just before he got to the soldiers one of them yelled at him but he "was" a deaf mute and just continued walking. The soldier started across the street to him and Jetty felt his stomach churn but he stopped and looked questioningly at the soldier The soldier said something and Jetty just shrugged and pointed to his ear The soldier put a cigarette in his mouth and flicked his fingers to indicate that he needed a light. Jetty tried to look as though he suddenly understood as he pulled a lighter from his pocket and held it while the soldier lit his cigarette. Then the soldier said [15]Danke” and turned back across the street. Jetty started to breathe again!

He continued walking along his way but with a sudden cold sweat all over him. Jetty has never known just how he kept his hands from shaking violently as he held the lighter for that German soldier He rationalized it by telling himself that he must be a 'pro" at this business of deception. After all hadn't he already robbed a bank, rubbed knees with a German soldier on a train, walked through a bar and a whorehouse full of those soldiers, blown up a bridge and now had come through this? Yes, he was now a 'pro" but he knew one thing: there had been too many close calls in the last few weeks and he'd better stay off the streets as much as possible from now on.

In another three or four blocks he caught sight of his escort again and they continued on their way using the same 'stop and catch up" tactics of before. They skirted the center of the city without further incident and, in the late afternoon, arrived at Jetty's new place of refuge: Rue de la Colline Number 252. This was to be the home Jetty would stay in until his liberation by the American army He didn't know that at the time because he didn't have any idea of where the army was or that it was moving as fast as it was.

His guide introduced Jetty to Madame Colleye, the lady of the house, and he said "Goodbye and good luck," to Jetty and left.  Mme. Colleye, a beautiful lady about 40 years

[15] The German equivalent of "thanks”

  

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of age introduced Jetty to her equally lovely daughter Jeannine, a blondgirl of eight or so. Then Mme. Colleye and Jetty sat down to some delicious coffee and pastries while they got acquainted. A short time later a man in a police uniform entered the room and was introduced as Monsieur Jean Colleye. He was probably in his mid-forties and an extremely congenial man who apparently took an instant liking to Jetty. After their coffee the Colleyes took Jetty on a tour of his new home.

His hosts' residence was a two story rowhouse in the middle of the block near the top of a hill. There was a hallway extending from the front door to the rear of the house with doorways leading to a dining room with a large front window, a parlor and a kitchen. At the back of the hallway a small area opened to a staircase accessing the three bedrooms upstairs. (Jetty's was the one in the rem of the house.) The rear door opened to a garden about 25 feet wide and 100 feet long where the Colleyes raised their own vegetables and some flowers. A toilet with a flush-type commode was built into a corner next to the house.

The rooms were lightly but comfortably furnished and family treasures lovingly graced the walls and the tops of tables, cabinets and chests. Jetty was particularly entranced by an exquisitely lovely and fragile seven piece crystal decanter set with each piece of a different color. It had been handmade many years before at the Val Saint Lambert quarry on the outskirts of Seraing. (Of course he didn't know it at the time but this same set would occupy the place of honor in Jetty's own home some thirty-three years later) To Jetty, the house fairly reeked of 'home and family' and had a distinct "lived-in" aura. Jetty felt more comfortable and secure than he had at any time since his departure from England on his fateful mission some three weeks before. "But then," he thought, 'Anyone would feel quite comfortable here."

That evening Mme. Colleye prepared a delicious dinner of French fries and applesauce. As they ate they attempted a chatty 'conversation' that almost solely depended on sign language for neither could understand the other's language. But somehow they managed to pass a few tidbits back and forth. Jetty, for example, was surprised to learn that French fries were actually created by the Belgians and not the French as so widely believed. Jetty thought that the fries and the applesauce were wonderful and he ate as much as he could without seeming to be rude. (In the years to come, Jetty would revisit the Colleyes on several occasions. Each time he has requested and been given a plate of French fries and applesauce.)

After dinner a priest came to visit. He spoke fluent English and they all talked far into the night with the priest interpreting for the Colleyes and for Jetty. He told Jetty that he must not leave the house in the daytime even to use the toilet. He gave Jetty a French- English phrase book and dictionary with the comment that, "Knowing only 'Le Boche' will not get you very far." Then he suggested that Jetty undertake a crash course in French and Mme. Colleye quickly volunteered to be his teacher. The priest finally left so they all could get some rest and the French lessons began the next morning after M. Colleye had gone to work and Jeannine, to school.

Apparently Jetty was one of those relatively few people who seem to be language- compatible for he learned quickly (He had previously noted that he seemed to easily pick up words and phrases in German, French and Flemish and the Spanish from his school days hadn't been too difficult either.) Or perhaps it was simply that Mme. Colleye was such a good teacher. At any rate he seemed to have little difficulty with his lessons which greatly pleased his teacher

So every day after the family left, Mme. Colleye and Jetty used the dining room for their 'school." They were interrupted only by a noon meal of fresh bread and vegetable soup which was newly made from her garden vegetables and then for Mme. Colleye's

 

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preparation of the evening meal which usually consisted of potatoes, fresh bread and applesauce and a small piece of meat once or twice a week. Each day both Jeannine and M. Colleye would test Jetty to see how he was coming along. Within a week he had progressed well enough (with some effort to suppress his natural Texas drawl) to be able to greet people.

M. Colleye started taking him for occasional short walks in the evening. He provided a policeman's uniform and a small Beretta pistol for Jetty's use. He also cautioned Jetty not to say "bon nuit” (good night) to anyone since that phrase was said only to another person when in bed. After Jetty was appropriately dressed they strolled casually around the neighborhood. Jetty was sure that the town's people wondered where this new and taciturn policeman had come from but no one ever indicated any suspicion or said a word except for a polite greeting of 'Bon Soir" to which Jetty could respond fluently.

The priest was a frequent visitor during this time and he, too, seemed pleased with Jetty's progress. He also brought books in English for Jetty's reading pleasure during the breaks from his studies. (Jetty particularly enjoyed "Ivanhoe" and 'A Tale of Two Cities.") Their conversations were always interesting for the priest was a very intelligent man. In one conversation Jetty expressed some concern that he was possibly depriving the Colleyes of their rations because of his presence. The priest told him not to worry. He said that the Maquis had provided them with extra ration coupons but that they were afraid that they might draw the attention of the Gestapo because of the apparent increase in their use of the coupons. It seems that the Colleyes had used the same small market for years and a change in their buying habits would be highly visible. Jetty now knew that the Colleyes truly were sharing their meager rations with him. He was impressed by their obvious dedication.

These visits were most pleasant interludes for Jetty and probably for Mme. Colleye too.

With M. Colleye's blessing Jetty began to spend an hour or two in the evening quiet of the garden. (The neighboring houses did not have any windows that opened on it.) He usually stayed close to the house facing west in the direction of Texas and home for this was a time for reflection. His greatest concern was for his family. He knew they would have been notified of his missing-in-action status and he worried about how his mother was holding up. And he worried too about Virginia and the baby that was due in January.

Jetty often suffered deep pangs of guilt during these quiet moments in the garden because he could "feel" the distress and heartache of his family in their gnawing uncertainty of his fate while he, himself, 'lounged" in the safety of the Colleye's home. He prayed that somehow they could know of his safety and that he soon would be out of this mess and back home — long before the baby was born. Sometimes this time alone would soothe him but more often than not it only depressed him. But when he went back into the house the ever alert Mme. Colleye could sense his moodiness and would promptly attempt to cheer him up. Her efforts were not always successful.

Within three weeks Jetty could understand French quite well and he had progressed from a halting to a fairly smooth speech. He could even read the newspaper provided that he kept his French-English dictionary close at hand. He attributes it all to the excellence - and patience - of his fine teacher Mme. Colleye.

A day or so later Jetty heard on the BBC that Patton's Third Army was fighting hard in the outskirts of Metz, France with the hope of a quick attack on the German frontier Metz was just about 140 miles south of Seraing and everyone prayed that Patton's rapid advance would cause the Germans to quickly evacuate the immediate area. But that was wishful thinking as evidenced by the radio commentary which also pointed out that the Germans were as stubborn as usual and were not showing any signs of retreat.

 

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The following Saturday, Jetty was again listening to the radio after the Colleyes had gone to bed when the BBC announcer said that General Hodges' First Army had captured Namur Belgian which was only 35 miles southwest of Seraing. Jetty was elated and felt certain that Seraing would be liberated the very next day. He couldn't contain himself and even though it was nearly midnight, he awakened the Colleyes to pass on this exciting news. When M. Colleye came to the bedroom door, he was incredulous. He simply could not accept what Jetty told him and he told Jetty that he was not talking rationally and that he should go to bed.

That Sunday morning everyone was tip early and Jetty tuned the radio to the BBC French Language Service. After an almost unbearable wait, the announcer finally got to the progress of the American forces. Even Jetty was astounded to hear that Hodges' First Army not only had captured Namur but was now moving towards Huy which was only 20 miles from Seraing. M. Colleye jumped to his feet and hugged everyone. Mme. Colleye said, "Jet- tee, you will now soon be home." Jetty had never felt such happiness and jubilation. They were all absolutely ecstatic about the good news but then M. Colleye had to rush out on some urgent police business.

When he returned that afternoon, M. Colleye told Jetty that they still had to be very careful because the Germans were not panicking. Instead they were hardening their defenses and the Gestapo and the SS were very actively looking for deserters, people of the underground, escaped POW's and downed Allied airmen. They were checking almost everyone on the streets. That afternoon the priest came once again and all the news was repeated excitingly. Then M. Colleye said that he thought it was now safe enough to have dinner on a small patio in the garden in back of the house. They celebrated with a couple bottles of a slightly musky but very delicious wine. Their dinner was serenaded by the distant sound of heavy artillery fire and by now they were all very certain that tomorrow would bring their liberation from the hated "Le Bocher

The next day, however, brought only the continued sound of the artillery. Later Jetty heard some very loud explosions and when he looked out the window he could see American B-25 light bombers making low-level attacks on the rail lines and bridges between Seraing and Liege. Suddenly eight to ten German ME-109 fighters attacked the bombers but before they could do any serious damage American P-38 fighters swarmed all over them. The fight didn't last more than ten minutes. Jetty watched as three of the ME-109's went down and the rest skedaddled for Germany with the P-38's in hot pursuit.

For the next two days he watched the now retreating Germans from a hidden vantage point on top of a small hill about 100 hundred yards from the house. There was a major road about a quarter mile away and it was filled with tanks, armored vehicles and trucks. Some of the trucks obviously were confiscated commercial vehicles. He saw one so loaded with German soldiers that the rear of the small truck was practically dragging on the ground. He also found it interesting to note that each of the soldiers was holding a leafy tree branch above his head in an attempt to camouflage themselves against strafing by American aircraft. The Germans did not seem panicky to Jetty but they certainly seemed to be disoriented.

Sometime after lunch Jetty was doing his laundry at the kitchen sink when he heard a sound at the front door. He thought that it was Mme. Colleye returning from the market so he continued with his laundry but then he heard voices that were not French. He peeked around the corner of the hallway and saw two German soldiers going out the front door with two bicycles that had been in the dining room. Apparently the soldiers had seen the bicycles through the front window and simply confiscated them. This confirmed what Jetty had been hearing lately from M. Colleye: the local situation was deteriorating into one of total chaos.

 

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The heaviest concentration of the German forces had passed through Seraing enroute to their new defensive positions at Aachen, a town on the German border Some Panzer forces had remained to fight a futile delaying action against the First Army. In the midst of all this confusion and mayhem, M. Colleye and his fellow policemen were desperately stniggling to maintain some sort of civil order while the Maquis were trying to mount an all- out effort to sabotage German communications and to capture Gestapo agents, straggling German soldiers and collaborators.

By now there was near-panic in the German ranks. Anything that would move was being confiscated to increase their mobility. Soldiers were doffing their uniforms and donning stolen civilian clothing in a frantic effort to flee the oncoming American forces. Some simply threw away their weapons and took off into the brush. The constant sound of shell fire and exploding bombs only added to the pandemonium. Jetty and the Colleyes were somewhat nervous about these events but they also were very much elated with the anticipation of freedom in the near future.

About mid-morning the next day, M. Colleye unexpectedly returned home and called out, "Jet-tee, I have come with one of your friends!" And Jetty saw Mel Crouch! He and Mel nearly broke each other's ribs in their reunion. Mel had been staying with a family only a few blocks away and M. Colleye had just heard about him that morning: he decided that Mel should meet Jetty. M. Colleye had to return to work but before he left Jetty asked him if it would be all right if Mel and he took a walk that afternoon. M. Colleye replied, 'Yes, but avoid crowds and don't identify yourselves as Americans to anyone!" (Jetty now could speak French well enough to get by and he would blame his accent on the fact that his papers said he was from Flanders.)

Jetty and Mel spent some time reliving their experiences since their time at the farm house in Leopoldsburg. Then they went for a stroll. Eventually they found themselves in the shopping district but most of the shops were closed. They casually window-shopped as they went on their way.

Suddenly two cars squealed to a stop at the curb and eight to ten young Belgians perhaps 15 to 18 years old jumped out. They were all armed with machine guns, pistols and hand grenades hooked to their belts. They grabbed Jetty and Mel by the arms and started loudly yelling, "Le Roche. Le Roche!" Other passersby began to stop and soon there was a crowd of about 50 people gathered round. One of the boys ran to a car and got some rope. Mrs Cook's young son did not relish the idea of being lynched by the same group that was protecting him and he started screaming that he and Mel were Americans. He was not believed. The boys insisted that the Americans had not arrived yet and they were German soldiers who were trying to escape in stolen clothes. So Jetty tried to tell them that he was staying with M. Colleye and that they should call him. He was ignored and the ropes were placed around their necks. The young men started dragging Jetty and Mel to a nearby lamppost.

Fortunately, a girl in the crowd heard the mention of M. Colleye's name and she went to the young men and told them that she had heard that the Colleyes were hiding an American. This young girl was Rosa Grosjean who lived at Rue Rotheux 49, Seraing. One of the Belgians went into a shop and evidently called the police station. When he came back he asked Jetty his name. At the response, the boy said, "Ah, Jet-tee, then you are an Americain!” [16] Then they who had been about to hang them grabbed and hugged and kissed both of them.

 

Rosa Grosjean (second from left) and her family at Seraing, Belgium.

 

A mild furor arose as everyone tried to embrace their newly found liberators. But Jetty and Mel didn't feel very much like liberators; instead, they were just two greatly relieved young American airmen! And somewhat shaky airmen at that! Jetty thought to himself, "What a helluva situation — nearly hung by the Belgians after everything I've been through and now so close to home! Well, at least I'm still alive!"

[16] The way that the French say "American- (with the emphsis on the "cain syllable).

 

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The crowd finally broke up and the young girl who had saved their lives came to Jetty and Mel and asked the two of them to please accompany her to her grandmother's house. She explained that the elderly woman was very ill and that she was anxiously awaiting the day when the Americans would free her beloved country. So Jetty and Mel went with her. On the way the girl told them that her name was Rosa Grosjeau and that she lived at Rue Rotheux Number 49. She also told them that her grandmother had been seriously ill for quite a long time and that she insisted that she would live until she at least could meet some of her American liberators. When they arrived at the girl's house, they were taken to a very pale and fragile bedridden lady of some 80 years. When she learned that they were Americans she grabbed Jetty's hand and held on to it while she told them that the last time that she had seen an American was at the end of World War I back in 1918. Tears streamed from her eyes as she related how her beautiful country had suffered at the hands of "Le Boche" and how her only son, Rosa's father, had died in a German POW camp. Jetty's eyes were not exactly dry either nor were Mel's. They stayed with her for more than an hour and when they finally left Rosa gratefully kissed their hands.

As they were walking back to the Colleye home there were some loud explosions of artillery shells a block or so away and they saw some children start running from a nearby school to an adjoining bomb shelter. They joined the kids. In the shelter someone grabbed and held Jetty from behind. He turned around and there was Jeannine. She told everyone in the shelter that he was an American who was living in her home. Once more Jetty and Mel were hailed as the great liberators. The barrage was over in about 45 minutes but they all waited for the all clear signal. A Belgian man entered the shelter and showed Jetty a piece of shrapnel that was about the size of a baseball. He wanted to know if it was from an American or a German gun. Jetty could see from the markings that it was American but he didn't have the heart to say that so he said, ilLe Boche." That seemed to satisfy everyone. After a while Jetty and Mel returned to the house with Jeannine holding Jetty's hand all of the way Mel then returned to his own place of refuge.

The next morning Mme Colleye informed Jetty that Rosa's grandmother had died during the night. Of course Jetty felt sad but it also gave him a warm feeling to know that he had comforted an old woman so that she could leave this world with a happy and peaceful feeling in her heart.

The world outside still seemed chaotic but for different reasons.  The German soldiers were gone and as far as the eye could see the streets were lined with thousand of Belgians waiting for their American liberators to arrive. Everyone was hugging and kissing and flowers and champagne were everywhere. (Those of you who are old enough will well remember that scene since it was typical of the celebrations seen so often in the newsreels of 1944 and 1945.)

After lunch, M. Colleye asked Jetty if he would like to accompany him on his rounds. (The chief of police had been badly wounded in the barrage of the day before and M. Colleye was now the acting chief. With his new responsibilities he had a motorcycle with a sidecar to transport him around the town.) So Jetty again turned himself into a policeman and they started their tour of the streets. As they neared the center of town people began to ask them where the Americans were so M. Colleye said that they would ride a little way on the road to Huy to see if they could make contact

They drove through a heavily forested area on a narrow macadam road while constantly straining their eyes for any little surface disturbance which could indicate the presence of road mines. They neither saw nor heard anything for about eight miles. Then they heard a loud roaring sound in front of them and just as they rounded a curve Jetty excitedly jumped to his feet in the sidecar at the sight of about 15 tanks coming towards them. M. Colleye immediately yanked him back into his seat by the seat of his pants. 

 

Liberation of Huy

 

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Jetty looked at him in total surprise and M. Colleye said, "Le Boche" and pulled off the road to allow the "Tiger" tanks room to pass. They were so large that they required the entire width of the road. A very quiet Jetty watched as one tank after another emblazoned with the German Iron Cross passed in front of him. Thirty-five more tanks followed the first group and there were at least 200 infantrymen walking between or riding on top of the tanks. He noted the black uniforms with silver piping of the tank commanders and realized that these were the forces of the SS Panzers — the most feared of all German soldiers. Jetty thought that the Germans were very tired as evidenced by their tightly drawn faces as they heavily plodded on their way. Many were wounded and many more seemed to be without weapons. M. Colleye waited until the Germans were about a half mile away; then he turned and they went silently back to Seraing.

When they returned to the center of Seraing there were still a very large number of people milling around waiting for their liberators to arrive. When M. Colleye told them what he and Jetty had seen the crowd lost some of its exuberance but then a man spotted the ID bracelet that Curtis had given Jetty. He asked Jetty if he was an American. Jetty calmly covered up his bracelet and simply smiled back at the man who immediately started yelling, "Americain, Americain." The crowd became excited again and surged forward in an effort to touch and embrace Jetty. With a great deal of difficulty M. Colleye managed to get Jetty through the crowd and into the police station. It wasn't any better there. As soon as Jetty walked through the door he was grabbed and hugged and kissed on both cheeks by all of the policemen. They were powerful hugs and Jetty felt like his ribs had been broken plus he was somewhat embarrassed because he had never been kissed by a man before (except, of course, his family). Then M. Colleye decided that they should all celebrate and he brought out a bottle of cognac. They all proceeded to get just a little bit high (probably more from the excitement than from the cognac).

After an early dinner M. Colleye told Jetty that the Maquis intended to pick up some collaborators that night and asked Jetty to drive one of the cars. Jetty quickly responded, "Oui”(“Yes"). A little later they left for the police station where they met a number of uniformed policemen and the less obvious Maquis. Three of the Maquis got into a car with Jetty and one of them directed him to their first stop. The three Maquis entered the house and returned shortly with a man and a woman. For security purposes the woman was placed in the front seat between Jetty and one of the Maquis and the man between the other two in the back seat. His guide then directed Jetty to the same school where Jeannine had met him in the bomb shelter There was a gymnasium next to the school and it had been set up as a detention center The man and the woman were taken inside and Jetty's team headed for their next stop.

The team was on its fourth or fifth trip when one of the Maquis spotted two men running down a side street. They were caught rather quickly because the nature of rowhouses does not allow many avenues of escape but they resisted arid, because of this, each received a few knots on their heads from more than one of the Maquis pistol butts. Each man was carrying an automatic machine pistol. When questioned only one man would give a surly response in German. It was evident that both men were Gestapo or SS agents in civilian clothing. They were forced not-so-gently into the car in the usual seating arrangement and Jetty drove to the gymnasium.

Jetty had just reached a speed of about 50 miles an hour when the German next to him grabbed the steering wheel and tried to wreck the car. Almost immediately Jetty was stunned by a loud explosion in his right ear. One of the Maquis had shot the German in the back of the head. There was blood, gore and bits of skull all over the inside of the windshield and on the dashboard. It was the first time that Jetty had ever seen what a .45 caliber bullet could do to a man's head when fired at close range (and he fervently prayed that it would be his last).

 

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He drove back to the gymnasium with his head out the window for two reasons; first, he needed to see where he was going and secondly, he was trying to stop his heaving stomach.

When they got back to the gymnasium the dead German was carried in and thrown on the floor in front of the prisoners. M. Colleye told all present that the body was one of two identified Gestapo agents that had just been caught. Then the second German was brought in to face some very angry Belgians. A short Belgian with extremely powerful shoulder and arms (almost certainly a local steel worker) seemed to be the main Maquis interrogator and he started to question the German in French. The German indicated that he did not speak French so Jetty suggested to the Belgian that perhaps English might help. He was told to try it so he asked the German in English, "What is your name?' The German looked at Jetty and in English he asked if Jetty was an American. When Jetty replied, "Yes," the German spat right in his face. The steel worker leaped at the German and grabbed him by the throat. Jetty and several other Belgians tried to pry him away but it was too late: the German's larynx had been crushed and he was already dead.

When M. Colleye and Jetty returned home, Mme. Colleye told them that the priest had stopped by to invite them to a celebration. So they walked another half mile to the rectory where they met quite a crowd of people. Jetty's elderly hosts of the first night on his way to Seraing were there and so was Mel Crouch and about ten other Allied airmen and soldiers who had evaded capture. Jetty and Mel were the only Americans present with the others representing the English, Polish and Russian forces. The priest had a plentiful supply of a deceptively smooth cognac and the celebration began. He also captured them separately and in groups with his camera. M. Colleye took a few shots of the group and later annotated the names and nationalities of each on the back of the prints which he then mailed to each one of the group. (The pictures were waiting for Jetty when he got back to Big Spring.) Jetty suspects that he probably had a little more than his share of that cognac on that occasion.

 

Above left the priest. 1 & 2 the couple  with whom Jetty spent a night enroute to Seraing from Liege.

3. Jetty Cook  4. Melvin Crouch  5. Mme Colleye  Others are members of the Resistance and airmen from the US and GB.

 

The next day Jetty left the house only to go to his vantage point so that he could get a clear view of the battle around him. American fighters and light bombers were attacking targets everywhere and heavy artillery was pounding the Germans a couple of miles to the west. Surely the Americans would arrive the next day or at most the day after

And he was right — the next day was the day of liberation!

 

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The next day even larger crowds lined the streets and Jetty joined them as they all waited patiently for their American liberators — and their prayers finally were answered about mid-morning when the first General Sherman tank came into sight. More tanks followed and soon some 300 of them accompanied by armored and personnel half tracks, weapons carriers, trucks pulling 105 or 155 millimeter cannons, communication vans, jeeps and many support vehicles were rolling through Seraing. These were the forward elements of General I lodges' First Army 3rd Armored and 29th Infantry Divisions.

The Belgians went crazy! They waved madly and roared out their welcome to the American troops. Flowers, bottles of wine and cognac, notes and even paper money were pressed on the troops or flew through the air as the people tried to hug and kiss every GI that passed them. Tears flowed freely throughout the crowd in their emotional efforts to express their deep appreciation for the freedom from their four years of tyranny and subjugation under the heels of Hitler's Nazi jackboots. The GI's returned their joy; they waved their arms and weapons in the air as they tried to reach out to their civilian greeters and they yelled back at the crowd in an indication of their joy of being there to free them. And, in the manner of GI's everywhere, there was much whistling at every pretty girl they saw. In Jetty's bemused eyes, it seemed almost as though New Orleans' Mardi Gras had moved to Seraing. Considering the noise of the tank tracks and the reactions of the roaring crowd, it was a pandemonium controlled only by the discipline of the American convoy as it swiftly passed through the city.

And Jetty was no different than the Belgians in their welcome. Although he didn't have any flowers to throw, he waved just as madly, yelled just as loudly and shed just as many tears as the Belgian people. He tried to stop several of the jeeps that followed the convoy but they simply blew their horns to get him out of the way and then passed him by. He realized that it was because of his clothing which made him look just like the rest of the locals.

About an hour later a second and much larger convoy passed through Seraing. It took almost an hour for this one to pass and once again there were a number of jeeps at the end of the column. Each jeep carried a more senior officer and a soldier manning a mounted .50 caliber machine gun. Jetty tried to stop several of them but he had no better luck than he had the first time. By now he was desperate! He had to know what he must do in order to get back to England! So he stepped in front of one of the few remaining jeeps with the same results as before. But this time when he jumped out of the way, he yelled as loudly as he could, "HEY YOU SON OF A BITCH!" The jeep quickly stopped and backed up. A major was sitting in the front seat and he said to Jetty, "What did you say?' Jetty snapped to attention, saluted and responded with a crisp. "Sergeant Jetty Cook, 92nd Bomb Group, reporting for duty, SIR!" The major just grinned and said, "Oh, another one of you flyboys, huh. Hop in." Jetty jumped in the back seat with a sergeant who was manning a machine gun mounted on the back of the jeep and they rejoined the convoy

The major was a huge man of foreboding appearance - probably 6 ' 4 "tall with flaming red hair - who identified himself to Jetty as a G-2 (army intelligence) officer and he asked Jetty many questions about his experiences since he had been shot down. Jetty's story about the German tanks that he and M. Colleye had seen two days before was of particular interest to the major. He told Jetty that his command had been certain that all of that specific German unit had been destroyed and that intelligence now would have to reassess the forces arrayed against them.

 

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 He also told Jetty that the First Army had surrounded and defeated a large force of 15,000 Germans a few days before; however, there was only enough rations to support 10,000 prisoners so that was all they captured. Jetty didn't think he should ask about the other 5,000 Germans. Instead, he asked the major why it had taken nearly a week to advance the 20 miles from Huy to Seraing. The response was that General I lodges wanted to beat General Patton to Germany and the speed of their advance had caused them to outrun their supply lines so they had to wait in the Huy area until their fuel, food and ammunition were replenished.

After about an hour the convoy entered Liege and the mob of people who greeted them was even larger, more boisterous and more demonstrative than the one at Seraing. They were driving along a wide boulevard by the Meuse River when Jetty recognized the apartment of that doomed family where he had been given refuge several weeks earlier. His happiness vanished as he remembered their fate and he wished that he would see the face of that murdered little girl and her parents somewhere in the crowd that lined the streets on this day of liberation.

They stopped at a large vocational school that had been requisitioned by the Americans for a temporary command center and everyone was very busy setting up command posts for their particular functions. Jetty thanked the major and set off in pursuit of a way to return to the 92nd Bomb Group in England but everyone seemed to be too busy to help the strange looking American who must be crazy to be wearing civilian clothing so close to the main battle front. (The Germans had halted their retreat in front of Aachen —which was only 20 miles northeast of Liege — and were reinforcing the Siegfried Line in defense of the first German city threatened by the Allies.)

That afternoon the weather turned miserably cold and rainy. Jetty still had only his meager Belgian clothing and soon was soaking wet and very cold. A sympathetic sergeant gave him a rain slicker but that did nothing to stave off the cold. And to add to his frustration, someone would holler "Halt" every hundred feet or so and he would have to go through another effort to prove his identity. He tried not to blame his inquisitors because his Belgian ID card obviously did not support his claim that he was an American airman. After all, even the Red Cross and the news representatives had appropriate clothing and dog tags that would identify them. And he knew that German infiltrators often posed as Americans. In effect, he stood out like the proverbial "sore thumb.' So he understood the cautions taken by his hosts even though he really was one of them. His situation brought up another very disturbing thought: since he had no real ID, theoretically he could be executed as a spy by either side! This was an especially unnerving thought in view of the fact that the main battle front was less than 15 miles away.

Through the courtesy of another sympathetic NCO, Jetty spent the night in a pup tent. it was a dreadful night, filled with the sound of artillery fire and the loud (nearby?) explosions of the returning German shells. In addition the ground was little more than a huge quagmire with rivulets of rainwater trickling into the tent. (Once again, Jetty remembered why the flyboys" never envied the lot of the poor "ground pounders.")

The next morning, some more sympathetic GI's shared their K-rations with Jetty. He thanked them for their generosity but did not tell them that he much preferred Mme. Colleye's breakfast. Then he found his helpful major of the day before and asked him about transportation back to command elements in the rear lines. The response: 'Sorry all of our vehicles are headed for Germany so I guess you're on your own." Once more he wandered around the area as he looked for more definitive help and, as before, he was stopped for his ID time after time.

By now Jetty was feeling his frustration and he wondered if he really had been liberated or if he was going to spend the rest of the war trying to find a way home while avoiding capture and possible imprisonment or worse.

 

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Finally he spotted two correspondents getting into a jeep. He explained his predicament and they offered him a ride. As Jetty gleefully jumped into the back seat, one of the correspondents introduced himself as "Don Whitehead" (one of the most respected war correspondents in the European Theater of Operations). He was very interested in Jetty's experiences and he took many notes as they retraced Jetty's route of the day before.

They stopped by that apartment on the Meuse and Jetty recounted his narrow escape and the brutal German capture and subsequent murder of his hosts and their little girl. Then they went on to Seraing and arrived at the Colleye home where the two correspondents were more than a little surprised by the warmth of the welcome given to Jetty

Since they had no idea of what had happened to Jetty, the Colleyes had been extremely worried about him. When he jumped out of the jeep at their front door Jeannine came flying out and grabbed him as she excitedly said his name over and over again. She was followed very closely by Mme. and M. Colleye. Then it was very much like a family reunion with the exhilarated chatter of all of them and lots of hugging and kisses on the cheek.

After everyone calmed down and the appropriate introductions had been made, they all went inside for a quick lunch prepared by Mme. Colleye. M. Colleye opened another bottle of his good wine. As they ate, Jetty told his story of the events since the morning of the day before and the Colleyes related their worries and other events since then. M. Colleye gave Jetty a copy of the Liege newspaper, "Gazette de Liege: dated 8 September 1944. The headline read, "NOUS SOMMES LIBRES' ("WE ARE FREE"). In the upper left corner, in English, 'Welcome to the great friends who have given us back our liberty" And in the upper right corner, "The people of Liege greet our American and British Allies." Subordinate headlines on the front page read: "Nous Revoicir ("We are Whole Again!"), "L'Armee de L'Interieur Libere Liege!"] 'The Army of the Interior (meaning the Maguis) Frees Liege], "Le Regime D'Oppression et D'Injustice a Pris Fin!' ("The Reign of Oppression and Injustice is at an End!") and "Gloire et Reconnaissance a Nos Liberateurs!" ("Glory and Recognition to Our Liberators!"). While Jetty was reading, M. Colleye elaborated on the tremendous job that the Maquis had done in neutralizing the Nazi forces in the area. He was very proud of their contribution and he wanted the world to know it.

During all this time, Don Whitehead was very busy taking notes and asking questions with Jetty as his interpreter. It seemed to Jetty that Don had done far more writing than eating! That "quick' lunch lasted for two hours (and a second bottle of wine) and now it was time to say goodbye.

The goodbyes were as emotional as the earlier greetings had been, particularly for Jeannine. The Colleyes made Jetty promise that he would write but he went even further than that: he assured them that he would visit them again whenever he had the opportunity to do so. (Little did either of them know that he would have this opportunity' five times in the next 33 years!)

So with a final wave and a few more tears, Jetty and his friendly journalists departed the Colleyes and Seraing on his search for a way "home.'

They drove southwest on the main highway towards Huy. Traffic was light on their side of the road; however the other side was filled by thousands of U.S. Army tanks and other military vehicles of the First Army's main battle group headed towards the battlefields in the northeast. Then the road narrowed and they frequently had to pull to the side to allow passage of the road-filling tanks. Their progress slowed to a snail's pace. Finally, the military police (MP's) directed them to a side road higher in the hills.

On their new route and about halfway to Huy, they suddenly heard rifle fire and a bullet shattered the windshield of the jeep. The war correspondent driver headed straight for

1. Arthur Schalenborgh and 2. his wife  3. jack Gouinlock  4. Stan Jones  5. Fred Noble