Fr. Pierre Louis Daems


From Michael Moores LeBlanc (3/26/06):

100 BG evader/pow's name shows up in two lines at the bottom of his (Fr. Daems) file and I believe in the summary list of airmen helped on page three of the file. It serves to offer a clue to Chavez's attempt at evasion ... and begs the question, how much further along the line was Chavez able to get before he was finally trapped (Another very, very interesting clue is the statement on Daems file saying, "He knew of Van Mulem's activities". This short line is pregnant with implications. Rene Van Muylem (a Flemish Nationalist), aka 'Robert', was an agent of the Abwehr III/f of Antwerp. He was the fellow ultimately responsible for the entrapment of 177 allied airmen (including a number of other 100 BG types who were evaders but listed eventually as Pows). 'Robert' had managed to penetrate the Antwerp resistance in February of 44 and developed great prestige with them by supplying them with money, explosives, false papers, etc and rose to a high and influential level within the leadership. By late March and then throughout the summer of 44 (till about Aug when he went on holiday) he 'handled' most of the airmen arriving in that town.
 

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Francois Casteignier (Helper)

 

Francois Casteignier (Helper)
by Michael Moores LeBlanc

Here is a little story I wanted to send off to you all on its own, because to me it's just a little bit special.

It's a resume of the story of Francois Casteignier of the Comete Line. Hardly anyone knows about him today or perhaps even cares, but I do and hope your readership may understand why. For your reference, I have attached a picture of him, as well as an illustration featured in ICARE magazine, a French magazine devoted to aero-subjects, in issue 151, Tonme 4, dedicated to Comete, entitled, Aviateurs et Resistants. 1994. The illustration captures the story of Francois brilliantly with a few ink lines in a way prose cannot easily compete with. I also attach a picture of Alice Casteignier-Goret taken from her resistance membership card in 1954. Her world weariness seems quite evident.

Francois was the son of Alice Goret, who was married to Jean Jules Casteignier (the latter is the correct spelling of the family name- I may have it wrong in photo IDs and other references).

His mother Alice, was an ideal of the resistance worker. She was dedicated and brave, and she sheltered an estimated 50 airmen and was involved in significant resistance activity. She was quite capable of 'deadly' action when necessary and did so to prove it on more than one occasion. Having been a prisoner of the Germans in WWI, due to her family's resistance activity even back then, she entered the Second World War fully committed to the allied cause. She was, as they say, a resistant, 'de la premier heur' - from the very first hour, and she fought the war in her own way to the bitter end ... more bitter for her than for most.

Now, I am about to impart to you a truth very few people know about. It was through her that Jacques Desourbri, the arch-villain and 'bête noire' of the Comete line was able to achieve his many successes against the Comete line. It was through her and by abusing her trust that he first came into contact with Comete in early 1943 and it was through her that he kept in touch with its progressive changes allowing him to re-infiltrate the line as occasion and opportunity allowed for the following year. He was able to maintain her trust until the summer of 1944, at which time she finally realized what he really was. This in essence, was the background to most of Comete's tragedies. 

However, this message is not about her, great as she was in her own right, but about her son, Francis. The picture I have attached is one taken of him on the 28th of December, 1943. He was then 15 years old. He would be arrested three months later.

Here was a young boy, completely inspired by his mother and absolutely and completely devoted in all of his young and pure innocence to the cause of the allies. Any mother or father would have been proud to have such a son. Matured beyond his years, due to war conditions, he was involved in many missions on behalf of his mother and for Comete Paris. He worked with 'Paul' de Jong and 'Baby' Ayle, survived their arrests, worked with the fabulous Gabby Waim, a veteran of both Comete and Burgundy, went through the trials of Comete's disaster in January of 1944 and carried on from there. He carried messages, acted as a liaison between various agents, and helped to guide allied airmen from the coastal areas of France and the north back to Paris.

Did he help any men of the 100 BG? I don't know. We simply don't seem to have that kind of information available in the archives. It is quite possible because he was current and he was active, but we have no positive proof. In any case, it really doesn't matter because he represents the very best and purest of the resistance spirit, and in this way he represents and stands for everyone who shared his aims and goals. His age, and bearing, rather than his activity, is what makes him remarkable ... and, to us today, over 60 years later, his image brings home to anyone who looks at him the tragedy of war and the loss of all that is good and the waste of human potential.

In mid February, 1944, Jacqes Desourbri, aka 'Pierre Boulain', attended a private dinner and meeting of the group of people Michou Dumon had assembled following the collapse of Comete in January. The dinner was hosted by 'Martine' Madeline Noel, the designated leader of the new grouping in Paris. Within two weeks, at the very beginning of March, the new series of Comete Line arrests began.

Alerted by the very first of these, Francois volunteered to try to warn others to take care and go into hiding. One of the addresses he had to go to was that of 'Martine' and he arrived at her apartment with a large sum of money to help her in her escape. The Gestapo were already there and waiting. He was arrested with the compromising sum of money. He was taken to Gestapo HQ and soon afterwards, was confronted with his mother, who had, in the meantime, been picked up. He was tortured in front of her but bravely kept his silence and protected her from any implication. She was soon released. Pity the poor mother in this situation.

Of course, it was all a needless game for them since the Germans already secretly knew what everything was about because of Desourbri. Francois was sent to the concentration camps in Germany, and to all intents and purposes disappeared there. Imagine for a moment you were his parent and you will understand part of what it was like to have been involved in the resistance.

During and after the liberation of Paris, Mrs Goret began to receive threatening messages to remain silent or her son would answer for her, References to these threats show up in her NARA file dated 1944.No doubt these threats originated from Desourbri himself, who was still a large at that time.

After the end of the war, Francois appeared at the railway station at Orsay in Paris. In the words of is mother, he was nothing but "a large head on top of a skeleton". He was one of the victims of medical experiments done on children in the concentration camps and had been submitted to some sort of special injection . He was sent to the sick children's hospital in Paris where, in time, he recovered some of his health, but the effects of his treatment, at the hands of the Nazis, effected an early death and he passed way at the age of 38 in 1966.

Suffer the little children to come to me…

Michael Moores LeBlanc – 4 Apr 2006

 

 

100th BG Evaders

100th Bomb Group Evaders

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Note: All E&E documents have been officially declassified.

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"nfd" is an abbreviation for "no further details."


  100 Bomb Group Evaders
E&E 090 pdf 2 Lt John L. Dunbar
351st BS. FTR 04/07/43
From Donald Darling's book, Secret Sunday: He evaded to Spain on his own - a spectacular performance ... and arrived in Spain on 07/08/43. Notes connected with his name on the master list  say: Helped E&E 89 Ralph D. McKee of the 305 BG, (who in turn was helped by Gp Vengeance). A further note says, see book, Escape Over The Pyrenees.
E&E 116 pdf 2 Lt Archibald L. Robertson
350 BS. FTR 10/07/43. (^) LeBourget, France.
Evac via Comete 139. Evacuated to Spain 22 Sept '43
E&E 120 pdf Lt Roy Frank Claytor
350 BS. FTR 17/08/43. (^) Munster-Bilzen, Belgium.
Evac via Comete 155. Evacuated to Spain 6 Oct '43.
E&E 167 pdf S/Sgt Michael F. Darcy
349 BS. FTR 03/09/43. (^) Cerny, France.
Evac nfd. (Burgundy?)
E&E 181 pdf S/Sgt Nolan D. Kreitenstein
351 BS. FTR 03/09/43
Evac nfd (Burgandy?)
E&E 254 pdf Sgt John M. Wagner
350 BS. FTR 15/09/43. (^) Renault factory, Paris, France.
Evac via Burgundy.
E&E 256 pdf
S/Sgt Leon E. 'Al' MacDonald
349 BS. FTR 05/11/43. (^) Louvain area, Belgium.
Evac via Comete 208. Evacuated to Spain 27 Nov '43.
E&E 257 pdf S/Sgt George P. Gineikis
349 BS. FTR 05/11/43.(^) Louvain area, Belgium.
Evac via Comete 209. Evacuated to Spain 27 Nov '43.
E&E 258 pdf Lt Howard M. Harris
349 BS. FTR 03/09/43. (^) Cerny, France.
Evac via Burgundy. (+ died 26/03/2003).

E&E 259 pdf Sgt Alfred J. Zeoli
349 BS. FTR 03/09/43. (^) Cerny, France.
Evac via Burgundy.
E&E 260 pdf Lt Arthur M. Vetter
350 BS. FTR 15/09/43. (^) Renault factory, Paris, France.
Evac via Burgundy.
E&E 271 pdf Lt Ralph Dill Smith
349 BS. FTR 03/09/43. (^) Cerny, France.
Evac via Comete 198. Evacuated to Spain 18 Nov '43.
E&E 272 pdf Lt William H. Booth
349 BS. FTR 03/09/43. (^) Dhusson-Longueville, France.
Evac via Comete 199. Evacuated to Spain 18 Nov '43.
E&E 275 pdf S/Sgt Edward W. Fontaine
350 BS. FTR 15/09/43. (^) Renault factory, Paris, France.
Evac via nfd.
E&E 278 pdf 1 Lt Paul Pascal
351 BS. FTR  03/09/43
Excerpts from a regional French history book about the Eure et Loire, says he landed near Thomer-la-Sogne (Eure). Guided to the home of Mme Philippon (active helper in region) and to Paris by Mme Maury of Gp Vengeance.
Evacuated via Burgundy.
E&E 280 pdf T/Sgt Harold L. Pope
349 BS. FTR 05/11/43. (^) Limbourg, Belgium.
Evac via Comete 212. Evacuated to Spain 3 Dec '43.
E&E 283 pdf Lt John K. Justice
349 BS. FTR 10/10/43. (^) Barneveld, Netherlands.
Evac via Comete 226. Evacuated to Spain 15 Dec '43.

E&E 285 pdf Lt Carl Spicer
350 BS. FTR 10/10/43. (^) Lippenhuizen, Netherlands.
Evac via Comete 227. Evacuated to Spain 15 Dec '43.

E&E 303 pdf T/Sgt Thomas E. Combs
349 BS. FTR 03/09/43. (^) Cerny, France.
Evac via Comete 236. Evacuated to Spain 20 Dec '43
E&E 310 pdf S/Sgt Warren G. Lush
351 BS. FTR 15/09/43. (^) Renault factory, Paris, France.
Evac via Burgundy. (not indicated as the spare in Vetter’s crew for this date)
E&E 311 pdf Lt James G. Bormuth
350 BS. FTR 15/09/43. (^) Renault factory, Paris, France.
Evac via Burgundy.
E&E 313 pdf Lt Reginald James Nutting
350 BS. FTR 17/08/43. (^) Munster-Bilzen, Belgium.
Evac via Comete 225. Evacuated to Spain 12 Dec '43.
E&E 314 pdf T/Sgt John W. Burgin
350 BS.FTR 17/08/43. (^) Munster-Bilzen, Belgium.
Evac via Comete 224. Evacuated to Spain 12 Dec '43
E&E 325 pdf T/Sgt Trafford L. Curry
351 BS, FTR 03/09/43. (^) Paris, France.
Evac via nfd.
E&E 333 pdf T/Sgt Robert C. Giles
350 BS. FTR 04/10/43. (^) Caen, France.
Evac via FanFan Line. (boat evasion from Brittany). See ‘Escape’, published memoirs of Lt James E. Armstrong. ISBN 1-885354. Altman Printing Co. Spartanburg, SC.
E&E 334 pdf T/Sgt Carroll F. Haarup
350 BS. FTR 04/10/43. (^) Caen, France.
Evac via FanFan Line (boat evasion from Brittany).
E&E 346 pdf T/Sgt Andrew "Andy" A. Hathaway
349 BS. FTR 26/11/43. (^) Beauvais area, France.
Evac via Shelburn Line - Brittany MGB. 29-30/01/44.
E&E 373 pdf S/Sgt Joseph Shandor
350 BS. FTR 04/10/43. (^) Cahagnes, Normandy, France.
Helped by Century Line & Marie-Odile Line. Went on to Switzerland. Evac via nfd. Arrived UK 16/02/44.
E&E 374 pdf S/Sgt Thomas F. Mezynski
350 BS. FTR 04/10/43. (^) Cahagnes, Normandy, France.
Evac via Burgundy. Evac via nfd. (Presumably same as above).
E&E 375 pdf Lt Jean B. Pitner
349 BS. FTR 26/11/43. (^) Beauvais area, France.
Helped by Gilbert Thibault who had both Comete & Burgundy connections. Evac via nfd. (see below).
E&E 376 pdf Lt Arno E. Plischke
349 BS. FTR 26/11/43. (^) Beauvais area, France.
Helped by Marie-Odile Line. Evac via Francoise Dissard Line of Toulouse.
E&E 384 pdf S/Sgt Charles K. Bailey
350 BS. FTR 17/8/43. (^) Munster-Bilzen, Belgium.
Assisted by Comete but transferred to Felix-Burgundy Line. Evacuated by Felix-Burgundy Line.
E&E 385 pdf S/Sgt William M. Quinn
350 BS. FTR 17/8/43. (^) Munster-Bilzen, Belgium.
Assisted by Comete but transferred to Felix-Burgundy Line. Evacuated by Felix-Burgundy Line.
E&E 397 pdf 2 Lt Eugene V. Mulholland
351 BS. FTR 03/09/43
Helped by the same people (Maude-Couve) in Paris who helped Howard Harris and Alf Zeoli.
Evacuated via Burgundy. Evacuated to Spain ca Feb '44.
E&E 454 pdf T/Sgt Ira G. Evans
418 BS. FTR 20/02/44. (^) Skovby, Denmark.
Evac via Sweden 07/03/44.
E&E 468 pdf Lt Charles B. Winkelman
349 BS, .FTR 03/09/43. (^) Cerny, France.
Almost captured in Paris. Evac via Burgundy-Shelburn. 18/03/44.
E&E 469 pdf Sgt John T. Amery
351 BS. FTR 30/12/43. (^) Rheims area, France.
Evac via Burgundy-Shelburn. 18/03/44. (+ died 01/03/2002)
E&E 556 pdf Sgt Richard J. Faulkner
350 BS. FTR 18/03/44.
Evac via Burgundy-Shelburn. 16 April 44.
E&E 565 pdf Lt Leonard D. McChesney
349 BS. FTR 30/12/43. (^) Normandy area, France.
Evac via nfd.
E&E 566 pdf Lt Charles W. Compton, Jr.
349 BS. 349 BS. FTR 30/12/43. (^) Normandy area, France.
Evac via nfd.
E&E 567 pdf Sgt John W. Runcel
351 BS. FTR 30/12/43. (^) Rheims area, France.
Evac via nfd.UK 17 April 44.
E&E 568 pdf Sgt Conrad P. Stumpfig
351 BS. 351 BS. FTR 30/12/43. (^) Rheims area, France.
Evac via nfd.UK 17 April 44.
E&E 576 pdf Sgt William Wertz
351 BS. FTR 30/12/43. (^) Rheims area, France.
Evac via nfd.
E&E 577 pdf Lt Clyde S. Manion
351 BS. FTR 30/12/43. (^) Rheims area, France.
Evac via nfd.
E&E 653 pdf S/Sgt Edward M. Daly
350 BS. FTR 15/09/43. (^) Renault factory, Paris, France.
Evac via Burgundy. Helped by Davy of Comete-Felix-Burgundy line.
E&E 654 pdf S/Sgt Hobart C. Trigg
350 BS. FTR 15/09/43. (^) Renault factory, Paris, France.
Evac via nfd.
E&E 726 pdf S/Sgt John L. Swenson
351 BS. FTR 30/12/43 (^) Rheims area, France.
Evac via nfd.
E&E 763 pdf S/Sgt Glen H. Keirsey
350 BS. FTR 17/08/43. (^) nfd. Escaped as a pow in Italy.
Evac via nfd.
E&E 850 pdf S/Sgt Alvin C. Little
351 BS. FTR 30/12/43. (^) Rheims area, France.
Evac via nfd.
E&E 932 pdf Lt Thorton Bline
418 BS. FTR 25/06/44. (^) France. Nfd.
Evac via nfd.
E&E 933 pdf T/Sgt Laverne H. Deatrich
418 BS. FTR 25/06/44. (^) France. Nfd.
Evac via nfd.
E&E 1003 pdf Lt Kenneth Houghton
418 BS. FTR 25/06/44. (^) France. Nfd.
Allied control 16 Aug 44.
E&E 1004 pdf S/Sgt Malcolm Eckley
FTR 25/06/44. (^) France. Nfd
Allied control 16 Aug 44.
E&E 1070 pdf Lt James McCurley
418 BS. FTR 05/11/43. (^) Dieppe area, France.
Allied control 19 Aug 44. (+died Dec 1972).
E&E 1071 pdf Lt Joseph P. Murphy
418 BS. FTR 05/11/44. (^) Dieppe area, France.
Allied control 19 Aug 44.
E&E 1184 pdf 2 Lt David Shoss
418 BS. FTR 24/06/44. (^) Rouen area, France. Nfd.
Allied control ca 27Aug 44. (+ died 24/08/2003)
E&E 1237 pdf 2 Lt Thomas L. Lemond
418 BS. FTR 18/03/44 (^) Compeaux, France, Allied control 24 Aug 44
E&E 1238 pdf Sgt Norman C. Fernaays
418 BS. FTR 11/08/44 (^) Meudon, France, Allied control 25 Aug 44
E&E 1303 pdf T/Sgt Louis P. Glasser
349 BS. FTR 25/07/44 (^) St. Lo, France, Allied control 29 Aug 44
E&E 1335 pdf Lt Arnold I. Holmes
349 BS. FTR 25/07/44 (^) St. Lo, France, Allied control 29 Aug 44
E&E 1357 pdf T/Sgt Willie B. Yates
418 BS. FTR 24/06/44. (^) Rouen area, France.
Helped by Jakob Placinski of Bois de la Chappelle, Oissel, Seine, France. Allied control 2 Sept 44.
E&E 1382 pdf S/Sgt Joseph W. Schultz
418 BS. FTR 24/06/44. (^) Rouen area, France. Nfd.
Allied control 3 Sept 44.
E&E 1559 pdf Sgt Parrish Reynolds
350 BS. FTR 10/07/43. (^) LeBourget, France. Pow. Escaped.
Allied control 6 Sept 44.
E&E 1692 pdf Lt Winans C. Shaddix
349 BS. FTR 27/04/44. (^) Belgium.
Orphaned while evading on the Comete Line or part of the Mission Marathon plan. Helped by Gp EVA. Sheltered by Mission Marathon. Allied control 7 Sept 44.
E&E 1841 pdf Lt John W. Brown
349 BS. FTR 04/02/44. (^) Oolen, Belgium. Arrested # 20/06/44. Escaped from Ghost Train. Allied control 9 Sept 44.

E&E 1842 pdf Lt Louis H. Abromowitz
418BS. FTR 20/07/44. (^) Crash-landed near Breda.
Helped by Gp Marcus & Gp Les Afranchis. Allied control 9 Sept 44.

E&E 1843 pdf Lt George E. Bonitz
418 BS. FTR 20/07/44. (^) Crash-landed near Breda.
Helped by Gp Marcus & Gp Les Afranchis. Allied control 9 Sept 44. Came within an ace of capture.

E&E 1844 pdf Capt Robert E. Nance
418 BS. FTR 20/07/44. (^) Crash-landed near Breda.
Helped by Gp Marcus & Gp Les Afranchis. Allied control 9 Sept 44. Came within an ace of capture.

E&E 2001 pdf Capt Henry G. Griffis
350 BS FTR 20/07/44. (^) Crash-landed near Breda.
Orphaned while evading on the Comete Line or part of the Mission Marathon plan. Gp Lafili of Turnhout. Mission Marathon. Allied control 11/09/44.
E&E 2002 pdf S/Sgt Daniel M. Cargile
418 BS FTR 20/07/44. (^) Crash-landed near Breda.
Orphaned while evading on the Comete Line or part of the Mission Marathon plan. Gp Lafili of Turnhout. Mission Marathon. Allied control 11/09/44.
E&E 2101 pdf 2 Lt Theodore "Ted" H. Kleinman
349 BS. FTR 04/02/44. (^) Casterlee, Belgium.
Arrested # 28 Aug 44. Captured on the false 'Dog House' Brussels based escape line run by the notorious Prosper De Zitter. Escaped from Ghost Train.
E&E 2217 pdf S/Sgt Delton L. King
349 BS. FTR 26/11/43
Moved by French underground by car from Beauvis to Paris. Paris to Lyon by train. Lyon to Nacky, then to Switzerland.
E&E 2218 pdf F/O Hubert E. Trent
350 BS, FTR 04/10/43 Crash landing (wheels up) near Caen France.
Marie-Odile Line orphan. Helped by Century Line & Marie-Odile Line. Allied control 19 Sept 44.
E&E 2415 pdf 2 Lt Saul Hershkowitz
351 BS, FTR 30/12/43. (^) Helped by French, Returned to Allied control 6 Sep 44
  100th Bomb Group Arrested / Captured
No E&E Rpt Lt Kenneth R. Lorch
350 BS. FTR 17/8/43
Arrested in Bordeaux some time after Dec 43. ca Feb? He was arrested together with Sgt Ernest C. King nfd

No E&E Rpt S/Sgt Robert C. Chavez
418 BS. FTR 20/7/43
Captured on the false 'KLM' escape line in Antwerp. nfd.

No E&E Rpt S/Sgt Daniel B. Deason
418 BS. FTR 20/7/44
Captured on the false 'KLM' escape line in Antwerp. nfd.
No E&E Rpt T/Sgt Oscar L. Edge
418 BS. FTR 20/7/44
Captured on the false 'KLM' escape line in Antwerp. nfd.
No E&E Rpt Lt Bernard L. Farnum
418 BS. FTR 20/7/44
Captured on the false 'KLM' escape line in Antwerp. nfd.
No E&E Rpt 1 Lt William H. McDonald
350 BS. FTR 8/10/43
Arrested  05-06 Feb 44 in Pyrenees while evading on so-called Dutch-Paris Line. Possibly ex-Comete airman
No E&E Rpt 2 Lt Frank P. McGlinchey
350 BS. FTR 8/10/43
Arrested  05-06 Feb 44 in Pyrenees while evading on so-called Dutch-Paris Line. Possibly ex-Comete airman
No E&E Rpt 2 Lt James P. Law
351 BS. FTR 30/12/43
Arrested 24 Mar 44 in Sedan on way to Pyrenees.
 

Victor Schutters (Helper)

Victor Schutters (Comète Line Helper)

The following letter was written by Victor Schutters, grandson of Victor Schutters, to Michael Faley, 100th BG Historian (via email 28 Mar 2006):

--- letter begins ---

Dear Mister Michael Faley,

On 6 February 2005, I wrote a message on the website of the 100th BG to ask information about Robert Nance, Louis Abromowitz and George Bonitz, three airmen who were helped by my grandfather during WWII.  A few days later, you gave me the address of Robert Nance who was living in Vacaville (California).

See: E&E 1841  |  E&E 1843  |  E&E 1844 

I wrote to him and I received emails from him. That was for me a great event because Robert Nance told me that he still remembered my grandfather. In his last email, Robert promised me a picture of himself taken at the base of Thorpe Abbot with the crew of Captain Kincannon.

Unfortunately, I never received neither this picture nor an answer to my following letters. So, I thought that Robert has perhaps passed away. However, last week-end, my friend Michael LeBlanc who helped me very much with my researches, said me that I could find a picture of the Kincannon’s crew on your website. I was very glad to find this picture and to discover the faces of Robert Nance and Louis Abromowitz. Now, Michael LeBlanc has sent me this picture with a higher resolution that he received from you. As I was waiting for such a picture for a long time, you can imagine my happiness.

Michael said me that you were interested with the story of my grandfather in relation with the evaded airmen of the 100th BG. 

English is not my mother tongue, but I will try to tell you what I leaned about it. In fact, my grandfather, Victor Schutters, was a member of several Belgian underground movements. Concerning his help to the evaded airmen, he belonged to the escape line Comète which was created in 1941 by Andrée De Jongh, a young girl of twenty-five years old.

The purpose of the Comète line was to help the shot downed airmen by sheltering them and by giving them food, civilian clothes and false papers and, if it was possible, by moving them back to England. That was a very long and difficult trip through France, the Pyrenees and Spain where they took a boat in Gibraltar to rejoin England.

The function of my grandfather in the Comète line, was to move the airmen, by car or by truck, from safe place to safe place and to provide them with food.

In the last days of July 1944, my grandfather and his friend Marcel Van Buekenhout, another resistant, had planned to fetch three airmen in Westmalle, at about 85 km from Brussels, between Antwerp and the border with Holland.

Those three airmen were Captain Robert Nance, 1st Lieutenant Louis Abramowitz and 1st Lieutenant George Bonitz.

However, on 1st August 1944, the foreseen day of the evacuation of the airmen, Marcel Van Buekenhout and his wife were arrested at their home by the Germans.

Knowing that Marcel Van Buekenhout possessed the address in Westmalle where the three airmen were hidden, the false identity cards and the false work cards intended to the airmen, my grandfather took the risk to evacuate them, hoping to be there before the Germans.

So, he did it and the same day the three airmen were safely hidden in houses in Brussels. Abromowitz and Bonitz were together in one safe house and Nance was at an other place.

Here is the wonderful and amazing story that Robert Nance told me in his letters :

"I ran straight south and on July 21 met up with Abramowitz and Bonitz.

On July 24 we met a Boy Scout on a farm near Hoogstraten. He led us to another farm where they hid us for three days. There was no organized underground in the countryside so the farmer made contact with a barber in Westmalle.

We were placed in a room above his barber shop while a villager went to Brussels to seek help for us.

He contacted a man named Robert Janssen (spelling of last name may be wrong). He lived on Rue Molaire.

Robert and your grandfather headed an underground unit that specialized in sabotage. They discovered the Brussels "escape and evasion" underground unit had be infiltrated by the Gestapo so they assumed those functions as well.

In late July two men driving an automobile stolen from the Gestapo and carrying Gestapo credentials came to Westmalle. We had our flying suits on and were handcuffed together. We were stopped at a German army roadblock but they accepted the two men to be Gestapo agents escorting prisoners to Brussels and passed us.

Once in Brussels, at about 5pm, we were in the center of the city and the sidewalks were crowded with pedestrians. They took off our handcuffs, stopped the car at a corner, told me to get out - flying suit ant all - and I would be contacted by a man who would help me. After I walked a few feet, a man walked by me and said, "Follow me."

That was when I first met Victor. We walked down a ramp into a garage located in the basement of a large building. He introduced himself, told me he was taking me to a place where I would be safe.

I could not see from inside the truck but after about 45 minutes we stopped and he told me to get out and go to the door of the nearby residence. He then drove off. As I recall it was three stories, a large beautiful residence.

The owner, Madame Thevenet (not sure of spelling) invited me in. I stayed there until Brussels was liberated.

Victor came to see me the next day just to make sure that I was all right.

When the Brits arrived, Janssen and I went to the Hotel Metropole and made arrangements for the other Americans to be housed there. In addition, announcements were made over the radio stations for evading American airmen to report to me at the hotel and 14 did so, making a total of 36 of us.

We stayed there for four days and then the American 3rd Army sent vehicles to take us to Paris.

Victor came to see us on the day before we left."

So far as I am concerned individuals such as your grandfather were the true, if unsung, heroes of WWII."

After asking to Robert if he didn’t remember if my grandfather was not already in the car which led them to Brussels, he replied :

"It is possible that your grandfather was one of the two men who drove us from Westmalle to Brussels. I did not get a good look at the man in the front passenger seat during the entire trip. I do know it was he who, after I left the car in the Brussels business district, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Follow me." And it was he who drove me to Madam Thevenet's resident.

I know that Bonitz and Abromowitz were taken to the resident (an apartment, I believe) of a lady whose husband was in a German POW camp. They stayed there until the liberation. Without being certain, I believe she lived in the vicinity of Scorbrook (spelling ?). At any rate, there was a big railroad yard there. I know that for a fact for I was the lead bombardier when we bombed the place in, I believe, May 1944.

I also know your grandfather had some association with a man named Ferdinand who reported to Janssen.

I have no picture of my crew. However, the photo here is one taken on a bomber base at Thorpe Abbots, England in early, 1944. I am the taller person standing on the right. The other man was Chase Kincannon. He has been dead for perhaps 20 years and was the pilot of my crew."

Unfortunately, this picture Robert Nance refers to was not attached to his email.

What Robert Nance didn’t know, was that they were evacuated just in time from Westmalle. Of course, they were nearly passed to the false escape line KLM which was directed by the traitor René Van Muylem and which led 177 in the hands of the Germans. 

But, I think that Michael LeBlanc is more qualified as myself to explain you how these false escape line worked.

Among the airmen who were helped by my grandfather and who belonged to the 100th BG, there was also 1st Lieutenant John Brown whose story is already told on your website. In his report, for the period between 03 /06/44 to 18/06/44, John Brown remembers that he was moved with a green truck. 

I know that my grandfather was a foreman at the garage of the Belgian Railways and that he had the authorization to use the trucks of the Company. Those trucks were painted in green color. 

So, I am practically certain that the truck John Brown is speaking about was one of those that my grandfather used to move the airmen.

Regards,

Victor Schutters

--- letter ends ---



From Michael Moores LeBlanc (28 Mar 2006):

- This should complete the Abromowitz, Bonitz & Nance story. -

I've focused so much on them because their story is so intimately connected to the last battle between the evasion lines and the Germans in Brussels and because they got away. I wonder if you are as perplexed as I have been about that hand-over. Nance feels it took place in Brussels but I suspect it must have been in Westerloo. My reasons for this line of thinking (aside from evidence in family oral history) is that 'Anne Brusselmans' confirms the handover took place in Westerloo.

You will also find attached an abstract from the Victor Schutters, Sr. file, including a photo and a card from his Belgian Military Veteran's file. The latter is notable, aside for listing his IS & sabotage activities, because it describes his conduct as being 'exemplaire dans l'action'.