Studiegroep Luchtoorlog 1939-1945

Evaders


Evader chart: E0191
SGLO Date crash Aircraft
T3086 13-11-43 B-24 Liberator
MilRank First Name(s) Name
2/Lt. Victor J. Ferrari
Milregnr. Nationality Born
O-670054 American Marion Heights, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, USA, 24 Feb 1916
Returned Y/N Evader Fate Date Captured/Liberated Place Captured/Liberated Escape Line
Yes EVD 27 Apr 44 Portreath, England Dutch-Paris Line
Evader Story
						2/Lt. Victor Ferrari was the navigator of the B24 42-7483 ‘Big Dog’ that crashed in the Meppelerdiep near Zwartsluis on November 13, 1943. He bailed out and experienced problems when pulling the ripcord of his parachute, but it opened just in time. After he had landed somewhere east of Genemuiden, he saw a crew member landing heavily on the other side of a canal. The crewmember was 2/Lt. Omar Roberts (E0193), the bombardier, who had severely injured his right shoulder on landing. Ferrari got out of his harness and hid it with the parachute in some bushes. Next, he got out of his Mae-west and heavy clothing, hid this as well and then jumped in the canal and swam to the other side. When he got there, a small crowd was already gathering, and he asked for help with his language card. One of the bystanders spoke some English and told him that they had to leave the scene because the Germans were coming. Another bystander, Henk Eykelboom from Meppel, offered them bicycles and together with him, the airmen cycled away. Cycling proved to much for Roberts, so they dismounted and threw the bicycles in the canal. Eykelboom then led them on to a dirt road where the two airmen hid in the reed along a ditch. He told them to stay there and returned some hours later and led them to another hiding place. In the evening they were picked up from there and brought to a small farm where they got something to eat and drink. They spent the night and the greater part of the next day, November 14, in a haystack near the farm. Towards the end of the day, Peter van den Hurk came to the farm and took Ferrari and Roberts to the house of minister van Nooten. Here they joined F/Sgt. Philip Henry Brown (E0179), who had arrived there on 11 November. Brown had been the navigator of Mosquito DZ519 that crashed near Mantinge in the evening of October 20, 1943. The three airmen celebrated Christmas and New Years Day with the Nooten family and left there on January 14, 1944. 

Guided by Joke Folmer, former courier of the Fiat Libertas line, Roberts, Ferrari and Brown travelled by train via Venlo to Maastricht. Here they crossed the Dutch-Belgian border with help of the group of Jacques Vrij. Once in Belgium they travelled to Brussels where they were transferred to the Dutch-Paris escape line. In Brussels more airmen were brought together by Dutch-Paris for their journey to the French-Spanish border. Ferrari and Roberts were re-united with their fellow crewmember T/Sgt. Nicholas Mandell (E0192). Mandell had travelled to Brussels with F/Sgt. George Watts (E0145). The sixth member of the group was a Sgt. Harris. These six airmen left Brussels on the Berlin-Paris express train on the evening of January 23, arriving at the Gare du Nord in Paris early on January 24. The group spend a hungry day in Paris before a young woman took the men to Huitema’s farm outside the city. On January 29 they were brought back to Paris where they joined a second group of airmen that had just arrived from Brussels and stayed in a laboratory basement at the Rue Lhomond. This second group consisted of P/O. John McLaughlin (E0264), 1/Lt. William McDonald (E0148), 2/Lt. Frank McGlinchy (E0149), Sgt. Norman Elkin (E0254), S/Sgt. Harry Kratz (E0255), Sgt. Clyde Mellen (E0256) and Sgt. Walter Snyder (E0257). On January 30, 2/Lt. Campbell C. Brigman and S/Sgt. Harold A. Boyce, crewmembers of B-17 42-39759 that belly landed near Hirson in northern France, joined the group and brought the number of evaders to 15. McLaughlin was the first of this group to leave Paris for Toulouse on 3 February, travelling together with eight ‘Engelandvaarders’, Dutch men and women trying to get to England. Due to insufficient hygiene, Ferrari’s skin in his crotch area was inflamed and he had trouble walking. Therefore, he stayed in Paris for medical treatment while the remaining airmen left for the Franco/Spanish border late in the afternoon on February 4. 

When Ferrari had sufficiently recovered, he was taken to Toulouse by train. There he joined a new group of evaders and in the last week of February was again re-united with Mandell in a shepherds hut in the foothills near Saint Laurence in the Valley of Baroussa. Mandell and Watts had escaped from a German ambush on the Col de Portes d’ Aspet on their first crossing attempt on February 6. However, Ferrari’s earlier companions Roberts and Brown had both been arrested by the Germans there. Heavy snow prevented their departure and the group had to wait several weeks while in the meantime the number of fugitives increased to 38 men of different nationalities. On March 16, passeurs Jean-Luc Bazerque (alias ‘Charbonnier’) and ‘Frisco’ led the evaders and an armed guide of the Maquis on a wide three-day trek round Bagnères-de-Luchon. On the 19th of March, the group of 38 arrived at Bossòst in the Aran Valley in Catalonia, Spain. Their ordeal was not yet over for they were arrested and next interrogated by the Spaniards. Via Viella, Sort and Lleida they arrived at Alhama the Aragón where they were visited by a representative of the American Military Attaché. It took another two weeks before the American airmen, including Ferrari, were released from custody and via Madrid taken to Gibraltar, arriving there on May 8. By air they returned to England arriving there on May 11, 1944.

Victor J. Ferrari retired from the Air Force in the rank of Colonel in August 1971. He passed away on 5 May 2007 at the age of 91 in Texas, USA. He is buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas, USA.						
Source(s)
* D. Driessen en D. van Eerde, Sporen Terug. Crash van Liberator B24. 13 november 1943 Zwartsluis
* Frans Govers, Pyama-House. Ontdekkingsreis door het uitgebreide netwerk van de pilotenhulp tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog: 1943-1944 (Uden 1992), page 32-33
* J. Bussels, De doodstraf als risico. Pilotenhulp in Belgisch Limburg 1941-1944 (without place 1981), page 158
* Megan Koreman, The Escape Line. How the ordinary heroes of Dutch-Paris resisted the Nazi occupation of Western Europe (Oxford 2018), page 160-168
* Jean-Luc E. Cartron, So Close to Freedom: A World War II Story of Peril and Betrayal in the Pyrenees (Nebraska 2019), page 1-2
* https://www.humanitiestexas.org/news/articles/navigators-odyssey