Studiegroep Luchtoorlog 1939-1945


Evader chart: E0193
SGLO Date crash Aircraft
T3086 13-11-43 B-24 Liberator
MilRank First Name(s) Name
2/Lt. Omar Edward Roberts Jr.
Milregnr. Nationality Born
O-668778 American 21 May 1922
Returned Y/N Evader Fate Date Captured/Liberated Place Captured/Liberated Escape Line
No EVD-POW 6 Feb 44 French-Spanish border Dutch-Paris Line
Evader Story
						2/Lt. Omar Roberts was the bombardier of the B-24 Liberator 42-7483 ‘Big Dog’ that crashed in the Meppelerdiep near Zwartsluis on November 13, 1943. He was the last person to bail out and his parachute barely opened in time. This resulted in a heavy landing in which he dislocated his right shoulder. A small crowd was already gathered around Roberts, when 2/Lt. Victor Ferrari showed up. Ferrari was the navigator of ‘Big Dog’ and had landed on the other side of the canal. He had seen Roberts landing and after he had disposed himself of his heavy gear, had swam to Robert’s side of the canal to lend him a hand. When he got there, he asked the bystanders for help with his language card. One of them 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 they 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, resistance leader Peter van den Hurk came to the farm and took Ferrari and Roberts to the house of minister Willem Nicolaas van Nooten at Zuideinde 53 at Meppel. 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 local doctor came and took care of Robert’s dislocated shoulder on the floor of the living room. 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 that joined 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 spent 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, Campbell Brigman and Harold 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 fifteen.

McLaughlin was the first of the group to leave Paris for Toulouse on 3 February, travelling together with eight ‘Engelandvaarders’, Dutchmen trying to get to England. Late in the afternoon on February 4, the remaining airmen were taken in small groups with the Metro to Gare d’Austerlitz with the exception of Victor Ferrari. He stayed in Paris for medical treatment and would join another group some weeks later. From the Gare d’Austerlitz, the thirteen airmen and their guides took the night train to Toulouse. Having arrived there the men had breakfast at Chez Emile and next took the afternoon train to Saint-Girons. From this little town some went by taxi and others by bus to Mane, where the group assembled in a shepherd's hut outside of Arbas. Their number had risen to 26 and consisted of airmen, Engelandvaarders and some others. At 22:00 hours on February 5, they left for the crossing to Spain, led by passeurs Treillet and Marot. During the night it started to snow, making the going even harder, and early in the morning the passeurs led the group to a shepherd's hut for a break. Later that morning the weather improved and under a clear blue sky, the passeurs decided to leave the Col de Portes d’ Aspet. Passeur Treillet was the first to leave the hut around 10 o’clock and went ahead to scout. When the group started to leave the hut to follow him, Treillet spotted a pair of dog ears belonging to a German mountain patrol lying in ambush. He shouted a warning and eleven men scrambled up the mountain to hide, being fired at by the Germans. The German patrol then descended to the hut on ski and arrested the remaining fifteen men, Roberts being one of them. A bus arrived on a nearby road and took the arrested men down to Foix where they were divided in civilians and airmen. After interrogation the airmen were sent to PoW camps and Roberts ended up in Stalag Luft I at Barth where he was liberated by the Russian Army on April 30, 1945.

Omar Edward Roberts passed away on 10 February 1972 at the age of 49. He is buried at Keystone United Methodist Church Cemetery, Hillsborough County, Florida, USA.						
* 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