Studiegroep Luchtoorlog 1939-1945

Evaders


Evader chart: E0253
SGLO Date crash Aircraft
T3299 11-01-44 B-17 Flying Fortress
MilRank First Name(s) Name
T/Sgt. Orian George Owens
Milregnr. Nationality Born
37426819 American Mechanicsville, Cedar County, Iowa, USA, 22 Jan 1915
Returned Y/N Evader Fate Date Captured/Liberated Place Captured/Liberated Escape Line
No EVD-Killed 22 Apr 44 Chimay, Belgium -
Evader Story
						T/Sgt. Orian George Owens was the engineer of B-17 42-30782. After bailing out he landed near the Lichtenberg, south of Nijverdal. He was injured at his right upper leg. He soon was found by a Dutchman, Jo Noest, who helped him hiding temporarily. Shortly after he returned and picked him up and brought Owens, together with T/Sgt. Charles A. Nichols (E0252) to a ditch covered by branches, where he had hid already S/Sgt. W.W. Cole (E0249). They stayed here the rest of the afternoon. Noest then returned and escorted the three airmen the foresters house of Hegeman where they found a hiding place in a potato hole. In the evening of 12 January Cole was brought, on the back of a bike, to the house of Jacob Nauta at Veerenlandweg 19 in Rijssen. At a later moment Owens and Nichols were escorted by Noest to the house of Family Albertus J. Meijer in Rijssen. It’s unclear if the two rejoined already here, or at at a later moment, another crewmember: Sgt. John J. Gemborski (E0250). The next day - 13 January - Alphons Gerard and Jules Haeck picked up the three (or four) and brought them to Hengelo. Owens, Gemborski and another crewmember, 1/Lt. I.E. Glaze (E0251), were brought to the house of Stefanie Memelauer in Hengelo. Nichols and Cole found a hiding place at the Dennebosweg in Hengelo in the house of Gerard. 

On 17 January Glaze, Cole and Nichols left Hengelo. Escorted by Alphons Gerard they were brought to Echt. Owens and Gemborski followed two days later on 19 January. They found a hiding place for two weeks in the house of Harry Tummers and in the house of His sister, Hilke Tummers and her husband, Christiaan Ruikes. Nichols, Gemborski and Owens stayed partially in the house of Tummers and partially on the farm ‘de Horst’ of A.H. Peeters near Echt. In the beginning of February 1944, Tummers brought the three to Maastricht and handed them over to Jef Fransen of the ‘groep Sijmons’. The next day they were rejoined by Nichols and Owens. In Eijsden the came in the hands of customs officer Frans Kroeze who helped the five airmen over the Dutch-Belgian border. 

Via the house of Louis T. van Dommel in Mouland they moved in smaller groups to Riezes, at the French-Belgian border. With other airmen the hid in a hut deep in the woods. After German activity in the area they moved, in March, to another hut in the Bois de la Champagne near the village of Saint Rémy, west of Chimay. Because of the long and boring days, and the small chances to reach Allied territory with a big group of evaders Glaze and Cole decided to leave on their own. After a long and adventurous trip they managed to reach Gibraltar. On 28 June 1944 they were flown back to England. Staying in the refugee camp had fatal consequences for Gemborski, Nichols and Owens. In the morning of 22 April 1944 the SS, the Merlot police and the Garde Wallone surrounded the camp. They had been treated. Together with five other Americans and some helpers they were arrested. This accounted also for thirty civilians of Chimay who were arrested as a retaliation. They were transported to the Gestapo headquarters of Chimay. After they had unclothed themselves and had been interrogated for a few hours, trucks brought them back to the camp. Here all the prisoners were murdered. The next day the victims were buried in a mass grave near the airfield Charleroi-Gosselies.

Orian George Owens is now buried at Lisbon Cemetery, Lisbon, Linn County, Iowa, USA.
						
Source(s)
* H.B. van Helden, De lijst van Haeck. Een overzicht van de hulpverlening aan geallieerde bemanningsleden en ontsnapte krijgsgevangenen tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog (Hardenberg 2017), page 116-118.