|T3303||11-01-44||B-17 Flying Fortress|
|Returned Y/N||Evader Fate||Date Captured/Liberated||Place Captured/Liberated||Escape Line|
|Yes||EVD||11 May 44||Bristol, England||Dutch-Paris Line|
S/Sgt. Harry D. Kratz was the radio operator of B-17 42-39761 ‘Fireball II’ that crash landed near Zweeloo after sustaining flak damage over the target area on January 11, 1944. After Kratz landed near Sleen, he was approached by Dutch youngster Roelof Meijering. He ordered Kratz to hide in a ditch and stay there until he would be collected. Early in the evening, Roelof’s father, Jan Meijering, arrived at the ditch with a bicycle and took the airman to his farm at the Kruisstraat in Zweeloo. A bit later, his crewmates Sgt. Clyde L. Mellen (E0256) and Sgt. Walter R. Snyder (E0257) arrived at the farm as well. Meijering Sr. and the three airmen walked to Gees where he had arranged a hiding place at a farm. On their way to this small village, they picked up the left waist gunner of their plane, Sgt. Norman P. Elkin (E0254). The next day the Americans were fetched from this farm and transported by car to the farm of Hendrik Einje Moorlag in Emmer-Erfscheidenveen. On January 20, two members of the resistance, Markus Assies and Tony Wessels, took Mellen and Snyder to the house of Assies his girlfriend in Venebrugge. Kratz and Elkin were taken there the next day. On 22 January the four airmen travelled to Meppel where they were handed over to Peter van den Hurk and Joke Folmer. They also met two other airmen: Sgt. H.D. Morgan (E0227) and Sgt. L. Martin (E0226). They took - escorted by Van den Hurk and Folmer - first the train to Zwolle, and from there it went on to Venlo. Van den Hurk guided Morgan, Martin and Kratz, while Folmer took care of Mellen, Snyder and Elkin. In Venlo, Morgan, Martin and probably also Kratz stayed for the night in an apartment 'of woman, son and daughter'. The next day they moved on to Maastricht. Here the came in the hands of the Groep 'Vrij'. Kratz hid in 'a house in town', while Martin and Morgan found a hiding place at the 'NE of town with a dr. and wife'. They left here on 29 January. Kratz was probably taken to the house of Harry Hoenen at the Sint Lambertuslaan 48 in Maastricht where he met Mellen, Snyder and Elkin again and were they joined 1/Lt. William H. McDonald (E0148), 2/Lt. Frank P. McGlinchey (E0149) and P/O. John McLaughlin (E0264). The seven airmen stayed here for some days and were then collected by Tony Gielens who took them across the Dutch/Belgian border near Caberg. Once in Belgium, they were taken over by the Dutch-Paris escape line who brought them to Brussels. They stayed for one day at the Rue Franklin while J.P. Bol prepared their forged documents. At the end of the same day, the group left Brussels to arrive in Paris on the 29th of January. They were brought to the basement of a laboratory in the Rue Lhomond. Later that day a second group arrived that had arrived earlier in Paris and had stayed for a few days at the Huitema farm outside the French capital. This group consisted of F/Sgt. George Watts (E0145), F/Sgt. Philip Brown (E0179), a Sgt. Harris and crew members 2/Lt. Victor Ferrari (E0191), Sgt. Nicholas Mandell (E0192) and 2/Lt. Omar Roberts (E0193). 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’, Dutch men 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 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 dog of 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 skis and arrested the remaining fifteen men. From their hiding places farther up the mountain, those who had escaped the ambush saw a bus arrive on a road nearby the hut who then took the arrested men away. Passeur Marot was among the arrested but managed to escape before the bus arrived. Passeur Treillet found the escapees and led them to an inn to warm up before returning to France. On February 7, Kratz and the other escapees travelled by bus to Boussons where they took the train to Cazères. Here they stayed for some days before returning to Toulouse on February 15. In Toulouse they were informed that they already would leave the next day for the Pyrenees crossing. In the afternoon of the 16th, the group left by train for Montréjeau. From here they were transferred to a shepherd’s hut in the foothills near Ardon in the Valley of Baroussa. Heavy snow prevented their departure and they 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 Kratz, were released from custody and via Madrid taken to Gibraltar, arriving there on May 8. By air they returned to England, arriving here on May 11, 1944.
|* Marcel Zantingh, Wel gebogen maar niet gebroken. Zweeloo, een Drentse gemeente in oorlogstijd (Assen 2020), p. 204-223
* G. Groenhuis, Emmen in bezettingstijd. Een grensgemeente kort voor en tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog (Emmen 1990), page 183-186
* Megan Koreman, The Escape Line, page 160-168
* National Archives, Washington, EE-640