|T3303||11-01-44||B-17 Flying Fortress|
|Returned Y/N||Evader Fate||Date Captured/Liberated||Place Captured/Liberated||Escape Line|
|No||EVD-POW||6 Feb 44||Col du Portet d'Aspet, France||Dutch-Paris Line|
Sgt. Clyde L. Mellen was the top turret gunner 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 bailing out, Mellen landed near Sleen and headed for a small wood. On his way to it he came upon his crew mate Sgt. Walter R. Snyder (E0257), the ball turret gunner. From where they hid in the small wood, they could see the burning wreck of their B-17. After about 45 minutes they left their hiding place and emerging from the wood, were at once spotted by Dutch youngster Roelof Meijering. He ordered them back into the wood and told them to wait. Around five in the afternoon, Meijering Jr returned with an extra bicycle and civilian clothes. He told both Americans to follow him to the farm of his father, Jan Meijering, at the Kruisstraat in Zweeloo. Here they were united with their crew mate, S/Sgt. Harry Kratz (E0255), who had been radio operator on their Fortress. 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' 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. These two took them by train via Zwolle and Venlo to Maastricht where they were handed over to the group of Jacques Vrij. Vrij in turn took the men to Harry Hoenen at the Sint Lambertuslaan 48 in Maastricht where 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 the 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 ski and arrested the remaining fifteen men, Mellen 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. Mellen ended up in Stalag Luft 1, Barth where he was liberated by the Russian Army on April 30, 1945.
|* Marcel Zantingh, Wel gebogen maar niet gebroken. Zweeloo, een Drentse gemeente in oorlogstijd (Assen 2020), page 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