Studiegroep Luchtoorlog 1939-1945


Evader chart: E0349
SGLO Date crash Aircraft
T3500 06-03-44 B-17 Flying Fortress
MilRank First Name(s) Name
2/Lt. Alan Richard Willis
Milregnr. Nationality Born
O-754451 American 10 Jun 18
Returned Y/N Evader Fate Date Captured/Liberated Place Captured/Liberated Escape Line
Yes EVD 5 Sep 44 Belgium (near border with France) Mission Marathon
Evader Story
						2/Lt. Alan Richard Willis was the co-pilot of Flying Fortress B-17 42-31373 ‘Flakstop’. Returning from a bombing mission to Klein Machnow near Berlin on March 6, 1944, this Fortress was attacked by German fighters near the Dutch-German border. The engines on the left, 3 & 4, were knocked out and a fire started in the left wing as well. The bomber had to leave the formation, making it even more vulnerable to attacking fighters. Eventually the order to bail out was given and Willis descended near Staphorst, the bomber crashing at De Leijen, an area to the east of Staphorst.

What happened next is unclear because both the crewmembers Escape&Evasion reports and the Dutch helper files are inconsistent. Obviously, there was quite a crowd watching the descent of the airmen and after they had landed, Willis, 2/Lt. 'Hank' Gladys (E0346), the bombardier, 2/Lt. Clyde Martin (E0347), the navigator, and T/Sgt. Donald Arthur Porter (E0348), the engineer, were accosted by members of the Dutch resistance. Next, bicycles were borrowed from some of the spectators and the airmen were escorted to a farm or farms in the vicinity where they spend their first night in hiding.

The next day, March 7, the four airmen were brought to Meppel where the resistance group of Peter van den Hurk took care of them. They were taken to the De Vries sisters at the Prins Hendrikstraat 3 in Meppel where they stayed in hiding for one or two days. Joke Folmer then brought the Americans by train from Meppel to the address off her parents in Zeist where they stayed for six days. She then took all four airmen to Roermond where they were handed over to the resistance group of Frans Verbruggen and Remko Roosjen. This group ran several escape lines to Belgium and looked after the wellbeing of evaders and provided hiding addresses. The four Americans were split up with Porter and Martin being taken to Joseph Herregodt at the Looierstraat 1 in Roermond while Gladys and Willis were brought to Chaplain Pijpers in Maasniel, a small village just to the east of Roermond.

On May 13, the latter two were taken to Maastricht by Eugene Smits and Jacques Vrij who brought the Americans to Hubert Nijs at the Muntstraat 41 in this town. They stayed here for two weeks and then Jacques Vrij took them accross the Meusse river and into Belgium. Via Herstal they went to Vivegnis where they arrived on June 5. Here they stayed with Richard Roussel-Clabeck at 8 Rue de Pontisse until July 4. On this date, they were brought by truck to an orphanage in Beffe in the Ardennes area. Here they joined a group of evaders including 1/Lt. David Talbott (E0395), 1/Lt. Kenneth Griesel (E0350) and T/Sgt. William Elsberry (E1105). After three weeks in Beffe, Gladys and Willis cycled to Paliseul where they stayed for a few days. They were then taken to a camp near Porcheresse where more aircrew was in hiding. This camp was one of the camps that was set up for the Belgian part of Mission Marathon and was run by Emile Roiseux. On September 5, American troops arrived in the camp, liberating the inmates. Willis returned to England on September 7, 1944.

Alan Willis passed away in 1990.						
* National Archives, Washington, MACR2916, NAID 90931927
* National Archives, Washington, EE-1677, NAID 5556307
* National Archives, Washington, Dutch Helper files, NAID: 286686920, 286675935, 286691455, 286659568, 286711458, 286699149, 286676966, 286673453, 286701131, 286650111, 286654304, 286713540, 286684427, 286680399, 286677478, 286716906, 286677478
* G. Sonnemans jr. (ed.), Vluchtverhalen. Jubileumboek van de Nederlandse Vereniging van Allied Aircrew Helpers (Boxmeer 1995), page 34-40