Studiegroep Luchtoorlog 1939-1945


Evader chart: E0480
SGLO Date crash Aircraft
T3651 07-05-44 B-17 Flying Fortress
MilRank First Name(s) Name
S/Sgt. Thomas Peter Reilly
Milregnr. Nationality Born
32784980 American 6 Dec 1921
Returned Y/N Evader Fate Date Captured/Liberated Place Captured/Liberated Escape Line
Yes EVD 18 April 1945 Barneveld -
Evader Story
						S/Sgt. Thomas Peter Reilly was the tail gunner of B-17 Flying Fortress 42-38161 'Sara Jane'. On the approach to their target Berlin on May 7, 1944, the crew was confronted with 'serious engine trouble'. The propeller of the nr.4 engine came off, damaging the nr.3 engine and losing speed and height, the Fortress had to leave the formation. Near Heerenveen, four crew members including Reilly bailed out. The five men that remained  on board were taken prisoner after the pilot had made a wheels-up landing just north of Nijelamer.

Reilly landed near the railway bridge over the Tjonger stream near Mildam. He left his parachute in a field and then walked to the café of the widow Bouma and her children. He was taken to the kitchen of the café where he took off his flying overall. Meanwhile, quite some curious people had gathered in the café. One of them who spoke English, told Reilly that it was better to leave, otherwise the Bouma family could be arrested by the Germans for helping an allied airman. Reilly then left the café and walked along the Tjonger in a westerly direction, ending up at the farm of Jan Akkerman in Rottum. The next day, he was collected from the farm by resistance leader Lambertus Koopman from Heerenveen. Koopman then drove to Jaap Heida in Mildam where he collected Reilly’s fellow crewmembers 2/Lt. Roy M. Bistline (E0479), 2/Lt. Walter J. Tyson (E0481) and T/Sgt. James R. Wilson (E0482). He then returned home with the four Americans who were provided with civilian clothing. Because Koopman was active in the resistance, he thought it better to find safer hiding addresses for the airmen. Reilly and Tyson moved to the house of widow Van der Laan at the Mr. Halbe Binnertsstraat 49 in Heerenveen, while Bistline and Wilson went to stay with the Hoekstra family at the Verl. Korflaan 83 in the same town. Early in August, Reilly and Tyson left the Van der Laan family with Bistline taking the place of Wilson at the Hoekstra family. Tyson and Bistline moved to the widow Peereboom-Zwanenburg, who lived at the Gedempte Molenwijk 86 in Heerenveen, on August 23, 1944, and they stayed in hiding there until their liberation on April 14, 1945.

Wilson joined Reilly and the latter two were taken from Heerenveen to Doornspijk by Willem de Jonge. On August 7, he delivered both men at the house of Dr. Willem Wolffensperger who lived in Huize Klarenbeek in that village. Here they joined 2/Lt. Carroll Stearns (E0536) and P/O. Derek A. Duncliffe (E0538). Because the 'Grüne Polizei' became very active in the Doornspijk shortly after, Wilson and Reilly left for Zwolle on August 22 while Stearns and Duncliffe were taken to a hiding place in the woods near Vierhouten on the same day. Next day, Wilson and Reilly re-joined Stearns and Duncliffe as their plans 'had missed fire'. The four airmen were then brought to the so called 'Pas Op' camp or 'Het Verscholen Dorp' in the woods between Nunspeet and Vierhouten. This camp housed about 85 persons, mainly Jews in hiding and young Dutchmen who were avoiding the German ‘Arbeitseinsatz’, compulsory employment in Germany. But it was also used to hide downed airmen and they were joined here over time by S/Sgt. Alfred Knowlton (E0637), P/O. Eric Blakemore (E0570), F/O. John Craven (E0571) and F/O. Kenneth Parsons (E0613). Conditions in the camp were 'fair' but after operation Market Garden, the food situation worsened. The Germans became increasingly aware of the existence of the camp and therefore all refugees were transferred to a larger refugee camp near Oldebroek on October 22, 1944. The group was split up and the resistance from Elburg took them to different hiding addresses.

By mid-November the airmen were collected again and in the evening of November 17, they were brought to the farm of the van Norel family at the Stoopschaarweg in Doornspijk. Here they joined some others, most of them Airborne soldiers who had fought at Arnhem. Only the son of the family, Gerrit, was aware of the ‘unofficial guests’ who were going to participate in the Pegasus II escape operation. The plan was that the group would be picked up by a truck there the same night but it didn’t show up. Early in the morning of November 18, the eighteen men were brought to different hiding addresses. At the beginning of the evening the truck did arrive but at the ‘Old Putten’ estate near Elburg. The eighteen men were brought there in a hurry from their different hiding places. All men were given a shovel when they boarded the truck as if they were Organisation Todt-workers. After an adventurous ride of about an hour the truck stopped, and a man escorted them to another staging point for Operation Pegasus II. However, they had arrived too late at the rendezvous and therefore they missed the main group. They then left as last party and while on their way, they heard machine gun fire from up front. An advance party had run into a German sentry and a firefight had started. The guides of the resistance ordered the party into a thick forest to wait there. In the afternoon, after a night in the cold, a farmer turned up with stew and Dutch gin (jenever). In the evening of November 19, a horse drawn cart appeared as promised and took the group to a barn on the land of J. van Essen at the Westerhuisweg in Harskamp.

The group was then split up and the men went to several addresses. Reilly and Stearns ended up at the ‘De Valk’ farm of the Bol family in Barneveld. Here they joined Capt. Lippman-Kessel (RAMC), Capt. Ridler and several other British officers. Past Christmas, the English officers complained to the resistance that the American airmen didn’t take security very seriously and asked if they could be moved to another address. Therefore, Reilly and Stearns were moved to another farm on December 29, 1944. Probably Reilly and Stearns got separated then and where Reilly went is (yet) unknown. On March 15, he arrived at the 'Valkenhoef' farm of the Van ’t Klooster family in Hoogland where Stearns had stayed as well until February 19, 1945. From here, Reilly went to the farm of Cornelis van de Kooij at F21 in Hoogland, where he arrived on April 1, 1945. At this address he joined F/Sgt. Frank E. Fuller (E0734), a British Dakota pilot, and together they tried to reach the Canadians who were advancing from the east. On April 18, 1945, they contacted them near Barneveld and both airmen were on their way back to England a few days later.

Thomas Peter Reilly passed away on 6 November 1999 at the age of 77 in Bristol County, Massachusetts, USA. He is buried at Massachusetts National Cemetery, Bourne, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, USA.						
* W.H. de Vries, De regio tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog (Wolvega 1995), page 59-65
* Wolter Noordman, Ondergedoken op de Veluwe. Geallieerde militairen en hun deelname aan operatie 'Pegasus II' en ontsnapping via 'Biesbosch' (Kampen 2010), page 208, 292, 403, 476
* National Archives, Washington, MACR 4559 (NAID: 90962745)
* National Archives, Washington, Helper Files, NAID: 286658825, 286668540, 286698387, 286679582, 286647346, 286720284, 286639462, 286711190, 286699468.