|B-17 Flying Fortress
|Clarendon, Arlington County, Virginia, USA, 22 Mar 1922
|11 Sep 44
S/Sgt. William Ross (Bill) Campbell was the tail gunner of B-17 Flying Fortress 42-31189 ‘Paragon’ that sustained flak damage over the target area - Leipzig - on July 7, 1944. Returning over The Netherlands another engine failed and it became obvious that the crew could not make it to England. Approaching the Noordoostpolder, an area reclaimed from the IJsselmeer, the pilot gave the order to bail out. Campbell landed in the reed beds of this area and after disposing of his gear, met some of his fellow crewmembers. The crew’s descent was observed from Emmeloord by Jacob Muller, one of the directors of the Kingma-Muller building company. This company built the farms and houses in the Noordoostpolder. Muller walked to his car and having noted where the airmen descended, drove in that direction. Having parked his car near where he expected to find the crew, Muller entered the reed beds. After some hours searching, he came upon one crew member of the ‘Paragon’. Muller didn’t speak English but indicated that he had seen nine parachutes and together with the American searched on. After a while and looking through Muller’s ‘illegal’ binoculars, the American spotted four fellow crewmembers. Muller then took the five airmen to one of the farms under construction and from there to near Emmeloord where the five were hidden in a reed bed. Muller then arranged for civilian working clothes and one of his foreman was sent off to collect the five. They were taken to the ferry at the Lemstervaart and while underway, a sixth crewmember joined them. At the ferry, the men changed their clothing and then with two cars, all six Americans were brought to Muller’s house. Later that day, the Americans were collected by the resistance and taken to Vollenhove where they went in hiding at several addresses. Campbell, Sgt. John Alexanian (E0592) and T/Sgt. Phil Cimino (E0595) stayed together at one address. The next day, the three airmen were brought to Meppel where they were put on the train to ‘s Hertogenbosch. From the station of this city, they were taken to hiding addresses in the area near Bakel, Venray and Deurne. One of the families they stayed with, was the Manders family in Bakel. Next, they left for the southern part of the province of Limburg, crossing the Dutch-Belgian border on August 11 and hiding in the village of Baroumme. While staying there, Campbell and Cimino joined the ‘White Army’, a militant group of the Belgian resistance. Supported by Belgian paratroopers, these men fought the Germans in the area around Spa. During a skirmish with a German patrol on September 10, Cimino was killed by machine gun fire. The rest of the group returned after the fight to Liege where Campbell was liberated by advancing US troops on September 11, 1944. William Ross Campbell passed away on 4 October 2010 in Florida at the age of 88.
|* National Archives, Washington, EE-2140