Studiegroep Luchtoorlog 1939-1945


Evader chart: E0598
SGLO Date crash Aircraft
T3856 07-07-44 B-17 Flying Fortress
MilRank First Name(s) Name
1/Lt. Robert Max Harrah
Milregnr. Nationality Born
O-754282 American Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana, USA, 14 Jan 1918
Returned Y/N Evader Fate Date Captured/Liberated Place Captured/Liberated Escape Line
No EVD-POW 22 Jul 44 Brussels, Belgium -
Evader Story
						1/Lt. Robert Max (Bob/Bonnie) Harrah was the captain of B-17 42-31189 ‘Paragon’ that sustained flak damage over the target area on July 7, 1944. Returning over the Netherlands another engine failed and it became obvious that they could not make it to England. Approaching the Noordoostpolder, an area reclaimed from the Ijsselmeer, Harrah gave the order to bail out. He landed in the reed beds of this area and after disposing of his gear, he removed himself from the location. He became disorientated in the more then man high reed and decided to rest a bit. After a while he heard voices and noticed two young men whom he accosted. One of the Dutchmen, Arie de Zeeuw, spoke some English and the men took Harrah to the foreman’s work shed. He was given civilian working clothes and was then hidden on the toilet till it was time to leave. The foreman took Harrah on his motorcycle to his home in Blokzijl. On arrival he was given something to eat and then spend the night with the family Weijs.

The next day Harrah was brought to Vollenhove where he was reunited with crewmembers 2/Lt. Robert  Giles (E0597), 2/Lt. Joseph Ashbrook (E0593) and S/Sgt. Kenneth E. Mays (E0599). Later that day they were brought to Meppel by the resistance group of Peter van der Hurk. Here their working clothes were replaced with proper civilian clothes and they were provided with forged Dutch ID-cards. Escorted by police officer De Jong, the four Americans then travelled by train to Amsterdam where they were handed over to resistance men Henk van Cleef and Ernst Smidt van Gelder. Already on July 11, the four airmen travelled by train via Eindhoven to Veghel, escorted by Van Cleef and Smidt van Gelder. At the station, they were collected by members of the Otten family who took them their house at the Kerkstraat 6 in Erp, the so-called Pyama-House. Here the four airmen split in pairs with Ashbrook and Giles leaving first on July 14. Harrah and Mays stayed a few days longer and left Erp on July 17 to stay with the Van de Ven family in Heeswijk-Dinther. Their next hiding address was with the Van den Boogaard family in Schijndel.

From Schijndel both men travelled to Chaam where they left for the Belgian border on July 22, escorted by two men. At the border, Harrah and Mays were told to hide in a field and someone would come to collect them. An hour later a women arrived and she walked both men to a small village nearby. Here they boarded a bus to Antwerp where they were brought to an apartment near the center of the city. After a few days both Americans were brought to a park where they were handed over to two men. These took them to a house for an identity check and when this was satisfactorily completed, they left for Brussels in an ambulance. They entered a large building there and the door was closed behind them by a German soldier. Unknowingly, Harrah and Mays had walked right into the local Gestapo headquarter, becoming prisoners of war. They were brought to the prison in Breendonk and from there Harrah was taken via Dulag Luft Oberursel to Stalag Luft I at Barth.

Robert Max Harrah passed away on 6 September 2003 at the age of 85 at Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana. He is buried at Garland Brook Cemetery, Columbus, Bartholomew County, Indiana, USA.						
* Frans Govers, Pyama-House. Ontdekkingsreis door het uitgebreide netwerk van de pilotenhulp tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog: 1943-1944 (Uden 1992), page 99-100
* NIMH, The Hague, List 'Ondergedoken piloten te Erp (Fam. Otten)'