S/Sgt. Kenneth Eugene (Ken) Mays was the ball turret gunner of B-17 Flying Fortress 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, the pilot gave the order to bail out. Mays 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 builded 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 9 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 are hidden in a reed bed. Muller then arranged for civilian working clothes and one of his foreman is sent of to collect the five. They were taken to the ferry at the Lemstervaart and while underway, a sixth crewmember had 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. Mays, 2/Lt. Bob Giles (E0597) and 2/Lt. Joseph Ashbrook (E0593) stayed together at one address.
The next day, they were joined by 1/Lt. Robert M. (Bob) Harrah (E0598) who had spend the night with the Weijs family in Blokzijl. Later that day all four 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 to Amsterdam by train 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. 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, Mays and Harrah 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 appartment 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, Mays and Harrah had walked right into the local Gestapo headquarter, becoming prisoners of war. They were brought to the prison in Breendonk and from there Mays was taken via Dulag Luft Oberursel to Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow.
Kenneth Eugene Mays passed away on 5 September 1979 at the age of 54. He is buried Saint Louis Cemetery, Eunice, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, USA.