When we in Europe think about escape and evasion during WW2, we often have a picture of tense night-time rail journeys through France, or escapes from barbed-wire enclosed POW camps in Germany or Poland but we seldom consider the other side of the world where evaders were brought to safety in conditions we can't begin to imagine. The following advice was given to US airmen operating in the Far East who might be forced down in Japanese occupied northern China, and is taken from B.E.E. (Bulletin on Escape and Evasion) No 9 dated 2 August 1944.
Escape and Evasion, North China
In considering escape and evasion possibilities in North China, it must always be remembered that the Japanese occupation of this country is only partial, spotty, incomplete – strategic at best. In no single part of the area under consideration do the Japanese forces maintain an overall, solid occupation.
Their primary interest in occupation is to control all facilities for transportation and communication – i.e. they maintain a strict control of all deep-water ports and those shallow water ports most likely to be used for smuggling; they control all the railroad routes throughout the area, and to a considerable extent, make a pretence at patrolling to guard the railroad right-of-ways (Intelligence indicates a general relaxing of these patrols of late); they have maintained general control of all the highways that are suitable for hauling supplies, over which buses might run, and which enable them to manoeuvre at will in carrying out their strategic occupation and control of North China; they have seen to it that they control the main rivers and such other waterways which may be used for transportation and/or the successful domination of the country.
It naturally follows that the majority of these man-made terrain features and such natural features as are part of the Japanese strategic occupation of this country are found in level, flat or easily accessible portions of the country. Study will show the Japanese strength to be situated in the flat plains and along those rivers, railroads, and highways acting as arteries of communication and transportation.
Generally speaking the guerrilla forces operating north of the Yangtze and in the Yellow River area hold the marshy area around the lakes or along the coast and the mountainous areas which are relatively inaccessible for the Japanese patrols or small punitive forces to reach. It is the principal reason why these guerrilla forces have been able to hold out against the Japanese and also why they have been able to wage a continuing warfare against the Japanese for so long.
It must be remembered that many of these areas are dominated or controlled by the guerrilla forces, straddle or overlap political boundaries without regard for previous provincial lines. These areas are simply those in which the guerrillas can continue to live despite the Japanese and from which they can continue to wage their own warfare so successfully.
In one instance, in the open North China plain, the guerrillas have been able to maintain an area of control in the midst of Japanese areas of domination simply because the Japanese are unable to mass the strength or are unwilling to commit forces sufficient to wipe out all guerrilla opposition. In this particular area the Japanese hold and garrison the larger towns and villages, and maintain road patrols, leaving the smaller villages and the country-side to the guerrillas.
At no one place in northern China have the Japanese maintained any considerable strength in garrison for the purpose of controlling guerrilla activity. In the main, they have depended on small, strategically located garrisons in the cities, towns and villages, and mobile road patrols. Not always have these garrisons consisted of Japanese troops, for generally, where there is little fear of large organised efforts on the part of the Chinese military, the Japanese have depended on puppet troops under the command of Japanese C.O.s for their garrisons and their patrols. Because of the demands of their first and second-line troops elsewhere in the more active combat theatres, the Japanese have continued to pull out combat troops and have substituted puppet troops wherever possible.
Intelligence received from time to time confirms the fact that these puppet troops are not wholly in sympathy with the Japanese, but are interested only in what they can get out of the Japanese who hire and use them, and, for the promise of money, are generally willing to cooperate with the guerrillas or with whoever is willing to pay them for their help. Reports are continually coming in proposing that the puppets are only waiting for the moment when they can join forces with the Central Government or guerrilla forces.
In the main the Japanese have maintained a hold on their areas of domination through fear of reprisal. However, despite this, the guerrillas continue to operate successfully in cutting railroad lines, attacking stations, and in some instance, trains, destroying bridges et cetera, and in most instances making sure that the Japanese knew they, and not the neighbouring villagers, are responsible.
It follows that those villagers and country folk who live furthest from guerrilla assistance are most likely to suffer reprisals in the event they render help to downed flyers and that those closer to guerrilla dominated areas least likely for the simple reason that the guerrillas themselves will render assistance and can and will assume responsibility. However, it should be pointed out that even in those areas dominated by the Japanese there are Chinese who will render all help despite the danger, and, by the same token, those who will not.
The Chinese in North China who are least likely to help are those primarily, who are in or near Japanese-garrisoned villages and towns and those in villages where the head man or magistrate is of Japanese sympathy either through being in the pay of the Japanese or because he is a puppet placed in power by the Japanese. It is impossible to name or list the towns under such domination by the Japanese simply because of their number, but it is possible to point out that the vast majority of villages and towns in those areas known to be definitely Japanese-dominated and the majority of those known to be Japanese influenced are not likely to render assistance to a downed flyer for fear of reprisal. On the other hand, it should be pointed out that with competent guerrilla or guerrilla-sympathizing guides it is possible to move all the way through Japanese-dominated and Japanese influenced areas without ever seeing or encountering Japanese troop or puppet patrols.
It must be remembered that if a flyer bails or crash-lands in or near the vicinity of garrisoned villages or towns or a patrolled road, the local people have been told by the Japanese to catch and hold the flyers, to assist in their capture. As has been pointed out, even in those areas dominated or influenced by the Japanese there are Chinese willing to risk everything to help downed flyers and guerrillas who are waiting for just such an opportunity. If possible, the flyer should make every attempt to bail out or crash-land only in or near rough or hilly country, or in or near heavily wooded country in order to facilitate evasion and, at the same time, make it more difficult for subsequent search. This procedure also makes it easier for helpful Chinese farmers or guerrillas to make contact with the flyer and go about assisting him in evasion.
In the event the flyer does have to bail out or crash-land in a relatively open, flat country, in a Japanese-dominated or influenced area, he should immediately conceal his chute and whatever heavy clothing he is wearing that might slow him down, and make for the nearest hills or woods. As soon as possible he should hide out until nightfall, then commence moving across country to a “safe” area. If possible avoid villages and towns; stay away from compounds; when he comes to main travelled roads be especially careful in order to avoid road patrols or chance passers-by who may give him away. The flyer must be aware of the fact that his descent has been noticed and that in all probability search for him and his crew was instituted immediately. He must move and keep moving in the direction of a safe area.
Instructions covering the rescue and the evasion of downed flyers has been sent out into North China with the Central Government troops and with the guerrillas who are operating there. It is not known at present how far this information has permeated through the area north of the Yellow River, but it should be borne in mind that all in the area, the guerrillas and the farmers, do know that their allies are co-operating with them. They are expecting Allied flyers to be operating in that area.
It must be realised that the guerrilla forces cannot always be recognised as such. The majority of cases, until the time they are needed, they follow their routine existence as farmers, their weapons and equipment concealed close by.
Throughout the area farmers will have been instructed to disguise, to feed and to bed (sic) the evaders and put them into the hands of the guerrillas as quickly as possible. These guerrillas, in turn, will provide safe conduct out of the area and to a point at which the flyer may be picked up and returned to his unit. The flyer must remember that distances in the area north of the Yellow River are tremendous and that travel on foot or by whatever means available will be extremely slow. In all probability his long walk-out will end at Yenan, where arrangements will be made for his immediate return to his unit. The flyer should also be warned that despite whatever disguise he may be given, he should always retain his “dog tags” as a protection against being taken for a spy in the event of subsequent capture.
Secret, underground workers will be continually investigating and setting up safe routes for travel towards the interior and will be setting up safe stations where flyers who are wounded may be kept for a time until able to travel on. Instructions have also been given as to identification, care, preparation of food, and medical attention for evading flyers.
Although the flyer may bail out or crash-land in a guerrilla area, it would be wise for him to follow the same evasion procedures he would follow in a Japanese-dominated area until such times as it is possible for him to make contact with friendly guerrilla forces. He should head for the hills or rough country immediately, avoid villages, and make contact only with a farmer or a small group of farmers as quickly as possible. These farmers will put him in the hands of guerrillas promptly. The flyer should then follow instructions given him exactly and without question.
The flyer should experience little difficulty, so far as recognition is concerned in the area north of the Yellow River. The Japanese and their planes are well known; any other than theirs will be recognised as Allies. However, each flyer should be sure that he has his American flag and such other equipment as may be supplied for identification purposes.
Best Bets :
In an area located some 30-40 miles around the point located at 40 degrees N, 112 degree E, there are a number of Catholic missionaries working with the Chinese. These roving missionaries are, by reason of their experience and training, equipped to be of assistance to a downed flyer. They are familiar with the country, acquainted with the people and are generally influential with them.
In some case a Jap (sic) dominated area contains an island composed of a guerrilla occupied area. This is because of the terrain involved, with the Japs occupying the surrounding level land, and the Chinese guerrillas the mountainous section in the center. This may also be true when the area is too large for the Japanese to commit sufficient troop or puppet forces to cope with the guerrillas.
On the China coast, there are three areas where rescue and evasion by junk are possible :
a. At the “new” mouth of the Yellow River in the extremely marshy delta area.
b. On the south shore of the Shantung Peninsula near the tip.
c. The area around the old mouth of the Yellow River.
Recent Intelligence indicates that these areas are friendly and untouched by Jap troops or puppets.
As has been remarked earlier, the Japs dominate practically all lines of transportation and communication – highways, railroads, canals and ports. Evaders should avoid cities and seek out farmers or small villages. Chinese guerrillas will be given an opportunity to pick them up for an eventual return to friendly units. If aircrew members are forced into larger communities, a Chinese police force unit may pick them up, treat them as unfriendly prisoners but eventually return them to friendly units. Security under such circumstances is imperative.
If Americans are forced down at sea, with no aid in sight, they should make every attempt to sail their dinghy toward the China coast, avoiding the Jap Empire and Nansei Archipelago at all costs. If at all possible, and it well may be, try to capture a junk and sail south of the Yangtze river (Shanghai) where the junk can be put into the beach with greatest security. At present there are about four (4) groups of pirates of different types operating junks along the China coast. South of the Yangtze River is a group of Chinese pirates loyal to China and rabidly anti-Jap. North of the Yangtze is a group that can be bought off with money and equipment – this group cannot be trusted and careful guarding must be maintained. Another group operating in this same general area is in Jap pay receiving guns, ammunition and money; some of this group can be outbid, but chances are slim. The 4th group operating still further north is composed of robbers and gangsters who indiscriminately kill and loot for their own satisfaction. It is extremely unlikely help could be gotten from these last two groups, so if at all possible, it is recommended that a junk be captured with which to sail southward.
Most of the above information can be obtained from AGAS. It is hoped very shortly to secure new maps issued by AGAS (Air Ground Aids Section) which show exact areas occupied by Chinese guerrillas and Japanese troops. They will be distributed as soon as received by this office.
There is also some useful advice on carrying the American equivalent of a blood (or goolie) chit ...
Official Chinese Government Chop.
This should be sewn on the inside of the flight jacket. It consists of the Chinese Flag and Official Request of the Chinese Governmant to return the pilot safely. It is issued only by Chungking and by serial number. The pilot may sew an American flag on the INSIDE of the jacket as well. Under no circumstances, should the flag be on the OUTSIDE of the jacket. They make too good a target and hinder concealment. Those seen worn on the outside are usually done so by non-operational jerks.
My grateful thanks to David Lassman of the US National Park Service in Virginia for sending me the BEE Bulletins.