Crossing from Bagneres-de-Bigorre
On 1 March 1944, ten airmen who had been helped by the Pernod organisation – James Foy, Clyde Manion, John Runcel, Conrad Stumpfig, William Wertz, John Swenson, Saul Hershkowitz, Leonard McChesney, Charles Compton and Eugene Symons - set off from Bagneres-de-Bigorre (Hautes-Pyrénées) to begin their walk across the mountains to Spain. Not all of them would make it ..
This page first posted 28 Feb 2023 - updated (again) 13 Mar 2023
F/Lt James Henry Foy RCAF (1868), from Toronto in Canada, was the 20-year-old pilot of 405 Sqn Halifax HR854, on a sortie to Montbeliard on the night of 15-16 July 1943. They were on their way back when they were attacked by a night-fighter, and with the two starboard engines out of action, Foy gave the order for his crew to bale out.
Rear-gunner F/Sgt A O Prior was captured but the other five members of Foy's crew - F/O Hugh Thompson Huston (1591), S/Ldr Albert Lambert (1590), Sgt John Bert McDougall (1442), Sgt G MacGregor (1443) and F/O Thomas William Simpson (1427) - also evaded successfully.
Foy landed in a field – he says about 13 kms NE of Chateauneuf-sur-Loire – buried his parachute and Mae West, and hid in a field until the nightfall. At about eight o'clock that evening, he approached a farmhouse that he had been watching throughout the day, and was taken in and given a meal. Next morning, he was taken to a nearby chateau (belonging to a M Deuzet), where the owner gave him civilian clothes and some maps, and that night, Foy set off walking towards Chateauneuf-sur-Loire. In the morning, he stopped at a house where the owner (a sailor in the French navy) gave him directions on how to cross the river Loire but Foy failed in his attempt, and spent that night and following day, sleeping in a barn. At about five that afternoon, a boy who spoke a little English came to the barn, and he took Foy to a chateau (belonging to artist Camille Roche), where he spent the night.
The next morning (19 July), Foy was taken across the Loire in a small boat, and then walked as far as Souvigny-en-Sologne, where he was sheltered overnight at a farmhouse. The following morning, he set out for Nouan-le-Fuzelier, being stopped along the way by some French policemen, who on learning that Foy was an RAF airman, promptly let him go. At Nouan, Foy stopped at house and asked for help, and his journey was arranged ..
Foy was sheltered in Nouan-le-Fuzelier by Mlle Pinault, who had taught languages in England, and she also took him to a house across the road where he stayed for two weeks with Désiré Dazenière and his family. It was through the Dazenière family that an organisation in Vierzon was contacted, and a man came to see Foy, and take his details – three or four days later he returned to say they “had been checked”.
On 2 August, organisation member Lucien Loyaute (born 3 November 1904) took Foy to his house at 2 rue Fourrier in Vierzon, where Foy stayed for two weeks, during which time a friend of Lucien, a man named Trillaud, went to Paris to buy Foy some English books. Foy also met the English-speaking chief of the organisation (Réseau Frégate-Goélette - query), previously an amateur golf champion, and known to Foy as Berthe but whose real name, was Serge Maurisot (born 3 February 1908 in Paris).
On 19 August, Berthe took Foy to Grenoble, where he was introduced to another organisation member (no details), and given an identity card, work permit, ration card etc. before being taken on to Goncelin to stay with a Mme Raffin. Foy stayed with Mme Raffin until 15 December, looked after by Andre Carrus (who was in “partial hiding” from the Germans himself) [IS9 has Andre Carrus with a Paris address] and his wife and daughters. Foy reports that Berthe's wife Jannine and her mother and grandmother also lived in Goncelin, and that Berthe would visit them every two weeks. Foy also reports frequent visits from two Englishwomen, May Arathon and Kathleen Noakes, who had been “evacuated from Monte Carlo”.
On 15 December, M du Job (secretary to Andre Carrus), took Foy to Paris, where he stayed at M. du Job's house for a day before changing guides in the street, and being taken to the eastern suburb of Dampmart, where he stayed in a bakery belonging to M. Place (this was Michel Place of 7 rue du Chateau), where he lived with M. Place's cousin half the time, and the other half with Doctor Boer, a Rumanian at nearby Thorigny-sur Marne. Foy says that the head of the local organisation was a man named Octave Bouteiller who lived in Lagny [IS9 has Henri Boutteiller of 23 rue du Colonel Durand, Lagny-sur-Marne], and that he was told the organisation was dependant on the War Office.
On 2 February, a friend of Doctor Boer took Foy back into Paris where he met Pierre and Rene, two chiefs of the [BCRA] Pernod organisation [Pierre Guillot and Rene Gerard] in their apartment at 66 rue Truffaut, Paris XVII. Foy reports seven (sic) Americans were being sheltered there at the time, that four of them left the night he arrived, and another four arrived the next morning.
The first six Americans were Clyde Manion, John Runcel, Saul Hershkowitz, Charles Compton, Leonard McChesney and Eugene Symons; the four that left that evening were Runcel, Compton, McChesney and Symons; and the four that arrived next morning were Conrad Stumpfig, William Wertz, John Swenson and Alvin Little.
2/Lt Clyde Sylvester Manion (#577) from Minneapolis, Minnesota was the bombardier of 100BG/351BS B-17 42-5997 Heaven Can Wait (Smith) which was returning from a morning raid to Ludwigshafen on Thursday 30 December 1943. Runcel (see later) says that after their escort left them, they were attacked by fighters, and with their aircraft on fire, and the bail-out order was given .. Manion was one of seven men who evaded successfully.
When the bail-out order was given, Manion pushed the navigator (Saul Hershkowitz) out of the nose hatch and followed. He landed in a ploughed field, about a mile and a half from the village of Autry (Ardennes) and on seeing a man approaching, took off in the opposite direction, running through a wood before declaring himself as an American airman to two wood-cutters. They initially tried to take Manion to the police but a young man soon put a stop to that and directed them to the railway station, and chef de la gare, Paul Pestate. Several people gathered around, and Manion was given food and coffee before being put into a box. Four men then put the box on a train to Challerange, where chef de la gare George Michel let Manion out again. After another meal, Manion was put in the “caboose of a freight train” and taken to Monthois that evening. On arrival at Monthois, Manion was taken to the home of “Jean”, one of the railway workers he had seen at Autry, where he stayed for “a week plus Monday” [until Monday 10 Jan], with Jean, his wife, children and grand-parents. Then Jean put Manion into a railway uniform, and they cycled back to Challerange, where George Michel gave Manion his ID card before Manion and Jean cycled back to the railway station at Autry, where Manion stayed the night. While he was at Autry, Manion says he learned that his ball-turret gunner, Alvin Little, had come down in the neighbourhood and already left.
At noon the following day, a camion with a Belgian, a Frenchman and a girl, picked Manion up and took him to Séchault, and then on to Manre, where Charles Baudart [not Bodart] (a short stocky bald man with a small moustache) had a John Deere and McKormick Reaper dealership. At Manre, the local priest (who had been a chaplain with a British battalion before Dunkirk) took him back to his house. Manion was taken to visit 2/Lts Charles Compton and Leonard McChesney (from the B-17 Laden Maiden) and Alvin Little before returning to the priest's house, and when Sgts John Swenson and William Wertz from his own aircraft arrived, the three airmen were taken by lorry to the little village of Attigny.
S/Sgt John L Swenson (#726) from Somerville, Massachusetts was the 21-year-old radio operator of Heaven Can Wait. He says that he bailed out at about 20,000 feet and landed in a clearing in a wood. Not sure that he was even in France, he set off immediately but soon found a ploughman who confirmed he was in France, and assured him there were no “Boches” around. Swenson then found another crew member (Hershkowitz) and a few minutes later, “ran into” Sgt Runcel and a couple of Frenchmen, who took the three Amercans to a shack on the side of a hill, where they were joined by Sgt Stumpfig.
Sgt William (NMI) Wertz (#576) from Cheyenne, Wyoming, was the 35-year-old tail-gunner of Heaven Can Wait. He says that he didn't hear the order to bail out but when he saw a parachute sailing past, decided it was time to get out.
Wertz landed close to a wood, three kilometres SW of Séchault (which is about 6 kms west of Autry), and after burying his parachute and Mae West, used his compass to head south. He soon encountered two men, who told him to go to Séchault, assuring him that there were no Germans there. Wertz walked to Séchault and into a bar where he tried to explain who he was, and a cross-eyed man who was in charge, took Wertz through the kitchen to a house next door, where an elderly woman put Wertz to bed. The cross-eyed man returned that evening to tell Wertz that he would be taken by car the next morning but it was the afternoon when a large man arrived with civilian clothes. That evening, the large man took Wertz to a bar where Charles Baudart and his wife were waiting for him, and they took Wertz back to their house in Manre by bicycle.
Wertz stayed at the Baudart home for three days until the Tuesday evening (4 January) - Baudart having brought Charles Compton and Leonard McChesney (from Laden Maiden) to identify him the previous Sunday, and had brought his crew-mates John Swenson, John Runcel, Conrad Stumpfig and Saul Hershkowitz for a visit. On the following Monday, Swenson came to join him, while Charles Baudart took the other three (Runcel, Stumpfig and Hershkowitz) to ”another place”.
On Tuesday morning (11 January), Wertz and Swenson were also taken to “a place", where that evening, they were joined by their bombardier Clyde Manion.
Sgt John W Runcel (#567) from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the 19-year-old left waist-gunner of Heaven Can Wait. He says that he drifted over wooded country and floated down into a village (Vaux-lès-Mouron) where a group of people gathered around him. He saw another parachute come down in woods about a quarter of a mile away, and ran towards it, and when he reached the woods, he found a group of Frenchmen waiting for him. Some of them then hurried off, and five minutes later returned with 2/Lt Saul Hershkowitz and S/Sgt John Swenson. The three airmen were then hidden in a shack in the woods, with food brought to them, and at eight o'clock that evening, Sgt Stumpfig was brought to join them.
Sgt Conrad P Stumpfig Jnr (#568) from Detroit, Michigan was the 31-year-old right waist-gunner of Heaven Can Wait. He says that he was the last man to leave the waist after the bail-out order was given, remembering to grab his GI shoes before he went out. He landed in a tree but several Frenchmen appeared at once to help him down, and take him to another wood where they hid him. Half an hour later, the men came back with a boy (the sixteen-year-old postman of Vaux-lès-Mouron) who could speak enough English to tell Stumpfig that three of his “comrades” were in a nearby village, and that he would be taken to join them. The boy duly returned after dark and led Stumpfig to a house in Vaux-lès-Mouron (home of a railway crossing guard) where he was given food and civilian clothes, and then to another house before taking him to a shack in the woods where he joined Heaven Can Wait's left waist-gunner John Runcel, navigator Saul Hershkowitz and radio operator John Swenson.
2/Lt Saul (NMI) Hershkowitz (#2415) from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, was the navigator of Heaven Can Wait, and just three days shy of his twenty-seventh birthday when he bailed out (commenting that he could hear Swenson singing on the way down) to land near Challerange in the Ardennes. As already mentioned, Hershkowitz soon joined Sgts Swenson, Runcel and Stumpfig.
Stumpfig, Runcel, Swenson and Hershkowitz stayed in the shack in the woods for two days before being taken into Vaux-lès-Mouron, and the last house that Stumpfig had been before (home of 40-year-old man, his wife, small boy, daughter and baby), where they were sheltered for the next two days. They were given civilian clothes, and visited by the local priest, who, with his brother, contacted a priest in Aure. Then two new men took the four Americans by bicycle to the house where 2/Lts McChesney and Compton were staying, and they all had supper together before the two men took Runcel, Stumpfig and Hershkowitz to “the large house of a batchelor”. After two nights at the large house, Runcel, Stumpfig and Hershkowitz, along with John Swenson, joined their ball-turret gunner Alvin Little, tail-gunner William Wertz and bombardier Clyde Manion, along with McChesney and Compton, to be taken by lorry on a 20 kilometre drive north to Attigny.
Sgt Alvin Cashmere Little (#850) from North Ferrisburg, Vermont was the 24-year-old ball-turret gunner of Heaven Can Wait. He says that he followed Swenson out of the plane but then lost his heated shoes and flying boots in the descent. Fearing he was about to land in a tree, he crossed his legs as he had been taught but then missed the tree and broke his leg. Little says he hid his chute then crawled and hopped, taking about six hours to cover four miles to a farmhouse where he was taken in, a doctor called, and his onward journey arranged.
Little stayed at the house for three days until a tall man with a scar on his hand, arrived in a car and took Little to a house on the outskirts of Aure where he was sheltered by Robert Decorne (not Dorney), being joined there by Lts Compton and McChesney. After three days in Aure a man called Charles (the Americans called him Little Charlie) arrived with a small boy, and drove all three airmen to Attigny, collecting six more members of Little's crew (Manion, Swenson, Wertz, Runcel, Stumpfig and Hershkowitz) along the way.
2/Lt Leonard Dewey McChesney (#565) from Pewaukee, Wisconsin, was the 24-year-old navigator, and 2/Lt Charles W Compton Jnr (#566) from Irvington, New Jersey, the 26-year-old bombardier of 100BG/349BS B-17 42-5861 Laden Maiden (Leininger) which (like Heaven Can Wait) was on a raid to Ludwigshafen on 30 December 1943. Their #4 engine was hit by flak over the target, and as they struggled back, were attacked by three fighters, and with the intercom dead and their tail shot off, McChesney and Compton decided it was time to leave the aircraft – they were the only survivors.
Compton and McChesney both landed near the village of Cernay-en-Dormois (about 50 kms east of Reims). Compton was picked up by two men and a boy and taken to Isadore Eloy (of Bayon Ferme, Cernay-en-Dormois), who was already hiding a 20-year-old Frenchman called Jean. McChesney approached a farmhouse on the outskirts of Cernay-en-Dormois and was taken in by a family consisting of a man and wife, an 18-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. While McChesney was being fed, the man brought the local priest who told McChesney that Compton was safe, and later that evening, McChesney was taken to Isadore Eloy's house where he joined Compton.
The two Americans stayed with M et Mme Eloy for three days, being visited there by the priest, Graham Stubbs (22 years old, has English father and French mother, and had visited England where his paternal grandmother lived), and Mme Eloy's brother Louis. On the evening of the third day, Robert Decorne (written as Dorney), Charles Baudart (written as Bodart) and a third Frenchman took Compton and McChesney to Aure (10 kms NW of Cernay), stopping at Charles Baudart's house in Manre on the way to have them identify Sgt William Wertz. In Aure they went to Robert Decorne‘s house (where three families, all intermarried, were living together), where Sgt Alvin Little was being sheltered, and where they met Jean from Isadore Eloy's house again, who then left to make arrangements for them.
They report that some members of the organisation had been recently caught in Reims, and as a consequence it was difficult to pass evaders on. After Compton and McChesney had been at Robert Decorne's house for about six days, Charles (5 ft 7 ins, 150 lbs, wore glasses, worked with the organisation in the Ardennes) (Maurice Jules Saint-Yves aka Charles) and Georges Logheart, the blacksmith of Givry (near Attigny) gathered together all the American evaders in the region (McChesney, Compton, Manion, Stumpfig, Runcel, Wertz, Swenson, Hershkowitz and Little) and took them to Doctor Paris, the veterinary surgeon in Attigny, from where they were distributed to different houses in the area.
In Attigny, Compton, Runcel and Little stayed with Doctor Paris, the veterinary surgeon, for a week before Georges Logheart took them to Georges Carpentier in nearby Givry, where they stayed for 13 days. Then they, along with Wertz, Manion and Swenson, who had been staying in Givry with Georges Logheart (who they called Big George), were taken to a barn for two nights, and then to Amagne (7 kms NW of Attigny) where Compton, Little and Runcel stayed with Rene Logheart, Georges Logheart‘s brother, and Wertz, Manion and Swenson with Charles (Charles Lambert), the local butcher.
Meanwhile, “Charles of the Ardennes” (Charles Saint-Yves) had taken McChesney straight from Doctor Paris and turned him over to Gabriel (Gaby) Thomas who took McChesney to his parents farm for the night. The next morning, he was taken to Petit-Ban farm, home of Paul and Blanche Sagnet and their two daughters, Madeleine and Paulette, in Ecordal (6 kms N of Attigny). McChesney found Stumpfig and Hershkowitz already there, and the three of them stayed with the Sagnet family for a fortnight. They were then taken back to Gabriel Thomas parents farm for a week, before all nine evaders (McChesney, Compton, Runcel, Manion, Hershkowitz, Stumpfig, Wertz, Swenson and Little) were gathered together at Rene Logheart‘s house in Amagne, where they were passed on to the Pernod organisation.
According to Compton and McChesney's reports, it was Rene, Jean and Michelle who came from Paris and took them all by train to the capital. Alvin Little has a slightly different version - he says it was Pierre (a moustachioed man of about 35) (Herskowitz describes him as being a dark-haired man, about 35 to 40 years old, 5 foot 6 inches tall, with bags under his eyes), Michele (similar age, with dark hair and wearing dark glasses) and a very young lad who came to collect them.
Wertz says it was “Rene” who travelled with him, Alvin Little (with his broken leg) and John Swenson (who, with his outsize feet (see later) was probably very tall) on the train to Paris. He got them a compartment, and on arrival at the capital had a “baggage man” haul Little down through the station while they waited until “Jean” brought Stumpfig to join them.
“Rene” was Rene Gerard (born 22 June 1911), “Pierre” was Pierre Guillot (born 28 April 1910), “Michelle” was Michelle Pignet (born 24 December 1902) and “Jean” (described by Little as the young boy) was 21-year-old Jean Plazanet (born 7 January 1923) from Tarbes. (Thank you Jean Yves Thoraval for providing enough information for me to make this statement.)
Rene and Michelle took McChesney, Compton, Runcel to Pierre's apartment at 66 rue Truffaut (Paris XVII), where they were joined by Clyde Manion and Saul Hershkowitz, and stayed for seven days. Whilst they were there McChesney, Compton and Runcel met Michelle's sister Claude; and Rene took McChesney and Compton to the Cafe Cambrien (Pierre Morel (see later) identifies the cafe as “La Canebière” on rue Brunel) where they met the proprietor, a man known as Marius.
On the seventh day, Rene took Compton to a suburb 14 kms north of Paris where they picked up T/Sgt Eugene Symons and brought him back to Pierre's apartment, where F/Lt James Foy was brought later in the evening. That night, Claude and Michelle Pignet took Compton, McChesny, Runcel and Symons on a train for Toulouse and Tarbes, Hautes-Pyrénées.
T/Sgt Eugene Symons (#725) from Oil City, Pennsylvania, was the 24-year-old radio operator of 44BG/66BS B-24 42-7548 Bull o' the Woods, which was on the way to Ludwigshafen on 30 December 1943 and still over France when they were attacked by fighters. With two engines stopped, and the aircraft in a spin, pilot 1/Lt Donald J Heskett (#347) ordered his crew to bail-out, and the aircraft was abandoned to crash between Compiègne (Oise) and Soissons (Aisne).
Symons landed (somewhere near Soissons) and after burying his parachute and Mae West in a wood, lay down in trench to hide from people he could hear with dogs. That evening he set off walking, and in the morning, hid in a barn until about eleven o'clock, when he called a man over who was ploughing a nearby field. The man took Symons back to his house, and that evening, he was taken to another place where he was given civilian clothes before being taken to an empty house (belonging to Henri Brigne – query). After three days at the empty house, he was taken to another place, where his journey was arranged.
Symons report is very hard to read but he also mentions farmer Maurice Depuis (of Crouy, near Soissons) - and a professor Aubrey - and then on 19 January, he was taken to be sheltered by grocer Leon Suquart (IS9 gives his address as 42 rue de Paris, in the north-east suburb of Louvres) and his wife for two weeks until Rene and Compton arrived to take him to Pierre and Rene's apartment at 66 rue Truffaut.
It's not clear whether, on their arrival in Paris (on about 26 Jan), it was Rene or Jean who took Wertz, Stumpfig, Swenson and Little to the town of Esbly, east of the capital, where they were sheltered by Mme Charline Chable at 21 rue de Lesches. Described in Runcel's report as a tall 30-year-old retired actress with long legs and very large eyes, Little says Charline was 32 years old, tall, with red hair, a former nurse whose husband had been arrested by the Germans. Charline's 19-year-old niece Giselle was staying with her, and frequent visitors were Michelle (Pignet) and her sister Claude (a short blonde woman, aged about 30 who wore glasses).
The four Americans stayed there for a week until Pierre took Wertz, Stumpfig and Swenson back into Paris, and the apartment on rue Traffaut, leaving just Alvin Little with his broken leg, who stayed on with Mme Chable for a further ten weeks.
At rue Traffaut, Wertz, Stumpfig and Swenson joined Saul Hershkowitz, Clyde Manion and Canadian airman James Foy - the others (Compton, McChesney, Runcel and Symons) having left by then, and that evening (3 February), Stumpfig, Wertz, Swenson and Hershkowitz were taken to the station.
Manion and Foy would also have gone that night but for some reason, they and their guide Francine Benoit missed the Thursday train, and they had to wait until the following evening.
Mlle Jeanne Michelle Pignet (born 24 December 1902) and Mlle Simone Claude Pignet (an artist, born 30 November 1912), both of 3 rue de la Condamine, Paris XVII, are credited by IS9 with taking 9 evaders from Givray to Paris in January 1944, and on to Lannemezan (sic) in February. Both were arrested on 8 April 1944 and deported to Germany. Jeanne Michelle was liberated on 23 April 1945, and Simone Claude in May 1945.
On the evening of Wednesday 2 February, Charles Compton, Leonard McChesney, John Runcel and Eugene Symons left Paris by train for Tarbes with Mlles Michelle and Claude Pignet. When they got to Toulouse, where they changed trains, a man called Bernard (assume Bernard Guillot, Rene's brother) joined them. He warned Claude there would to be a German control on the train, and so they got off at Séméac (which is just outside Tarbes), and went to a cafe where they spent the next four days.
On the evening of Thursday 3 February, Conrad Stumpfig, William Wertz, John Swenson and Saul Hershkowitz left Paris by train with (according to the report in Runcel's file) “Pierre”, “Yves”, “Joe” (with Stumpfig) and another Frenchman. This “Pierre” was Pierre Morel, who says that because Francine Benoit (he says Bunoet) missed the train he, along with Bernard Dubois, Georges Bourdet and Paul Gommeriel (who had all come from Brittany with Morel) accompanied the group of four American airmen. Note that Hershkowitz says that he and Manion were left behind, following the next night with two Frenchmen, one of them named Pierre - although this does not seem to agree with the other reports.
Pierre Morel (born 13 April 1923) says (in an article dated 11 November 2001) that after the break-up of SOE Agent Francois Vallee's Parson circuit in Rennes, Vallee told him to take the “survivors of the General Staff of the network” (three former student friends of Morel) for evacuation to England via Captain Dent (Erwin Deman) and the SOE VAR line. Following the failure of Operation Jealous III (on the night of 23-24 December), Vallee sent Morel to contact Pierre Guyot (or Guillot) of the Pernod escape network, and his assistant Rene Gerard, at their apartment at 66 rue Truffaut, Paris XVII. Morel and his three friends then accompanied a group of four airmen to be taken south to Lannemezan.
They were supposed to go to Lannemezan, where they would met by Jean Antoine Cazenave (born in Tarbes on 20 October 1905) and two women that the Americans had met before, sisters Michelle and Claude Pignet (Morel says Michèle and Loulou). Having changed trains at Toulouse, on arrival at Lannemezan, Cazenave and the two women signalled for them to stay on the train, and joined them, explaining that one of their guides had recently been arrested in Lannemezan, and they should continue on to Tarbes, actually getting off at Séméac, where they joined Compton, McChesney, Runcel and Symons.
On the evening of Friday 4 February, James Foy and Clyde Manion left Paris by train with their guide Francine Benoit. After changing trains at Toulouse, they boarded a train for Tarbes, intending to get off at Lannemezan to meet a man called Bernard. However, Bernard was not there to meet them, and when Francine took the two airmen to the Hotel du Midi to look for him, they learned that the hotel had been raided the previous day. That evening, Francine took Foy and Manion on to Tarbes.
Mlles Francine Benoit (born 17 November 1920) and her sister Denise Benoit (born 12 March 1923), are listed by IS9 as having two addresses, one at 82 Avenue de Wagram, Paris XVII, and the other (their parents home) at 7 rue de Valserres in Gap, Hautes-Alpes. Both were awarded Kings Commissions.
Compton and McChesney were collected from the cafe at Séméac by Jean Cazenave who took them to 69 avenue Alsace-Lorraine in Tarbes, where they were sheltered by a M. Correge for 17 days.
Runcel and Stumpfig were sheltered by Mme Anna Cerles (born 3 November 1892), a tall, grey-haired lady connected to the Red Cross, at 40 Allée Petain (now Allées General Leclerc).
Wertz and Swenson were collected by “Joe” (the man who had brought Stumpfig from Paris) who handed them over to Manuel Daniel who took them to be sheltered by Jules Labat, a 21-year-old architect who lived with his mother at 24 rue des Cultivateurs, where they stayed for week. Then Manuel Daniel and a young blond-haired man who worked as a railway watchman, took them to a hotel. After three days at the hotel, Daniel and Charles le Mousse (of 8 rue 4 Septembre) (head of an organisation which received explosives from the British, and who gave them sweaters and socks) took them to stay with Jean Venot (who had a wife and two small children, and worked at the Identity Bureau of the police department in Tarbes - he was member of the Alexandre-Edouard circuit). They stayed with Jean and his family in their house on the edge of town for a week and half (until Friday 25 February), when Jean took them to a restaurent in Tarbes where they joined Cazenave and the other Americans.
Hershkowitz and Symons were sheltered with retired railway worker Hector Semain (born 22 June 1822) at 1 rue de Traynes.
On their arrival in Tarbes on 5 February, Francine Benoit handed James Foy and Clyde Manion over to a young man who took them to the home of some Jewish people on the outskirts of Tarbes. The next morning they were taken to Jean Cazenave's apartment at 2 bis rue De Gonnes and he took them to stay with Gaston Francis Xavier Heches (born 14 Nov 1900), a restaurant proprietor of 16 rue d'Avezac Macaya for three weeks - Foy describes Heches as being the brains of the organisation. The road was named for the archivist and geographer Marie-Armand d'Avezac de Castera-Macaya, who was born in Tarbes in 1800 but later renamed rue Andie Mayer in memory of the SOE agent James (Andy) Mayer.
Foy reports that on 5 February (the day they arrived), he met an Englishman at this cafe-restaurant. He called himself Phillipe, said he worked for a British organisation, had just returned from the UK, and knew Berthe (from Vierzon). “He said he had worked with Pat's organisation, which had been broken up some time ago”. This was SOE agent Maurice Southgate (organiser of the Stationer circuit) who was parachuted back into France in late January 1944.
Foy also says that the day after they arrived in Tarbes, they were told that one of Pernod's guides had been caught on the return journey after he had taken a party of 10 Americans into Spain, which delayed their journey until Gaston Heches managed to obtain a guide for them. Heches asked Foy to send his regards to his two chiefs, Alexander and Edouard , who were in the UK, but did not give any further details. Heches (who was recommended for a KMC by IS9) was the local head of the Alexandre-Edouard circuit.
On 24 February, a tall Spaniard that Foy names as Calvot (this was Sebastian Calvo Sahyn), took Foy and Manion to Bagneres-de-Bigorre (about about 20 kms south of Tarbes), and next day the remainder of the party arrived, all staying at the Hotel des Americains until 1 March, and being joined there by seven Frenchmen and two Greeks.
On 1 March, a man named Jean Marty (owner of a saw-mill at Sainte-Mariede-Campan) took the party of ten airmen, seven Frenchmen (including Pierre Morel, Bernard Dubois, Georges Bourdet and Paul Gommeriel), two Greeks and their guides, by truck to stay the night at Campan. Next day, they set off walking through deep snow (with a guide that Morel names as Sillot) (Salvador Sio-Martinez – query), staying overnight at Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, where they had to leave Stumpfig and Swenson because their feet were frozen, and taking two days to reach the Réservoir de l'Oule (which is about 4 kms north of Aragnouet), where they left Hershkowitz. At this point, they were told that they could not go through because of a recent avalanche which had killed one American (1/Lt Francis James Thackray, who was flying as observer on B-24 42-7593 Blunder Bus when they were shot down on 7 January 1944 – his death is given as 7 January 1944) and a guide, and had trapped six Americans who were then taken by the Germans. The snow was still very heavy, and they were persuaded to turn back, returning to Sainte-Marie-de-Campan on 5 March, collecting Stumpfig and Swenson, and staying with Jean Marty.
After a week with Jean Marty, they were moved into a barn near Sainte-Marie belonging to a M. Albert , where they stayed for four days, during which time, Jean Cazenave brought Captain Eugene Wink to join them. Symons and Swenson (whose main problem was that he couldn't get shoes big enough to fit his huge feet) were left with M. Marty .
Captain Eugene August Wink Jnr (#562) from Tampa, Florida was the 23-year-old pilot of 365FG/386FS P-47 42-75205 returning from an escort mission to the Lille area on 2 March 1944 when his engine seized (following a faulty release of his belly tank). Wink abandoned his aircraft by rolling it on its back and falling out, seeing it crash and burn in the distance as he drifted down under his parachute.
Knowing he should get away as quickly as possible, Wink made his way to a lake, where he hid in the reeds, commenting that his new battle jacket (rather than the more usual A2 leather jacket), together with his coveralls, helped camouflage him from a German search party. That evening, using his compass to head south, Wink walked through the night to the village of Sauchy-Cauchy (Pas-de-Calais). A family took him in and gave him food, and a friend donated some civilian clothes before Wink set off once more until meeting a man driving a cart. The man was Etienne Capron, and he took Wink to Grancourt-les-Havrincourt, and his house on rue d'Eglise. Etienne's wife put Wink to bed until evening, when he was taken to stay with friends in the village, Floribert Plateau and his wife Azélie. Wink stayed with the Plateau family for almost a week, being visited there by 22-year-old Daniel Raffin (of 19 rue de la Cloche, Douai) who gave Wink his best clothes.
On 9 March, Etienne Capron took Wink in his buggy to the railway station at Marcoing, where they caught a train to Paris. Then it was a long Metro ride to Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, and 52 avenue de la Republique, home of Mons Sabiss and his daughter Raymonde.
Next day, Etienne Capron and Raymonde Sabiss took Wink on an early morning train via Tours and Bordeaux to Tarbes. On arrival, they went a little way north to Andrest, where they stayed with Marcel Dauba, a cousin by marriage of Floribert Plateau. They had no contacts but Marcel Dauba worked in a porcelain factory, where his boss, Pierre Jacques, apparently did, and on 13 March, Jean Cazenave arrived in a car, and took Wink to join the other Americans in a “shack on a hill”.
Foy, Manion, Runcel, Stumpfig, Wertz, McChesney, Compton and Wink were then taken to the Villa des Roses in Artigues where they took a teleferic (cable car) and then proceeded on foot to Oule. They stayed there for 24 hours, and were told that Hershkowitz was at a doctor's house in Fabian. The next evening, they left and crossed the border to Bielsa where they were arrested the Spanish Guardia Civil, who kept them in a barn for two days and then took them to Barbastro ..
“At the end of a week we went to live in a barn in the hillside. We stayed here for several days living on tomatoes and bread. On 17 March we left with the same guide and travelled by the same route to Fabian [on the road NE of Aragnouet]. By this time our party had dwindled considerably. Five of the Frenchmen who had come with us from Paris had gone off by themselves [Morel, Dubois and Bourdet had returned to Paris while Gommeriel was left in Tarbes, suffering from frost-bitten feet] and some of the Americans [Swenson, Symons and Hershkowitz] were unable to continue, as their feet were in very bad condition and they had no shoes. In the meantime we had been joined by another American [Eugene Wink] , two Frenchmen and a Dutchman.
We arrived at Bielsa on 19 March. The two Frenchmen who joined us at Fabian were Roy Cogan and Jesus (query) (surname unknown). They told me they were French Canadians and had been working with M. Louis, whom I met in Tarbes, and his organisation. Jesus had been employed as a radio operator. They were on their way to the UK.
We were arrested by Spanish police at Bielsa. All our personal possessions were taken from us, but they were returned the next day. On 20 March we were sent to Barbasto. Five of us, all officers [Foy, Manion, McChesney, Compton and Wink], were put in a hotel and the remainder of the party [Runcel, Stumpfig and Wertz] were put in prison. From Barbasto, where we stayed for one night, our journey was Zaragossa (three days), Alhama (three days) – Madrid. At Madrid I was sent to hospital suffering from frostbitten feet. I arrived at Gibraltar on 6 April and left for the UK three days later.” (WO208/5583-1868 Foy)
“We [Wink, Manion, Runcel, Stumpfig, Wertz, McChesney, Compton and Foy] started over the Pyrenees on 16 March after having had nothing but potatoes to eat for several days. The next day we stopped at a place where I was able to buy enough lump sugar for the whole party. This later proved very helpful as it gave us quick energy without making us thirsty. On 19 March our guide left us. We were still three hours from the border but the guide said that we were out of danger. The snow was hard and slippery, and once, as we walked along the side of a mountain, a Frenchman fell and slid to a stop just short of a cliff. We walked for five hours before reaching Spain.” (MIS-X EE 562 Wink)
Foy (1868) was flown overnight from Gibraltar to RAF Lyneham, arriving on 10 April. Wink (#562), McChesney (#565), Compton (#566), Runcel (#567) and Stumpfig (#568) left Gibraltar on 17 April and were flown to Somerset (Compton says Lyneham), arriving the same day. Wertz (#576) and Manion (#577) were flown overnight to Bristol, arriving 20 April 1944.
Four weeks after the others left, Eugene Symons and John Swenson crossed by an unspecified (although possibly the same) route, with Pernod guide Jean Tearral, reaching Spain on 16 April. Symons report is virtually unreadable, and Swenson simply says that it took him two Pyrenees crossings to get to Spain - the shoes given to him by his helpers were too small for his "exceptionally large” feet, and with his feet frozen, he was unable to complete the journey. He makes no mention of the assistance he gave to Stumpfig on the first crossing - described by Compton as “more or less carrying him for some eight hours before the party reached a place of refuge” - for which Swenson was awarded a Bronze Star. Stumpfig had a similar problem (with his thigh) on the second crossing, and it was Wink and McChesney who got him through that time.
Symons (#725) and Swenson (#726) were flown overnight from Gibraltar to Bristol, arriving there on 8 June 1944.
Alvin Little stayed on with Charline Chable at Esbly, and three weeks after Swenson, Wertz and Stumpfig left (on 3 February), 2/Lt Edward Miller (#693) (the co-pilot of B-24 42-7614, who had also been helped by Michelle and Claude Pignet) was brought to Charline 's apartment (Miller says on 18 February) and three weeks after that (on 12 March), Captain Darwin Rasmussen (#669) and Sgt Thomas Grima (#694) (the navigator and top-turret gunner of B-24 42-7766 Heavy Date - who had both followed a similar route to Little, via Attigny, Amagne and Paris before Francine and Denise Benoit took them to Esbly) - arrived. Two weeks after that (Rasmussen says on 24 March), all three were taken away again - to take a train to Tarbes. Miller, Rassmusssen and Grima crossed the Pyrenees together (from Gavarnie to Torla), arriving in Spain on 31 March 1944.
Little then reports that “During the next three weeks, Rene, Pierre, Michelle [Pignet], Francine and Denise [the Benoit sisters] were all picked up by the Germans, and the Pernod organisation was wrecked.”
Because of this, Charline Chable took Little into Paris (Germans arriving to search her apartment a few minutes after they left), to stay with Mlle Camille Jeanne Laithier at 10 rue Clement Marot, Paris VIII, where Little was sheltered for another seven weeks.
Charline left for Toulouse, apparently trying to contact an organisation there but Little never heard from her again, and finally, Mlle Laithier brought a tall, blond Englishman, aged about 28, to see Little. Four days later, she took Little to a railway station where they joined a guide (a short, grey-haired Frenchman, aged about 40) and the three of them took a train to Bordeaux.
They were met at Bordeaux by a “large, dark woman, about 25 years old” who took Little to a the home of a butcher (Gabriel Testas of Place Mondesir, Merignac), where he lived with his wife and young son. After five days with the Testas family, a small man and the large woman arrived in a car. They took Little, stopping on the way to collect 2/Lt Charles W Roof (#848) (co-pilot of B-24 42-52335 Admirable Little Character), and drove the two Americans to a farm near Dax, where Mme Testas sister lived with her husband. Three days later, a short, very dark, middle-aged man (married with four or five children) took Little and Roof by truck to his house in Dax. The following day they were taken to a “tavern” where they were passed over to a mountain guide. They were ferried across a river before spending the afternoon walking across country to a small village, where they stayed for two nights. At about eight o'clock on the third evening, two Basque guides arrived, and set off walking with the Americans, stopping at midnight and then continuing in the morning for another two hours before hiding in a wood. Little reports German troops searching the wood, and the two guides being fired at when they left the two Americans safely hidden. The following night, a new Basque guide appeared with food, and then took them to a sheep pen in the hills, about an hour's walk away. The following night (14 June) another guide led them across the border into Spain and left them in a small house, also in the hills. In the morning, Little and Roof walked to Elizondo, where they gave themselves up to the Guardia Civil, who put them into a hotel for the night, and next day took them to Pamplona.
Little (#850) and Roof (#848) left Gibraltar on 30 July by overnight flight to RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall (which the USAAF had taken over in June 1943).
After the others left Saul Hershkowitz at Oule (on about 4 March), where he stayed overnight, he found next morning that he could hardly move. He went (or was taken) to a hotel at Fabian, where he stayed for two days, during which time the proprietor contacted the local gendarmes. The police apparently advised the proprietor to send him to the village, and Hershkowitz was given a pair of rubber boots. On arrival, Hershkowitz went to one of the houses and declared himself as an American who didn't want to be picked up by the Germans. The householders also called the gendarmes, and hid Hershkowitz in a barn until they arrived. Hershkowitz was taken to the gendarmerie at Saint-Lary-Soulan where they promised to hide him until papers could be provided, and three days later, he was sent to a hospital in Tarbes.
Hershkowitz was in the hospital for five weeks before the Gestapo came to visit but they didn't ask any questions, concluded that his frost-bitten feet would keep him there for a while longer, and said they would come back then. It was 4 August when Hershkowitz was taken to Toulouse and Saint Michel prison, where he was put in a cell with S/Sgt Lester Knopp.
Hershkowitz and Knopp, along with Donald Courtenay, Harry Fisher, Harry Bossick and Donald Lennie (see below), were freed from Saint Michel prison in Toulouse on 19 August when the FFI (Forces francaises de l'interieur) liberated the city. Hershkowitz, along with Courtenay and Fisher, was flown back to the UK by Hudson on the night of 5-6 September 1944 on Operation Failsworthy.
Verity (We Landed by Moonlight) lists the passengers brought back on Operation Failsworthy as Colonel Romans-Petit, Captain Denis Johnson (USA), F/Lt Horrex RCAF, D H Courtenay and H J Fisher RAF - but in addition to Saul Hershkowitz (#2415), we can also add Ensign Hulland USN (#1407) and 2/Lt Alston USNR (#1408).
Colonel Henri Romans-Petit was a maquis leader in the Ain region, and Captain Owen Denis Johnson (USA), an SOE radio operator for the Marksman circuit, also operating in the Ain region.
F/Lt Edwin P A Horrex RCAF (MISC/INT/811) was the navigator of 151 Sqn Mosquito PZ218 which was shot down on 22 July 1944. Horrex and his pilot, S/Ldr Reginald H Harrison, were both injured in crash-landing, and captured. Horrex and Harrison were liberated from a hospital in Toulouse on 18 August 1944, and Horrex was flown back to the UK (with about 6 other Allied personnel) from an airstrip near Garlin on 6 September, leaving Harrison at Toulouse. (see RAF Evaders)
P/O Donald H Courtenay (2282) was the pilot of 635 Sqn Lancaster ND508 which was shot down by a fighter on the night of 22-23 April 1944.
P/O Harry H J Fisher (2281) was the wireless operator of 218 Sqn Stirling EH942 (Poulter) which was also shot down by a fighter on the night of 22-23 April 1944. Both Fisher and Courtenay were captured in the Pyrenees on 5 June.
Ensign C W S Hulland USN (#1407) was the pilot of an F6F-5 Hellcat from VF-74, launched from the escort carrier USS Kasaan Bay (CVE-69), who was shot down by flak on 20 August 1944, whilst on a low-level ground attack mission in support of Operation Dragoon (the Allied landings in southern France), bailing out to land about 5 miles NE of Saverdun (Ariege, about 60 kms south of Toulouse).
2/Lt James M Alston USNR (#1408) was the pilot of an F6F-5 Hellcat from VOF-1, launched from Kasaan Bay's sister ship, USS Tulagi (CVE-72) on the afternoon of 20 August 1944, and also shot down - bailing out and landing near Carcassonne.
Both pilots were helped by the local maquis, and brought together in Toulouse on 26 August, from where they were taken to Garlin (about 30 kms north of Pau). Hulland says they joined “a Canadian [Horrex], a Scot [Fisher], three RGF (query writing) and Lt Herskowitz”, and goes on to describe the arrival of the one Hudson (the other turned back) in enough detail to confirm this was indeed Operation Failsworthy .
There were several other evaders who were flown to the UK on about this date, some of them probably on double Hudson Operation Dullingham, the night of 5-6 September from Toulouse-Francazal airfield (south-west of the city), and I am fairly confident that Lester Knopp was one of them.
S/Sgt Lester Knopp (#1526) was captured in the Pyrenees with Courtenay, Fisher and Harry Bossick (see below), and was in Saint Michel prison in Toulouse with them and Hershkowitz when they were liberated on 19 August. He says that he then stayed at 9 rue des Fontaines in Toulouse (Hershkowitz says that a young man named Jean Francois met him and Knopp on their release from prison, and took them back to his house on rue des Fontaines) for a few days before being flown back from Toulouse at night, arriving in the UK on 6 September, the only American in his group.
F/O Donald A Lennie (MISC/INT/655) was the navigator of 138 SD Halifax LL183 (Coldridge) which was lost (no details given but the seven-man crew bailed out) on the night of 9-10 May 44 (Operation Percy 3). He is mentioned by Knopp as being in Saint Michel prison but noted in his report as “still evading”. Lennie returned to the UK on 6 September but whether this was on a different operation, or simply the other aircraft, is unknown.
2/Lt Elbert F Harris (#1528) was the navigator of an 8th Weather Reconnaissance Sqn (L) (later ordered to be amended to 653 Bomber Sqn) Mosquito, which took off from Celone in Italy on the morning of 12 August 1944, en route for the UK. They were attacked by a German fighter and shot down, pilot 1/Lt Ronald M Nichols was killed, and Harris baled out and landed south-east of L'Isle Jourdain, Gers (about 30 kms west of Toulouse). He was soon passed to a maquis unit, and later taken to Toulouse, where he reports that two US Navy pilots, one of them Ensign Hulland, “were around”, and Captain Allen, an American paratrooper was the “liaison man in the section”. Harris was flown from Toulouse (the only American on the plane), arriving in the UK on 6 September.
S/Ldr Reginald Howard Harrison was the pilot of 151 Sqn Mosquito PZ218 (see Edwin Horrex above), and according to a talk given by his son Michael in 2018, Harrison's log book says that he landed at RAF Northolt on 6 September 1944.
F/Sgt Harry Bossick (2394) was the engineer of 218 Sqn Stirling EH942 (Poulter) - the same aircraft as Harry Fisher. He was returned to the UK on 7 September, and says that he left on a daytime “supply flight”.
My thanks to Michael Moores LeBlanc and Jean Yves Thoraval for helping identify some of the Pernod agents, Franck Signoril, John Howes and Edouard Renier for their help in correcting some of the helper names, and Oliver Clutton-Brock for his help in trying to sort out details of the return flight passenger lists of early September. Grateful thanks also to Sandrine Espouey at the Musée de la Déportation et de la Résistance des Hautes-Pyrénées in Tarbes, for her expert suggestions, corrections and additions - and to David Harrison and Paul McCue.