Theodore Melvin Peterson
HEAVEN AND EARTH
“Over the first years of WWII, the only American casualties on European soil were flyboys shot out of the sky. Long before Normandy, America’s bomber boys waged the Allies’ longest WWII campaign and brought the war to Hitler. The 8th Army Air Corps suffered the highest casualty rate of any of the American Armed Forces during World War Two. One tenth of all Americans killed during the war served in the 8 th Army Air Corps.”
26,000 persons killed28,000 persons became prisoners of war18,000 persons wounded3,000 persons escaped or evaded capture
James Bradley in Masters of the Air by Donald L. Miller
Theodore Melvin Peterson, pilot of an American B-17 Bomber, and his crew were
shot down over German-occupied France on May 29,1943.
Ted became the 69th American to escape and evade capture.
This is his story told in his own voice in the context of other written accounts and histories.
PREFACE: SHOT FROM THE SKY
Everyone looks to the sky. As the wounded American B-17 bomber hurtles to earth pursued by German FW-190’s, the shrill sounds of the careening plane with engines flaming become deafening while Nazi fighter pilots fire rounds of machine gun bullets into the metal body of the defeated flying fortress, ripping through fuselages and men. One nautical mile from St. Quay, a coastal farming village in the province of Brittany, France, the pilot tries to guide the plane’s descent, but three engines already burn out of control.
French school children and teenagers gaze transfixed as two German fighter planes attack the straggling B-17, which steadily and steeply drops in altitude as its wreckage careens across the villages, heading for the sea off the coast. Believing the plane could explode at any moment, the pilot toggles alarm bells and blares over the intercom to his men, “Bail Out! Abandon Aircraft!” First Lieutenant Ted Peterson, the plane’s commander, can do no more to protect his crew.
On the ground, German soldiers jump onto motorcycles and swing into the back beds of troop transports, machine guns in hand as the trucks bounce along French farm fields and dirt roads, racing towards the survivors whose billowing parachutes transform ten falling airmen into easy targets. French villagers rush from their homes and shopkeepers stand in doorways watching as the B-17 skims over rooftops, flying so low it barely misses the church steeple. Frightened, the villagers duck their heads, covering them with their arms. They hear machine gun bullets tear into metal sheds and roofs of barns and stand witness as ten young men bail from the fiery flying fortress, diving into Eternity.
Each young aviator knows he no longer belongs to an aerial fighting team but instead plummets towards earth into enemy territory alone, separated from his comrades by miles and the unique dangers into which each man drops. As enemy fighter planes circle, one by one bodies hurtle from the flaming wreckage, ten of America’s sons falling from the sky into their futures.
Last to leap out of the dying plane, the pilot dangles from his parachute, hanging between life and death. After the chaos of combat, the few seconds of quiet in the air surprise him. Golden Breton wheat fields rush to meet him as he descends from the aerial battlefield, and he glimpses the idyllic beauty of sparkling seas bordering a peaceful port town while he hangs momentarily suspended between heaven and earth, trailing tattered clouds of glory, death and destruction.
Photo taken by Ted Peterson Handwriting is Ann Peterson’s Because of illnesses the crew members changed the morning of May 29,1943.
On the morning of the mission, Phil Eastman and Barrows were replaced by Sargent Spencer and Sargent Ayres.
|May 29, 1943
Name of B-17F:Lady Godiva
8th Air Force
379th Bomb Group
526th Bomb Squadron
Base: Kimbolton England
|Pilot||1st Lieutenant Theodore Melvin Peterson
SaltLake City, Utah
|Co-Pilot||2nd Lieutenant Jack Willis Bourne
|Navigator||2nd Lieutenant Woodrow Pershing Moore
|Bombardier||2nd Lieutenant Warren J. Rosacker
|Engineer||Sargent Maynard Martin Spencer
|Radio/Gunner||Sargent John M. Scott
|Right Waist Gunner||Sargent William Toye Ayre
|Left Waist Gunner||Sargent Paul Reese Cribelar
|Ball Turret Gunner||Sargent William Eugene Blublaugh
|Tail Gunner||Sargent Gideon August Brown
Cydney Peterson Quinn
Daughter of Ted and Ann Peterson
War memorials create a place of contemplation consciously linking present with past and future. They intend to remind us, “Someday in your life you may be called upon to make a sacrifice for your country, for your liberty and your freedom.”
National WWII Memorial in Washington, D. C.
“Memorials seem to exist outside of time. They should alter our sense of the clock, slow things down; give us a larger sense of history. While we are experiencing them, we should feel that we leave the present to consider the past and future. Perception and recollection should become synonymous, so we simultaneously sublimate death and exult in being alive.” Michael Kimmelman writing about the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.
During World War II millions made the ultimate sacrifice by offering their lives as the War, the defining event of the 20th Century, deluged every continent, swallowed up every ocean, and plunged the entire world into conflict between tyranny and freedom. Sixty million people died just a few years before I was born, while millions others continued to grieve personal losses and sufferings caused by devastating psychological damage and violent physical upheaval.
Although I grew up just one decade past the close of World War II, I knew nothing about this horrific era as a child. We had not yet been taught in school about the world’s great and tragic ordeal. My parents did not discuss how this cataclysm impacted their lives, and we did not know we were being raised by “the greatest generation.” People returning home from a disastrous and war torn world did not want to discuss the war. They wanted to return to a normal America that built cars, not tanks and guns.
Ted Peterson family 1959, St. George, Utah(Toni, Ann, Cydney, Jan, Val, Randy)
When I was in middle school in 1969, I stood on a chair to search for something on the top shelf of our front hall closet. I found a small khaki case and opened it to see a razor. My mother told me it was a “souvenir” (“Souvenir” A word of French origin meaning memento, keepsake or token of remembrance) my Dad had used during the war. In 1918 during the First World War an American soldier gave this razor to a French soldier. In 1943 a member of the French Resistance gave the razor to my Dad while he was hiding in Paris. He told me he used the razor during the almost three months that he was evading the Germans and escaping from occupied France during World War II.
Gillette Military Razor issued to American Soldiers in World War I
For the first time I learned my Dad had been the pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber that had been shot down over German-occupied France in 1943. Brave French villagers and Parisians hid him for over two months, and then he walked for ten days over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain to escape the clutches of the Nazis. Through the aid of the French Resistance he became the 69th Allied flier to escape German occupied Europe.
Ted Peterson United States Army Air Corps
My father never spoke much, if at all, about World War II. However, in 1976 when I was nineteen years old, I traveled to France with my parents as my Father returned to Europe for the first time since the war to try to find the individuals who had saved his life over thirty years earlier. My father became the first Allied flyer to return to the small village of St. Quay-Portrieux in Brittany, France.
We discovered a book published only weeks earlier telling the accounts of villagers who risked all to save the lives of boys who fell from the sky, their bodies hurtling from smoking planes, plunging into French apple trees, wheat fields, and farmyards. From that book and miraculous events swirling around us, we began connecting to the actual people who had saved my Father’s life.
Through the Longest Nights: Aviator Escape Networks in Brittany 1940-1944 by Roger Huguen,1976
A few years later, the French people in those villages salvaged my father’s B-17 propeller from the ocean floor and restored it to stand as a monument commemorating the young aviators who came to save them and the sacrifices made by their own villagers who gave their lives to rescue America’s sons. Our family’s hearts are bound forever to these French heroes and heroines who sacrificed all so that our Father and other young men “lately drawn from the ways of peace, yearning for the end of battle, could return to the haven of home.”
This story belongs to my Father and to the courageous French men and women who saved his life. We, their children and descendants, share the legacy and the obligation to retell the story in order to honor the gift of peace they preserved and entrusted to us.
Ann and Ted Peterson 1987 Plourhan, France
“The beginning of the end of war lies in Remembrance.” --Herman Wouk
Chapter 1: Before the War: An American Farm Boy
Ted Peterson, Sophomore year at Davis High School
Born into a large farm family in Woods Cross, Utah, Ted Peterson grew up learning to work hard and dreaming of becoming the first person in his family to earn a college education. He recalls:
We lived on a hillside east of Bountiful, and it was rugged country. You didn’t just haul hay off flat land; you hauled hay off the hillside and down dug roads with a team and wagon. When we came off our hay field we had to lock a wheel or sometimes two wheels; put a log chain around a wheel; and actually keep the wheels from turning so that the load of hay wouldn’t run over the horses. That’s the only way we could come off the hill, have one wheel dragging or sometimes two wheels dragging if it was needed.
We always had a saddle horse or two on the farm and at least one team or two teams of horses. We had anywhere from 6 or 7 to 10 or 15 head of milk cows and calves plus fifty to one hundred chickens. Each year we would buy 100 to 200 fryers that we would eat over the summer. We raised pigs and calves, which we used for food.
We didn’t do much playing together, but we did an awful lot of working together, so we learned to enjoy work. Summertime on the farm was a time when you had many different types of crops. In addition to caring for orchards, we grew apricots, peaches, apples, plums, prunes, cherries, raspberries, currants, grape vineyards, gooseberries, and dewberries. In addition to that we had fields of grain and hay, and we were pretty much self-sufficient.
Our family was somewhat musically inclined; we always had a piano in our home. The girls played the piano, and my Dad loved music. We would gather around quite often in the evening and sing songs. We each seemed to have a natural love for music. We liked to sing and enjoyed hearing each other sing. I can remember that as a very important part of our lives. We sang frequently not just to entertain ourselves but because we liked to sing. We would sing out in the fields; we would sing going and coming; we would sing by ourselves if we were doing anything. I think that most of us had a song in our hearts and that seemed to be just a way of life.
Ted Peterson (back row, third from left, age 18) with Mother and Family 1938
I never participated in junior high school and high school activities because it was absolutely necessary that I be home immediately after school. There was no time to stay and participate in extracurricular activities. I don’t think that I ever stayed after school for anything. I was taught my place was to be home. During my high school days we would walk from our farm home, which was on the east bench of Bountiful, to the highway, which is now the freeway, about one and one half miles each way. So each day we walked at least three miles round trip. After walking that distance, the usual thing in the spring, just as early as the snow was off, was to be behind a horse and a cultivator cultivating the farm. The only way we survived on a dry farm was to cultivate. So I walked many a mile behind horse and cultivator, and by the time I walked the mile and a half home, changed my clothes in about five minutes, and got a piece of bread and jam, the horse and cultivator were usually waiting because Dad had been cultivating most of the day. He was pretty tired when we got home, so we would spell him off with a fresh horse. That’s what James, Charles, and I were expected to do, and we did.
I remember I began the year before I entered High School with a future farmer project at Davis High. My two brothers ahead of me had been in FFA, so it was natural for me to follow along. The first year I had four Belted Hampshire hogs that I raised as a future farmer project. They were registered hogs; we entered them in the State Fair and won Blue ribbons with all of them. Also, as part of our project, each year we also entered in the State Fair various specimens of grapes and always won blue ribbons with those. That was just part of the way that I grew up in agriculture although I knew all the time that I’d never pursue it as my career.
I think that even when I was in my first year of high school that what I really wanted to do was to have a degree from college; none of my older brothers and sisters went to college; but that was my desire. The field that I had in mind, although I knew very little about it, was architecture, possibly landscape architecture. That’s what I had in mind, but I never got into it far enough to know.
I guess one of the most interesting experiences at the University of Utah was one of the classes that I registered for, Men’s Glee. I wanted to sing, and the first year we were there I joined Men’s Glee Club. We and Professor Giles traveled that winter through most of the state of Utah singing. I enjoyed that quite a bit. This experience at the University was a good one for me.
I was about to be drafted; I knew that the war was near, so the things that I took at school besides Glee at the University were subjects that would help me to be something better than just an ordinary soldier in the military. I had always thought I wanted to fly. I didn’t know too much about it, but somehow through the curriculum at the University of Utah I learned about the aviation cadet program and some of the qualifications for joining the aviation cadet program. If you had two years of college you could apply to be an aviation cadet rather than to be drafted. Or, if you could qualify by taking the entrance exam you could get an appointment as an aviation cadet rather than be drafted. So I took some classes that would help me in that area.
Chapter 2: From Farm Boy to Flyboy as Hitler Advances
In 1933 Ted entered Davis High School and raised a Hog that won a Blue Ribbon at the Utah State Fair. That same year Adolf Hitler took over the Nazi party in Germany with the declaration, “Today we rule Germany, tomorrow the world!”
A few years later Ted graduated from Davis High School and registered as a student at the University of Utah with plans to become an architect. He was not yet old enough to vote.
During this time Hitler annexed Austria and later brutally marched into Poland. In the following months twenty nations in Europe fell under Hitler’s boot becoming his conquests and spoils of war. In April 1940, the Germans seized Denmark and invaded Norway. Holland and Belgium were crushed in days. Unable to withstand Germany’s highly mobilized attack, France surrendered on June 22. With lightning speed Hitler vanquished more than 200 million people transforming them into hostages living in vassal states, and as he had foretold, “There will be a class of subject alien races; we need not hesitate to call them slaves.” Nazi-occupied Europe became a slave empire. In June 1941, after trying to bomb Britain into submission, Germany attacked Russia, ravaging and conquering 600,000 square miles of land slashed from the Soviet Union.
In all of Western Europe, only Great Britain remained, the lone surviving free democracy locked in deadly battle against Hitler’s quest for total domination. Donald L. Miller writes, “The Royal Air Force’s fighter boys had won the Battle of Britain the previous summer, and England had stood up to the Blitz, the first long-term bombing campaign of the war, but since the evacuation of the British army at Dunkirk in May 1940, and the fall of France soon thereafter, Germany had been the absolute master of Western Europe.”
The United States proclaimed neutrality as Americans clung to a hope for peace while watching world safety shrink daily and German domination spread like a wildfire. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941 changed the course of our nation’s history, and a patriotic fervor swept across the continent as Americans engaged in the battle between the free and the slave.
During these months Ted Peterson began transforming from farm boy to flyboy. He recalls:
When war was declared, I knew that my number would be up soon, so immediately I took the aviation cadet exam. I think war was declared on December 7, 1941; and I became an aviation cadet on January 27. Two months after the war was declared, I was in the service.”
Chapter 3: German Submarines and The Battle for the Atlantic
“The Battle of the Atlantic was the dominating factor all through the war…. Everything happening elsewhere, on land, at sea, or in the air, depended ultimately on its outcome.” “The U-boat attack was our worst evil—the only thing that ever really frightened meduring the war.” Winston Churchill
The German submarines or “U-boats” meaning “underwater boats”, inflicted costly damage to the Allies and threatened to sever the Atlantic lifeline upon which England’s very existence depended. Hitler intended to sink enough Allied merchant shipping supplies to starve Britain into submission, to defeat Russia by terminating all shipment of warplanes and tanks needed by Stalin to stop the German advance on Moscow and Leningrad, and to permanently isolate America on the far side of the Atlantic.
By mid 1942 worldwide Allied shipping losses exceeded over eight hundred thousand tons per month. Although both British and American shipyards frantically constructed ships round-the-clock, in 1942 the Germans added fifteen new submarines to their fleet each month. Consequently, billions of dollars of goods, munitions, oil and war supplies ended up on the bottom of the ocean.
Allied Ship sunk by German Subs 1942
From gigantic, newly constructed, and heavily protected harbors built on the Nazi-occupied Atlantic coast of France, modern German subs with a cruising range of more than 10,000 miles prowled the seas. Armed with twenty-two torpedoes—nearly twice the firepower of earlier models—these menaces concentrated their predatory power in ocean areas outside the range of Allied aircraft.
Submarine Pens ( Today) in St. Nazaire, France (Built by the Germans in WWII)
Devised to defeat the convoy system, the German submarine fleet unleashed their terror by perfecting the technique known as “wolfpack attacks.” Hunting in groups, the German subs torpedoed Allied ships along with their crews and passengers. All through 1943 Nazi successes mounted in the Atlantic Ocean. Delivering devastating losses, the German subs sunk millions of pounds of badly needed supplies and threatened to defeat the Allies before the American Army stepped one boot upon the continent of Europe. From the suburbs of London, thousands of Allied bombers took off for Brest, Lorient and Saint-Nazaire, where they dumped millions of tons of bombs on German submarine bases. Ted recalls:
World War II was a war between the Axis Powers, or Hitler regime and England and the United States, the Allies. We were in England attempting to guard against the invasion of England by the German forces. Of course, we were guests of England, but we were also their allies. The United States Air Force was a very important factor in assisting England to defend themselves at this time and also to carry the war to the continent of Europe and to defeat Hitler’s forces.
In St. Nazaire, France, the Germans had a great submarine harbor. I had the impression that in order for a submarine to come in and be refitted and repaired, it would have to go underwater. The pens were underwater so the submarines could come right out of the ocean and into the repair areas. Our target was the submarine pens of St. Nazaire.
The bombs we carried had armor piercing nose cones, which enabled them to penetrate the reinforced concrete above the submarine pens. The British had bombed them with conventional bombs, but they had very little or no effect. At that time, a normal bomb was an impact type bomb. It had an explosive type charge on it. When it hit the surface of the earth or whatever it hit, the bomb exploded on contact. Our bombs had armor piercing noses made of steel and pointed so they would go through material and not explode on contact. They had a delayed action fuse which exploded the charge after the bomb had pierced the target. It was necessary to have the precision bombing of the B-17.
Chapter 4: The Air War
“In the spring of 1944…we were masters in the air. The bitterness of the struggle had thrown a greater strain on the Luftwaffe than it was able to bear…For our air superiority, which by the end of 1944 was to become air supremacy, full tribute must be paid to the United States Eighth Air Force.”Winston Churchill “Hitler built a fortress around Europe, but he forgot to put a roof on it.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
Organized as the Eighth Air Force, young Americans in heavy bombers flew their first mission over Europe in August 1942 about eight months after Pearl Harbor. American crews joined the fight alongside British air war veterans. American B-17 heavy bombers, known as “Flying Fortresses,” were designed to be self-defending and bristled with at least thirteen machine guns in addition to carrying bombs. They were intended to fly in tight formations of a hundred aircraft or more that could unleash up to thirty tons of .50-caliber machine gun bullets per minute. By January 1943, over five hundred B-17 Bombers and their crews of ten men each launched their attacks from England, and every month the numbers of planes and crews increased.
New turbo engines allowed the B-17’s to fly at unheard of high altitudes. These gigantic aircraft could fly above the range of antiaircraft weapons. In Masters of the Air Donald L. Miller reports, “A new kind of warfare was being waged—high altitude strategic bombing. It was a singular event in the history of warfare, unprecedented and never to be repeated.”
In addition, the B-17’s were equipped with the new Norden bombsight that permitted more precise high altitude targeting. After each completed mission, bomber crews left the plane carrying the Norden bombsight in a bag that was placed in a vault until the next mission. Bombardiers were required to take an oath stating they would defend the secrecy of the bombsight with their lives.
Bombardier using Norden Bomb Sight
After training for most of two years in three different flight schools based in Arizona, Texas, and California, Ted Peterson, at the age of 23, earned the rank of First Lieutenant and took on command of a B-17 and its crew. Only about 100 candidates out of a class of 400 cadets distinguished themselves as fighter pilots proven capable of flying a four engine bombing aircraft.
Flight training manual photos
In April 1943, Ted and 12 other crews flew to Bangor, Maine, to Iceland, then on to Scotland and England. Although two planes were lost along the way, Ted delivered his Flying Fortress to the U.S. 379th bomber group based in Kimbolton, a suburb sixty miles northeast of London. He recalls:
One of the things that few people understand is the detail of the war. We were working in conjunction with England. England had an air force called the Royal Air Force (RAF). They were very fine pilots, but they did not have the airplanes that we had in America. The B-17 was an American Bomber, and it was called “The Flying Fortress.” I guess up to that time it was the best plane that had been devised. The engines were equipped with turbochargers to enable the plane to fly at high altitude. At that time, Britain could fly only at low altitudes, so when they would fly over Germany they were very vulnerable to being shot down by antiaircraft guns or by fighters. They also did not have a bombsight, which would allow them to drop bombs from a high altitude accurately. The B-17 was equipped with engines that would get it up high; and it was equipped with Norden bombsights, which could drop bombs precisely from high altitudes. This technique had never been known before in the world. There were two things then that were important: the engines on the B-17 and the bombsight. We flew daylight raids at high altitudes, and the British converted their aircraft to night bombers. They bombed during the night, and we bombed during the day.
While in England, I flew practice missions over the continent of England almost every day. Flying in a bomber, group or in a bomber squadron can be compared to playing on a football team; you learn to work together and to function in a particular position. If you are flying a position in a formation then you function in that position.
We had spent time flying with our group, getting integrated into it, and also doing what we call diversionary raids. Anyone who lived near a heavy bomber base during the war would see bombers flying over them almost every day in practice missions, just like we had been doing. The typical position of a squadron was a triangle, and three more in a triangle.
Being able to fly thirty-six airplanes all close together doesn’t just happen. It’s a flying technique, which requires skill and practice. Sometimes during World War II, they would join 36 airplanes with 36 more and 36 more until there were raids where they had as many as one thousand airplanes in the air flying in formation.
Whenever you leave a formation or are unable to continue with your flight, it’s called an abortion. In wartime you don’t use any kind of flimsy excuse not to continue with a mission because your own function has an important bearing on the success of the mission. There were instances when airplanes flew in formation with crewmembers freezing to death or with some malfunction in the airplane. Many of the airplanes came back with all kinds of problems. All of the ordinary things that go wrong are exaggerated by the fact that an enemy is trying to keep you from completing your mission.
On the raid in which I was shot down, we had the largest concentration of B-17’s up to that time. We had one hundred airplanes. We learned how to fly in formation before we ever went over to England. You had to have approximately three hundred or more hours of flying time as a first pilot before you could take a crew overseas. Three hundred hours is quite a few hours of time. It isn’t much time when you think of all the flying time some pilots have today, but for getting ready to go fight a war that was considered a reasonable amount of time to learn your functions.
When you’re in the military, that’s your life; everything is military, especially during wartime. You’re usually restricted to your base. You don’t even go off the base; you’re just there. For one not having done that, it’s hard to visualize, but after being in the military for two or three years it was hard for me to even think of any other way. You almost forget that there are such things as civilians and other people. Everything you do is calculated to win the war you are engaged in, and every waking hour is directed to that interest. So, it’s not the best life in the world, but when you have a common cause like trying to preserve your country, then you are willing to devote your all to it. And hundreds, thousands, and millions of military and civilian people were doing that very thing during World War II.
In a campaign that would last almost a thousand days, more than 26,000 Eighth Air Force airmen would give their lives, about one-tenth of all Americans killed in World War II. Another 28,000 men were shot out of the sky and became prisoners of war. An additional 18,000 men were wounded giving the Eighth Air Force the highest casualty rate in the American Armed Forces during the war, even more than all the Marine casualties in the Pacific. And these numbers do not account for those men who suffered psychological maladies resulting from the unique ordeal of combat fought in a killing space five miles above the ground.
In Masters of the Air Donald L. Miller reports, “In the thin freezing air over northwestern Europe, airmen bled and died in an environment that no warriors had ever experienced. It was air war fought not at 12,000 feet, as in World War I, but at altitudes two and three times that, up near the stratosphere where the elements were even more dangerous than the enemy.”
Two-thirds of all American airmen in 1943 did not finish their required tour of twenty-five missions. The Eighth Air Force in 1943 also lost a high percentage of aircraft per mission due to accident, destruction in combat, or irreparable damage. Despite the B-17’s legendary defensive power the Fortresses proved highly vulnerable once they flew beyond the range of a fighter escort. No medics rushed to the aid of these aviators flying miles above the earth, and many planes returned to base with their crewmen frozen, dead, or shot to pieces lying in pools of blood.
Miraculously, there was a group of aviators who survived the crashes of their aircraft into German controlled territory, and escaped or evaded capture. Almost 3,000 American aviators traveled back to England after being shot from the sky over German occupied Europe because ordinary individuals offered heroic efforts, choosing to risk their own lives to rescue downed Allied airmen.
Ambulances at Kimbolton Airfield, England awaiting returning B-17 Bomb Crews
Chapter 5: Marriage to Ann
Ileann Grace Wendrich (Ann) West High School Graduation 1942
Known as “Ann,” Ileann Grace Wendrich was named after the Hungarian princess, Ileanna. She grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah and attended West High School. Her parents, Fred and Wally Wendrich, emigrated from different parts of Germany before the First World War. They met and married in Salt Lake City. Neither one of them spoke any English before arriving in America. In very humble circumstances, these two immigrants to America raised a family of eight children during the Great Depression and two World Wars.
Fred and Wally Wendrich
Because Ted’s brother and wife, James and Lavon Peterson, lived next door to Ann’s sister and husband, Sybil and Keith Hansen, in Bountiful, Utah, Ted met Ann while she was still in high school. Ted remembers knowing Ann before she graduated from high school:
“I think the first time I ever saw Ann was when she was about 16 years of age. Her sister and husband lived next door to my brother and his wife in Bountiful. The summer I met her was the summer she came out to stay with Sybil and Keith and to work as a carhop at a place called the Curve Inn in Bountiful. (Keith’s parents owned the Curve Inn.) We dated only a time or two that summer. I always wanted to go with her, but she was quite young, and I was four or five years older than she was.”
By the time she was a senior in high school, Ann started working almost fulltime during the school year. She recalls:
When I was in high school, I guess one of my favorite classes was home economics. I loved cooking and homemaking. I had a Miss Gibson who taught home living. Miss Palmer was my home economics teacher. I took all the cooking classes I could from Miss Palmer. I was teacher’s pet again to her. I won a scholarship in homemaking for Utah State University, but it was only tuition and books. We didn’t have the money for board and room.
While I was in high school I was working, and before I graduated I was working all but one hour a day. I was just going to school in the morning for a zoology class; then I caught the bus into Kress’s where I worked.
Kress’s was a five and dime store. They sold material in those days and you had to know how to figure yardage. I froze at the sight of any math problems, and I thought, “I’ll never get the job. What if they put me in material?” Well, I got the job, and they gave me more hours than anyone else. They put me in the makeup department, so I worked the counters where all the toiletries and makeup were sold. If you were real tall, they hired you in the candy department because you had to see over the candy counters.
Kress’s asked me if I could work fulltime. I told them I had to take one zoology class. They wanted to know if I was free that summer to work fulltime. On Pioneer Day, the 24th of July, all the sales people wore Levis, shirts, neckerchiefs, and cowboy hats. Some tourists came through and wanted to know what the celebration was and then asked the floorwalker if I could come outside on the sidewalk. They took a picture of me in my cowboy outfit. I think that summer I rode a horse for Sears Roebuck in the 24th of July parade.
When Gone With The Wind came to town, Roy, Beverly, LaVern and I sluffed school. We had our lunches and went to school, and then just took off and rode to town on the buses. At that time, everybody saved scrapbooks of movie stars. My favorites were Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen, the ventriloquist with the dummy. They were radio stars first; then he went into movies. He died just a few years ago.
The movies I never missed were the ones with Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald. They sang all the operas “Maytime,” “Rose Marie,” “The Chocolate Soldier.” On Saturdays, we took our lunches to the theater and stayed all day; we would see at least two or three movies. We would sing “Indian Love Call,” “I’m Calling You,” and “Sweetheart, Sweetheart, Sweetheart, Would You Love Me Ever?”
On Saturdays, we would use bread wrappers from the Royal Baking Company. For three bread wrappers, you could get into the show free. If we didn’t have enough, we ran around the neighborhood asking for Royal Bread Wrappers.
We also went to see Frank Buck’s Bring ‘Em Back Alive, and boy we loved that! I remember two scenes from it. They put a pig in a cage that was pegged so the pig couldn’t get out, but a boa constrictor could slither in and swallow the pig whole. They filmed it swallowing this little pig whole. Then the snake had to lie there trapped waiting for the pig to be digested. When they wanted to catch monkeys, they drilled holes in coconuts, filled them with rice, and tied them in the trees. The monkeys would reach their hands in to get the rice. They wanted it so badly, they wouldn’t let go of the rice, so they were trapped. Then the men would throw a net over the monkeys and catch them.
I can’t remember the first date that I went on with your Dad, but when I was car hopping he would drive in with his date, and I would wait on them. His brother, James, lived next door to Sybil and Keith. I remember going over there once and playing pool.
He would come on Sunday afternoons either after his sacrament meetings or after Sunday School and visit. We would go for a ride. I remember going to his home. The younger ones were all just little at that time.
Ted’s parents, Bennett and Florence Peterson, with Ted’s little sisters Jane, Dorothy, Mary and brother, Bennett
Then he wrote while he was a cadet in the service. I really think we dated through the mail. Before he came home he was writing quite often and getting serious in his letters. I used to laugh. He was really nice, and he just loved little kids. He was fun to visit with and was very outgoing, but I wasn’t in love with him. One time I let Diane Lamoreaux read his letter, and she said, “That boy is in love with you.” I just laughed because I thought, “How could he be. He’s not even around that much to know me.”
In the fall, after he graduated from cadet school, he came home on leave. When I was working a Kress’s, I started in the cosmetics department; then I was in charge of the information desk, and from there they moved me into the office. I had no training for office work, but they had me do the vouchers and the bills, and get the invoices ready to be paid. I always collected the money from the cash registers. I remember running coins through the money machine. Money is the dirtiest stuff you can handle. Our hands would be black from counting money. Anyway, I was working in the office and Ted came home on leave. I remember I came out of the office, and he asked me if he could kiss me!
That’s when we started getting serious. Mother thought I was just falling in love with a uniform. We kept writing.
Here is Ted’s perspective on this time:
I joined the service in January 1942, so during the summer of 1942 I wrote a letter from Luke Field, Arizona, near Phoenix, and told her that I loved her and that I wanted to go with her to learn more about her. She knew that my intentions were serious. It was out of the clear blue sky that I wrote to her, but it was very important that I did. I have thought about it many times and know that I was impressed and guided by our Father in Heaven to write her and declare my intentions to marry her.
When I graduated from Luke Field, Arizona and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the Air Force, I came home, and one of the first things I did was to seek out Ann and let her know that I was very serious about her. I graduated in September 1942. Enroute to my new station I came through Salt Lake and stayed a day or two at my home, had a date or two with her, and went immediately to Spokane, Washington. In Spokane, I wrote the letter asking her to marry me, and she accepted by letter. Our courtship was mainly by mail; the engagement ring that she received came through the mail. It was wartime, and we were in trying circumstances. She was only a girl of eighteen at the time.
I’ve thought many times what an important heavenly-guided decision that was for me. It was the best decision that I ever had the motivation to make. I’m sure the same thing that guided me, guided her, so I’m humble and grateful about that. I think about that as often as I think about any one event in my life. Of course, you have had experience knowing her and knowing what an important part of my life she is and what a great lady.
Our courting days and our romance were just heaven made. It wasn’t something we had much chance to do much about intimately. We were distances apart at a crucial time in the world. It was war; this country was in distress, and everybody was in the same boat. It was just a way of life, and you made do with what you had. I guess that’s the way we had been raised on the farm, and she had been raised the same way, so distance didn’t mean a great deal.
We corresponded and in my enthusiasm and eagerness, I wanted her to come to Spokane, then we would be married civilly. But better thoughts prevailed in her mind and in her parent’s minds. They concluded that wasn’t the thing to do and that we should wait for a time when we could be married in the Salt Lake temple where we should be.
Saying goodbye at the Salt Lake City, Utah train station with Lucy, James’s wife Lavon, Ted’s Mother Florence Peterson, and nieces and nephews. Ann’s Mother, Wally Wendrich, stands next to Florence.
From Spokane, I was transferred to Blythe, California and we set the wedding date at whatever time I could get free. Because Christmas was coming up, I asked my commanding officer if I could get a three-day pass for Christmas and out of the clear blue sky (I didn’t think he would really grant it); it was granted. I let her know that, and we made arrangements to be married on the three-day pass. We were married the day after Christmas in 1942 in the Salt Lake Temple.
Ted and Ann on their Wedding Day December 26, 1942
Ann recorded these memories from their courtship:
He asked me to marry him, and I said “yes.” Then we corresponded through the mail. He sent a card for a ring size. He bought me a diamond, and it came through the mail. Very romantic! He was stationed at Luke Field, Arizona. He came home on Christmas Eve. We were married the day after Christmas; then we left for Blythe, California.
My parents knew Ted came from a nice family. Mother always thought Ted’s mother was just wonderful. They really liked each other. Ted’s mother knew President Chipman who was president of the Salt Lake temple. He had been head of the bank in American Fork, so they knew all the Pulleys. I think that she called him and he opened up the Salt Lake Temple just for us. I imagine they did this during the war because of the service men coming home on leave.
We were the only ones in the temple. I had received my endowments and my Patriarchal Blessing in November. We were married in December. Ted’s parents, my parents, Sybil and Keith, and Ted’s friend, Paul Barlow, and his wife were at the temple. I think we went home and had dinner after we were married.
Sybil had a shower for me in the first part of December. The Pulley aunts came up from American Fork. During the war, you couldn’t buy any electrical appliances, but I did get a waffle iron from someone. The sheets and the towels were skimpy; the material was full of sizing and starch, so when you washed them, they all went out of shape and twisted every which way. They were just like cheesecloth. I didn’t have a hope chest; I think maybe a few dishtowels and that’s all. Your dad borrowed fifty dollars to come home to get married on, and that’s all we had.
We were married about 5:00 in the evening. Then we went home and had supper. I put our things in a suitcase, and we drove as far as Provo and stayed the first night with Priscilla; she had an extra bedroom
The next night we drove to St. George. We stayed in the Bennett Motel. The next day we drove across the desert to Blythe, California. While we were driving across the desert, the army was doing maneuvers and we just about got killed several times because of the tanks running every which way. At Blythe, California all the hotels were filled. We found some people in the church, and they were just great. Brother and Sister Richens weren’t too active in the Church, but they were so good to all the L.D.S. servicemen. They would have them to dinner and house them and feed them. We stayed there for almost a week until Ted received his orders to Pyote, Texas.
Flying Fortresses and crews at Pyote Texas Army Air Base January 1943
Ted had to fly his B-17 bomber to Pyote, Texas with his crew. I was with the car, but I didn’t have a driver’s license. Nevertheless, I loaded the car with some of the other officers’ wives, and we drove down to Texas. There were two others besides me, and one was pregnant. She was so sick we had her lying down in the back seat. She couldn’t even raise her head up. Every time we went over the dips in the road, she had to heave; she was so sick.
In Texas, through the James’ (they too just took in all the servicemen every place) we found a place. We would first find the L.D.S. branch or church, meet the church people, and then they would help us find homes or rooms. Some had kitchen privileges, and some of them didn’t. The fellows had to stay on the base, so I and another girl found this one room we shared together. It had a little sun porch, so when her husband would come home, I would sleep on the sun porch and they would have the bedroom; then when it was Ted’s day off, she would sleep there and we would have the bedroom. I think that we were there for three months training.
I remember at Pyote, the men could only come out if they had a pass, so we would smuggle them out. This one character was a copilot on one of the other crews and talk about a dead-end guy. He was the sloppiest officer you ever saw, and he was always gambling. He would make passes, have them printed up and then take a coke bottle and on the back side put it through and scratch the pass so it would look like it had been stamped. We would do anything just so we could get our husbands off the base, so this girl and I would pick the fellows up. When we wanted them both to get off at the same time, we would drive over to one side of the base where no one was around, and we would put this George Lake (his wife was Gerry) in the trunk. Then we would drive to the gate, Ted would show this forged pass, salute, and the guard would salute, and we would drive on through. We would drive into the little town of Pyote and pull off the side of the road, open the trunk, and George would climb in with us.
From Pyote, Ted was transferred to Salina, Kansas. On Saturday nights in Salina the streets were just a madhouse. They were swarming with service men. You couldn’t find any place to eat, and we just had a room again in a big home.
Ted drove me home from Pyote, Texas to bring the car back before we went to Salina, Kansas. We traveled day and night to get home, and I was so tired. I remember my eyes being wide open and not being able to see. It was just crazy, but we did all this so we could be together as much as possible. He went by train back to Salina, Kansas and sent for me after he found a room. Jeanette went back with me, and I guess she stayed there the whole time with me.
Your Dad left from there to Bangor, Maine, and then on to England. We had it all worked out so I would know whether he went to England or to Africa. I still have the card. They couldn’t write and say where they were being stationed. If he signed it, “I love you” or “See you,” or something, they all meant things, it was just some little code.
In April he left, and we said good-bye, and I watched the planes leave. Then Jeanette and I came back home to Salt Lake City on the train, and I went back to work at Kress’s.
Chapter 6: The Mission:
May 29, 1943
“Squadron after squadron, they rose to circle into groups and wings and then set off southeastward for the sea passage to their targets, a shimmering and winking constellation of aerial grace and military power, trailing a cirrus of pure white condensation from 60 wing tips against the deep blue of English summer skies.”John Keegan in Masters of the Air
For anyone living near the Kimbolton Air base north of London, the afternoon of May 29, 1943 presented an unforgettable sight. The largest concentration of aircraft in the history of aviation took off from the airfield that afternoon. Over one hundred Flying Fortress B-17 heavy bombers took to the skies in formation. In all directions, as far as anyone could see, the sky was black with wings and fuselages. Spectators on the ground heard what sounded like the continuous roll of thunder as the formidable flying armada assembled. Ted recalls:
“Though on this particular day of May 29, we were alerted that we were going on a mission, the fact that it didn’t occur early in the morning was unusual. We spent most of the day lounging around the airplanes waiting for orders to get airborne. In mid afternoon, final briefing was made, and we were advised that we were to be over our initial point at ten minutes to five. Our bombs were to be dropped at approximately 5 P.M., and we were given our target as the submarine pens of St. Nazaire. It takes a formation of B-17’s almost an hour to go from ground level in England, which is approximately sea level, to the bombing altitude of 25,000 feet. Each airplane takes off individually in a certain order. The group assembles in formation, then at designated times and altitudes the groups converge.”
“After getting into formation, we climbed to an altitude of 25,000 feet. This was double what most aircraft had been able to fly at that time. Because of enemy fighters and anti-aircraft fire, flying at high altitudes gave some protection, but the Germans had developed both high altitude anti-aircraft guns and fighters. Another function of our bombing mission was to fly other airplanes for diversion. A diversionary raid started with a large number of airplanes, many of which were not equipped with bombs. Part of the airplanes would fly in a different direction. It was hoped that the enemy would pick up the diversion instead of the bombers headed for the target.
I had flown several diversionary raids prior to this particular mission; this was the first actual bombing mission I had been on. The distance from our base to our target was about 200 miles. It was only a little over an hour and a half flying time after the formation reached bombing altitude and headed for the target. The entire mission would last about three hours.
As soon as we turned off the initial point and headed toward St. Nazaire, we began getting anti-aircraft fire. The Germans became very adept at antiaircraft fire. As you observed anti-aircraft fire around your airplane, it looked like there were big mushroom-type puffs of black smoke sitting out there in the air. It looked kind of harmless because all you could see was the smoke, but out of that smoke came all the shrapnel from the shell, which, if it were in close proximity to you, would blow your airplane apart. There would be so many bursts that it looked like you could walk on them as if they were lily pads through the sky.
I was flying on the left wing of the squadron commander and his airplane was hit right in the midsection. Pieces of airplane blew out into the sky and it looked like pieces of flight suits with people. That happened just like a flash. A second or two later a burst occurred right beside me and blew a hole as big as a bathtub in the wing of the airplane. Without realizing the squadron commander was going down, we stayed in formation with him until we were out of formation with the other airplanes. By that time we were maybe 100 or 200 yards behind the formation and in a very precarious position, what is known as a lame duck. We were what the German fighters were looking for, a wounded B-17. One of the reasons you flew together was so you could protect each other with all the firepower of the B-17’s.
Every fifth shell in the belt of ammunition in a 50-caliber machine gun is a tracer bullet, a phosphorescent loaded shell which gives the gunner the opportunity to see where his projectiles are going. You can actually see every fifth shell. The sights on anything but a turret gun were open sights that you had to sight just like a rifle, so being able to see where your tracers were going was quite important. There were thousands and thousands of projectiles going through the air and every fifth one was a tracer bullet. When you realize that each of those could kill you, it’s a frightening experience.
Our B-17 was riddled with machine gun bullets and another engine was on fire. The two engines on the right side were on fire as a result of the flak burst on the wing. We attempted to extinguish each engine. However, some control lines to the engines were inoperative, and we had two engines that were “running away.” We were able to get the fire out on that side, but were unable to feather the propellers. You can fly a B-17 on one engine if you can feather the others. However, the engines would not feather on that side. We lost our third engine; it would have been possible to fly back to England on one engine if all had been well and we hadn’t been under attack. We were able to keep up in formation fairly well even though we were drifting slowly back and our squadron commander had gone down. In this position we were able to continue on course and drop our bombs over the target along with the rest of the formation.
Over the target we received more flak. The formation continued on out into the ocean; we made a loop out around the Brest Peninsula, and headed back toward England. There was no way I could keep up with the formation. I used all the power I could, and we were losing altitude. We weren’t able to keep up, we just had to have more power and there wasn’t any.
This caused the decision that I made at that time which was not to lose my aircraft in the ocean and lose the crew as well. To ditch in the ocean is just about the same as suicide. I decided to head directly back to England across the peninsula, and I guess that decision saved our lives.
We had been attacked by fighters, which were FW-190’s. The FW-190’s were a squadron of fighters under the direct command of Hermann Goering. This squadron moved up and down the north coast of France anticipating the interception of enemy aircraft. They had intercepted us, and were looking for people like me and several others who were injured in this particular raid.
To be in close proximity with your own formation and have them protect you from enemy fighters by firing 15 machine guns on each B-17, hoping to help us, was quite an experience. However, there was not much chance of survival, so not knowing if the airplane would blow at any moment, I began bailing the crew out. Everyone up front went out, the engineer, the bombardier, the navigator, and the copilot.
There were two signals for bailing out. When the airplane commander gives the “bail out” signal, there is a toggle switch right by the pilot and copilot that you can flip on and ring an alarm bell. A constant ringing of a bell means, “Bail out! Abandon the aircraft!” You leave it to save yourself. You are on your own; there is nothing anyone can do to help you. The procedure is to turn on the alarm button “bail out” signal and give a voice command over the intercommunication system. In an emergency situation you don’t wait for acknowledgment from anybody; just bail out.
Flying at high altitude is cold; the temperature drops approximately three degrees with every 1,000 feet of altitude. At 25,000 feet, the temperature would be about 75 degrees Fahrenheit lower than it would be on the ground, so if it is 75 degrees on the ground then it is zero at 25,000 feet. We wore flight suits that were fleece lined, but when you bail out you strip off most of the flight gear.
There was flightgear scattered all over the airplane. Incidentally, a pilot and copilot could not wear parachutes. We used the chest-type parachute, but you couldn’t wear a parachute and fly an airplane because you had to pull the steering column back into your chest during radical maneuvers.
The pilot and copilot’s parachutes were stuck in a little compartment right behind the seat so you could reach back, grab it, and hook it on. In all this confusion of bailing out, someone had dislodged the copilot’s parachute, so when he went to bail out he had no parachute. I gave him mine and ordered him to bail, which he did. That left me with a problem. If the parachute had fallen out of the hatch, I would have to stay with the airplane.
After they had bailed out in the front, I searched among all the clothing and gear down in the hatch, and there I was able to find the copilot’s parachute. I buckled it on and shoved my feet out the hatch, ready to go, when I looked back through the airplane and saw that there were some of the crew still on board. I realized that they had not heard the voice command to abandon the ship nor the bail out alarm. As I looked back through the airplane I could see why; the airplane had been riddled with flak and anti-aircraft fire, and apparently all the controls to the back end were gone. I knew then that it was necessary for me to make my way back through the airplane and tell the crew to get out.
The bomb bay doors were still open. The passageway through the bomb bay was very narrow and I was unable to get through it with my chest chute on so I had to swing out around the bomb racks and proceed on back to the radio room. They had John Scott, the radio operator, stripped to the waist. He had a flak wound which we dressed then pulled his clothes back on, snapped his chute and harness, and helped him out the bomb bay. Then the others in the waist of the airplane bailed out.
I walked from the radio room back to the main entrance in the rear of the airplane. I told the ball turret gunner and the waist gunner to bail out. The guest gunner, (William T. Ayres), whom I had only met that morning, refused to jump. I asked him to bail, but as he would get ready to bail, he would freeze with his hands against the door. Finally he said, “You go first.” I couldn’t do that because I was airplane commander, so as he stood braced against the door I put a foot in his back and pushed him out.”
By the time I bailed out I couldn’t have been more than a thousand feet from the ground. As the parachute opened and I was recovering from the shock, an FW-190 swerved out around me. The pilot waved to me as he flew past.”
Chapter 7: Occupation
“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor….These men are lately drawn from the ways of peace…. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.” Franklin Roosevelt , D-Day prayer, June 6, 1944 “You may be sure that France will rise again free, united, and independent to stand on guard with others over the generous tolerances and brightening opportunities of the human society we mean to rescue and rebuild.”Winston Churchill, August 1943 “If you have never actually faced life-and-death decisions, it is easy to assume that you would have done the right thing if the Nazis had occupied your country.” “If one hasn’t been through—as our people mercifully did not go through—the horror of an occupation by a foreign power, you have no right to pronounce upon what a country does which has been through all that.” British Prime Minister Anthony Eden “Making any kind of judgment about a person’s behavior requires us to remember--We know the outcome of World War II. The French people experiencing massive defeat and military occupation did not know if or when the nightmare would end.That is one of the most important and least understood lessons of World War II.” Ronald C. Rosbottom, When Paris Went Dark, p.199
The France into which Ted Peterson plunged via parachute on May 29, 1943 had been occupied by the German Army since June 1940. When France fell, the largest democracy in Europe came crashing down and with it the collapse of the last defense on the continent against Hitler’s plan to subjugate the world. For almost a thousand years France had been recognized as one of the world’s great civilizations. But for three years the ideals of “Fraternitie, Egalitie, and Libertie” had been crushed and mangled under Hitler’s sledge hammer of terror.
Two million POWS had been taken hostage from France to Germany to work as slaves or rot of starvation, tuberculosis, or disease in the camps. Men were deliberately and permanently separated from their families to decrease the French birthrate and eliminate France as a world power in future generations.
Another 150,000 people suffered in prisons or concentration camps located in France.
The German Army imposed a daily tax of 400 million francs on the French people to support the Occupation. Suddenly everything from the running of the postal service to press censorship came under tight German control.
A thousand German railway officials arrived to supervise the running of the trains and to take possession of the French steel and rail centers needed to feed Hitler’s voracious war machine. German engineers, bankers, businessmen, and varied specialists came to France for the purposes of depleting the territory. They made an inventory of the possessions of France and methodically shipped back to Germany all the food and wealth not needed for their own troops.
Describing the Nazi occupation in When Paris Went Dark Ronald C. Rosbottom writes:
“They knew who lived in which apartment houses, which buildings were publicly owned, and which were private. They knew the location of every bank, art gallery, record-keeping depot, insurance company, and warehouse. They had studied blueprints and site drawings so they knew which buildings had multiple entrances. They knew the sewer system and the underground railroad. They knew the specialties and locations of all major hospitals and clinics.
They had the name of every wealthy Jewish family and which bank vaults contained their most valuable belongings. They knew which works of art had been removed from which museums and in most cases where those works had been taken. They knew of the census that the French had taken of foreign immigrants. They knew the numbers of rooms that each hotel contained. They knew who had telephones and where the switchboards were. They knew the intricacies of the river that passed through Paris, its docks and warehouses.
They constantly manipulated the curfew and created inconsistent train and Metro and bus schedules.They constantly revised daily timetables governing when anyone could shop or leave their homes.
Malnourishment, unpredictable regulations, conflicting rumors and news reports, the absence of more than a million men locked away in German stalags, suspicion of neighbors-- all threatened the newly occupied citizens.”
The Germans starved the French people. French civilians, women and children were used as slave labor, and in some areas, after the Nazis destroyed France’s transportation system where it was not needed for the soldiers, few babies were born alive because of the dire food shortages. France was plundered to such an extent that the people were deprived of even the bare necessities of life.
Because of their attempts to protest, thousands of French civilians were executed. Many were innocent or had done nothing more than to print and distribute anti-German flyers or express the desire for a day when no Germans stood on French soil.
In A Train in Winter, Caroline Moorehead depicts a poignant moment:
“One day, the women Resistance members being held in La Sante (prison) learned four men arrested for demonstrating against the food restrictions imposed by the Germans were to be guillotined in the courtyard next morning. At dawn, they heard the boots of the soldiers arriving to collect them. Four male voices rose into the silence and the pale light, singing the Marseillaise; then three; then two; the last solitary voice fell silent in the middle of a word. Then, throughout the prison, people picked up the verse and began to sing.”
Secret police organizations designed to terrorize the French arrived with the German army in 1940 and the SS and Secret Police became extremely adept at recruiting informers and collaborators, at brutal interrogation, and at infiltrating every corner of France. German cars patrolled the streets using monitoring receivers to pick up transmitting signals from hidden radios. By 1941 power shifted from the Wehrmacht army to the Gestapo creating even greater danger for French citizens.
The Gestapo skillfully terrorized the populace by using “The ‘Milice”, a paramilitary organization of volunteer toughs and fanatics recruited to stamp out the French Resistance. Especially dangerous because of their familiarity with their own communities and French citizens, the “Milice” became the most hated of all police forces. Arrests were made constantly. For the slightest rumor persons could be hauled out of their homes and imprisoned, deported, or shot. No one felt safe, and it became dangerous even to make eye contact with neighbors or to speak to strangers. ID checks and roundups were continuous.
“Pools” of French citizens were held in readiness as hostages against attacks on German soldiers. For every German soldier killed, fifty to one hundred Frenchmen were shot. When there were not enough French citizens being detained, more were arrested among university teachers and students. Mass executions were conducted in reprisal for attacks on German soldiers. Nonetheless, armed resistance by the French increased.
Each year at least 5,000 Frenchmen were shot for active resistance—one every two hours. This included anything from derailing a German troop-train to helping British soldiers or airmen escape. Across all the occupied territories it is thought that four helpers died for every escaper or evader who reached freedom. They died under the worst possible conditions including torture, execution, or simply from starvation and disease in the subhuman concentration camps.
Yet, unbelievably, Allied flyers were fed, hidden, and guided by French people making in the words of Winston Churchill, ‘this great spontaneous gesture of humanity.” Extraordinary courage was shown by the humblest of French villagers who did not hesitate to help the young men who fell from the sky. Many paid for the rescue of the young Americans with their own lives. The following notices were posted by the German Military throughout all of France warning the occupied citizens of the retribution they could incur by showing compassion.
Carl-Heinrich von StulpnagelMilitary Commander of German-occupied France
Chapter 8: The French Resistance and Escape Networks
In 1943 losses of Allied aircrews rose dramatically as bombing missions directed at Germany and the occupied countries of Europe also increased. The size of the Eighth Air Force in England grew from no men and planes in February 1942 to 185,000 men and 4,000 planes in December 1943.
Because it took almost two years to train an operational pilot and the casualties were so constant and significant, experienced aviators became difficult to replace. The High Command of the Allied Forces gave top priority to the possibility of recovering those “personnel of great worth because of their rarity and length of training” who managed to evade capture after parachuting into enemy territory. For these airmen, British Military Intelligence began developing escape lines out of France based on the bravery of the heroes and heroines of the French Resistance.
Escape lines out of France first began in 1940 to rescue survivors of the Battle of Dunkirk who had not been able to flee the continent when France fell. Then French volunteers trying to join de Gaulle and the Free French Army based in England followed along the routes. They were joined by varied individuals who had fled across Europe to escape the clutches of the Gestapo.
In 1943, as the air battles over France and Germany intensified, the escape routes conveyed more and more Allied flight crews shot down over occupied Europe back to England. Along the western coast of France networks of resistors had come together, at first to provide safe houses and false identification papers, but soon also to gather information on German military installations, camps and weapons depots, to transmit to London along with the rescued airmen.
And from London, British Military Intelligence provided airdrops of money, radios, and supplies to support the Resistance in France and, in particular, to establish escape lines over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain for downed Allied aviators. In London, military commanders also believed it would be possible to evacuate evaders and escapees in daring coast to coast sea rescue operations off the shores of Brittany, France.
Chapter 9: The "Oaktree" Escape Network
In March 1943 two agents from the British Military Intelligence Service (MI-9) were dropped by parachute outside of Paris, France with the directive to set up operation “Oaktree.” Val Williams, born in Russia and a former champion basketball player in both the United States and France, had been recruited and trained by British Military Intelligence to help establish a new network for evacuating downed airmen. Commandant Raymond Labrosse of the Canadian military’s communications regiment volunteered to parachute into France to support the mission of retrieving all the downed aviators. Labrosse had trained as a military radio operator, and he had been a student in Paris before the war. Labrosse and Williams parachuted into France landing safely with their guns, money, and one bicycle. Unfortunately, the other bicycle and, most significantly, both their radios were damaged.
Forged Identity Card used by Raymond Labrosse(Known as “Paul” to Ted, he also used the alias: Marcel Jean Desjardin)
Val Williams rode the only usable bicycle to Paris, about twenty miles away, to find Yvonne de Rossignol, a woman he had known before the war. She introduced Williams to Elizabeth Barbier who would eventually become the trusted and courageous Paris sector chief of “Oaktree.” She suggested he contact Jean Lanlo at St. Quay on the coast of Brittany. Captain Jean Lanlo had escaped from a German prison camp and now hid from the Gestapo at his parents’ house in Saint-Quay. Here he also sheltered the first evaders gathered in Brittany.
Jean Lanlo who helped organize “Oaktree” and sheltered Ted
Jean Lanlo put Williams in touch with Jean Camard who specialized in producing identity cards and travel documents signed by his father, Jerome Camard, the mayor of the village of Etables.
So began the organization of escape routes from the French coast back to England by ship. The leaders planned to take evaders to small villages on the coast of Brittany, France and hide them in safe-houses. Then they would be rowed from the beach under the cover of darkness out to waiting British MGB (Motor Gun Boat) vessels which would take the men to the English coast. The fishing village of St. Quay promised to be the perfect departure point for larger operations needed to rescue the increasing numbers of downed Allied airmen.
British Motor Gun Boat later used in the successful “Shelburne” Escape Line
Soon Raymond Labrosse joined Val Williams in St. Quay. Labrosse rented a home with Andree Leveque, who had escaped arrest in Paris, and they pretended to be married while they carried on their secret resistance to the German occupation. Escape procedures and routes had to be worked out. Relays, guides, and hideouts were arranged along with food and shelter. At the same time the collecting and hiding of downed Allied airmen plummeting from their smoking planes into occupied Europe took on greater urgency.
Already more than thirty-five flyers hid in the attic of the chateau of the la Comtesse Betty de Maudit. In Their Deeds of Valor Don Lasseter writes:
“Comtesse Betty de Maudit began life as Roberta Laurie, one of seven children born to Scottish parents who had emigrated to the United States. She lived a comfortable life in Massachusetts where she attended school and later worked for a telephone company. On a tour of Paris, at age 37, Betty met and married Comte Henri de Maudit. They alternated living in his luxurious Paris apartment and his country estate, the lavish Chateau du Bourblanc near Paimpol, Brittany. After France fell to the German onslaught, the Count, expecting imminent arrest and deportation, crossed the channel aboard a fishing boat to join DeGaulle in London. His wife felt safe remaining in the chateau, with periodic trips to their Paris apartment where she managed their property and business interests.
Her chateau was transformed into a reception center for Allied airmen. A peculiar quirk in the construction of a wing had left space between the ceiling and the attic floor. In the case of a Gestapo raid, it could be used as a hiding place for secret ‘guests’. Working with Jouanjean, Betty de Maudit would become a key figure in the network, along with Raymond Labrosse, Elizabeth Barbier, and Andre Lebeque. At least three dozen American airmen would never forget the generosity and courage of the Countess.”
Nearby in the village of St. Quay other brave men and women risked their lives to save the downed flyers and provide food and shelter. By the end of April 1943, the “Oaktree” organization held sixty evaders on their hands hidden at great risk to their “lodgers” in Paris and the villages of Brittany. But “Oaktree” could make no radio contact with London.
In May 1943, in spite of no radio contact, Val Williams still hoped he could organize a rescue at sea by taking more than ninety Allied fliers in groups by rowboat to a British MGB (Motor Gun Boat) anchored off the coast of France as earlier planned. So he flooded St. Quay and surrounding villages with hidden evaders who had been transported from their hiding places in Paris. Williams hoped to be signaled by the British Military Intelligence Service that the British ship was in place and that the operation could proceed. However, on May 29, 1943, the BBC broadcast the message, “Denise est morte” (“Denise is dead”) signalling the Resistance members that the rescue operation would be postponed indefinitely. The nights had become too short. Because of the lack of darkness and no direct radio communication the operation was deemed too dangerous.
On that significant day of May 29, 1943, Val Williams and Raymond Labrosse pondered a very serious situation. Ninety airmen and evaders hidden in the villages of Brittany threatened the lives of their compassionate hosts because of the extreme risk each moment posed for discovery of the Allied flyers by German soldiers. Amazingly, by evening another group of young aviators would be shot from the sky, landing in the middle of the operation, swelling the numbers, and increasing the lethally precarious battle engaged in by the French resistance. That very afternoon, Ted Peterson and his crew, by miraculous and extraordinary luck, fell into the village of St. Quay, the principal link to the “Oaktree” Escape Line.
Chapter 10: St. Quay
Picturesque and quaint, the village of St. Quay-Portrieux provided a living to both fishermen and farmers along the coast of Brittany. But in 1943, it had been long occupied by the Germans, and its beaches were heavily fortified against an Allied invasion.
Ted recalls the moments when he landed in the wheatfields of St. Quay:
The ride to the ground by parachute took about thirty seconds. I saw a farmer sitting on the handles of a plow in the field I was landing in. I landed by a small tree in the open field; the wind blew my parachute so it fell on the other side of the tree. The shroud lines tangled in the tree. Having grown up on a farm, I always carried a pocketknife. That habit helped to save my life in this case because I quickly pulled out my pocketknife and cut the shroud lines from the buckles of my chute.
I then went around on the other side of the tree to where the chute was, pulled the shroud lines through the tree and quickly gathered the chute into a small bundle. One of the procedures in attempting to escape from enemy territory is to destroy the evidence that you have landed, so getting rid of your chute is important.
After my chute was bundled up, I noticed that people were gathering. However, the man who had watched me come down only about a block away never did show up. In fact, I saw no man in the group around me. There were several women and a number of children, and a particular young woman who seemed to be able to speak some English took charge of the situation. She directed two young boys who were about 12 years of age to escort me inland. I had taken off all of my flight gear and insignia. Each of the boys took one flight boot under his arm and together we started running inland.
One was a red-haired, freckled-face boy and the other had dark hair and darker skin. We were already on the outskirts of this little village, but we ran further inland away from the center part of town and along a ravine. After running perhaps 3/4 of a mile we got down into the ravine and ran some distance through the trees and the underbrush.
Chapter 11: Rescuers
Henri Poulouin had to leave school at the age of 14 to work fulltime on his family farm. His father had managed the family farm, “la Grandville”, himself, but he broke his leg, and after infection set in the doctors decided to resolve the problem by amputating the leg. Henri, the eldest child and only son in a family of six children took the place of his father to feed the family. The German invaders made this already difficult trial almost impossible. After the Occupation Henri explained, “You received a note ordering you to bring your horses to a specific location. There, the Germans chose the most beautiful animals and requisitioned them. They eventually let you leave with your oldest horse.”
Henri also hated the Germans because his father had been imprisoned by them during the First World War. He says, “Four years spent rotting in the prison camps—it is impossible to tell you how we resented the news of the invasion at our house. We were despondent. We thought that England was going to be invaded. We did not see any solution.”
However, by 1943 the English had continued to withstand the Nazi attacks and had also been joined by the American Bomber Crews. Flying Fortress bombing runs dealt both destruction and hope to all of occupied Europe reaching as far as Berlin even though no Allied soldiers were fighting on the ground in Germany territory. In Brittany, young Henri wished he could aid the Allies. On May 29, 1943 his prayers were answered when an opportunity to fight literally fell on him from the sky.
Henri Poulouin was 18 years old and working in a field when he watched bodies plummet from the thundering Flying Fortress being pursued by German fighter jets. Just before the burning B-17 flew over the clock tower of Plourhan and plunged into the ocean, the final aviator dropped from the sky. Henri watched the parachute unfurl and thought, “He is going to drop into my field!” He rushed in the direction of the aviator, but a breeze caught the silk and Henri had to run much further to meet this survivor as he landed in a field in the Gacon valley. Only one young oak tree grew in the field, but that is where the parachute settled. Caught in the branches, the white parachute billowed in the breezes and could be seen for miles as the entire German garrison guarding the coast mobilized to search for the aviators.
Henri Poulouin about 1943 ( left)
As the B-17 descended, everyone in the surrounding villages heard the aerial combat and watched while the men parachuted from the plane, landing in fields and farms. The leader of the “Oaktree Network” of the French Resistance in that area, Raymond Labrosse (code named “Paul” Dujardin), observed from the house of Resistance member, Cecile Herve whose home was isolated and overlooked the Gacon valley into which Ted Peterson fell. Two Allied aviators were already hiding in the home and watched the crash along with Pauline Bringuet who worked in the Resistance network. Raymond Labrosse wanted to rush to the scene, but Pauline Bringuet insisted he was too valuable to risk capture, and instead sent her son, Pierre, to make contact with the downed flyer.
Pierre Moreau was the only son of a merchant marine mechanic after whom he was named. But his father died while on a campaign at sea when Pierre was three or four years old. His mother remarried and was known as Pauline Bringuet, an extraordinary woman who secretly worked with the Resistance in the village of St. Quay harboring downed flyers. In May 1943 Pierre was fifteen, but he looked much younger.
While Henri helped Ted Peterson gather the parachute, roll it up and hide it, Pierre Moreau appeared with an awkward message for Henri and the disoriented survivor, “Me Intelligence Service! Don’t worry!”
Pierre Moreau poses with his mother, Pauline Bringuet, in font of the house “Chanteclerc” which is equipped with a secret trap door to be used for escapes. This trap door saved the lives of Pierre and Pauline when the Gestapo stormed the house to arrest them (original photograph – 1943).
At about this same time another teenager, Delly Herve age 18, arrived on the scene to aid the aviator. She was riding her bicycle to the Beauvoir farm to get milk for her father, a baker in St. Quay, and ran to help the flyer in distress. Ted tore off his flight insignia and gave one of his lapel wings to Delly hoping she might be willing to help him.
She did what she could and then resumed her bike errand with the aviator’s wings hidden.
Ted's Aviator Wings
Delly Herve (Front row, second from left) 1945
Pierre left to report back to Raymond Labrosse, and Henri led the pilot to a hiding place in the very thick trees and undergrowth lining the fields. Fortuitously, the day before Henri had cut a narrow path in the dense foliage surrounding the field in order to gather wood. Here he motioned to the evader to follow him into this passage that led to an abandoned rock quarry used long before to build a mill. He grabbed the aviator’s wrist, motioned to his watch to indicate that he would return in two hours and then left. Ted recalls:
It was then about 6:00 in the evening. We had been over the target at approximately 5:00. Finally, after a length of time where everything was a matter of life and death, I had a few moments in a quiet wooded ravine to have what had happened come flooding over me and to contemplate my own position. I remember very vividly that after a few moments of being alone I was on my knees thanking my Father in Heaven for my life being spared and also promising that if He would continue to protect me and to spare my life that I would attempt to live worthy of a good life here on this earth.
I spent the next couple of hours wondering whether I should have faith in the two boys, wondering if they would come back, and wondering what my future would be. That time seemed to pass quite rapidly. The shadows lengthened; the sun was going down; and I was conscious of the fact that evening and peace and aloneness were there in this little area. I felt that I could have confidence in these two young men, yet I prepared myself for any eventuality—if they should bring someone back with them or if they themselves should be captured by the Germans and be forced to show where I was hidden. I moved my position about 100 yards, and got around me some rocks and sticks where I could m aybe put up some futile defense.
Around 8:00 I heard someone approaching. I was in a spot where I could see the trail and observe who was coming. The two boys were there alone; they carried a pitchfork. I made myself known after they had whistled and tried to locate me. One of them had a hat on his head and he carried the pitchfork. He started taking his clothes off, and under his clothes he had another suit of clothes on. These were the clothes that I would wear. I dressed myself as a local farmer with a hat and a pitchfork and farm type clothes. After making this change, we came out of the ravine and walked some distance through the fields and into a farmyard.
After receiving instructions from Raymond Labrosse, Henri returned with his friend, Andre Provost, who was wearing a collection of farmer’s clothes gathered by the Resistance to disguise the pilot. After the boys hid Ted’s flight suit and boots in the hollow of an old oak tree, they began their perilous trip to lead him to a hiding place on the Pont Filio farm in the neighboring village. The road that linked Plourhan to St. Quay was busy and dangerous because of the German troops looking for the downed fliers.
While Ted and Andre hid behind an embankment, Henri stood on the road to see if anyone was coming. All was clear, but as he motioned them to join him, suddenly a German patrol on bicycles appeared around the bend in the road. Ted and Andre fell to the ground. All ten of the soldiers were armed with machine guns. Henri could not flee without exposing himself and risking questioning, so using his sickle, Henri started cutting the grass on the embankment hoping they would not notice how fearfully his heart was beating. He appeared to be completely absorbed in his work although he sweated terribly and feared for his life. The soldiers came closer and then disappeared having seen only a young farm boy working. Henri’s father had suggested he take the pitchfork and sickle; carrying the farm tools had certainly saved his life and the lives of Ted and Andre. The boys guided Ted to the courtyard of the Pont Filio farm and behind the granary where Henri signaled Ted to follow him by crawling into the middle of the wheat field.
I was immediately escorted through the barn, through the house, and out into the fields in the middle of the farm. One of the boys crawled on his hands and knees for about 150 yards through a tall wheat field, and I followed. After I had arrived at approximately the center of the field, my escort returned the way we had come, and I was again left alone with the instructions that I was to remain where I was. A wheat field out in the open seemed a rather peculiar hideout to me although it proved to be a very good place to hide.
It is important to note that at this time, the inhabitants of Brittany knew that any man who was caught aiding a flyer would be executed and any woman who was caught helping a downed airman would be deported to a German concentration camp—suffering a slow death. The people were hungry and lacking essentials in every way. Anyone who informed the Germans of where the pilot was hidden would have received very large rewards of much needed money. Yet, not a single villager chose to take money in that way. In the field, Ted could hear the dogs, soldiers, and reconnaissance planes searching for him. Yet no one betrayed him.
Instead many of them trekked out into the field to give Ted a hero’s welcome. People who crawled through the wheat stalks each brought Ted different bottles of wine showing him their friendship. For hours, he tried to tell them all he wanted was a drink of water. Finally someone scrabbled all the way out holding a glass of clear liquid. Ted gulped what he thought was water and then began choking and spitting out his first taste of Calvados, a clear apple brandy. He laughed:
“I guess they thought I was just a very selective drinker.”
It was near 11:30 or 12:00 PM before it was completely dark. Just prior to darkness someone crawled out to me and from a short distance greeted me with the words, “Hello you lucky people!” I was surprised to hear someone speaking the slang expressions we were used to in the United States. This fellow turned out to be a Canadian RAF flier who had volunteered to parachute into German-occupied France and help organize an underground movement to evacuate downed Allied flyers and any others who wanted to get out of France. This member of the French underground who was about my age identified himself as Paul and told me his story of how he had volunteered to parachute into France. I was very impressed with him and was very grateful that I had made this contact so soon. He left the field just before dark.
Paul (Raymond Labrosse) also brought with him a Doctor Caillet who worked for the Resistance and risked his life to crawl out into the field to check on Ted’s health. Paul reassured Ted and promised someone would move him before morning. Then the two men left.
Just as he was falling asleep, Ted was startled to hear cracking sounds of twigs being broken. Ted was fearful since curfew was now in effect and he did not expect any more French villagers. Soon a very young child appeared bringing a handkerchief and a rose to the hero. He settled in next to Ted and slept in the wheat field until he was found by his parents who were tenants in one of the buildings on the farm. Ted kept this handkerchief and rose for the rest of his journey.
After spending his first night in France under an apple tree in a wheat field, Ted was taken to the home of Captain Jean Lanlo and hidden in an attic. Captain Jean Lanlo had escaped from the Gestapo in Paris, and then hid with his family at his parents’ home in St. Quay. The Lanlos sheltered some of the first downed airmen, but by May 1943 Lanlo had also developed a network of “logeuses” or lodgers who agreed to hide the evaders in their homes and worked closely with the “Oaktree” underground transport organization. According to Lanlo:
“Normally, all of the aviators that we received had passed through the interrogation house. This house, named ‘L’Ensoleillée’ (‘Sunny’) is still located at 3 rue des Korrigans in Portrieux (house with a well, on the left while going up the street). It belonged to a party who was ignorant of its use. The resistance had rented it in the name of “Paul Dujardin” (the underground name of Ray Labrosse, the head of the “Oaktree” network). The presumed aviators stayed there for eight days. During all this time, they were bombarded with questions on a variety of subjects, such as their city in the United States or in England or their eating habits. When possible, we arranged for a real American or English person to be there to verify the truth of their responses. We also asked their military service number. All this information was sent to London by radio. After a few days, we would receive confirmation of the identity of the lads that we had in our hands. You must understand that the Gestapo was infiltrating false allied aviators into the networks. If they had been able to get to us and then escape, they would be able to tell who had harbored them. The whole network risked being dismantled, therefore the necessity and usefulness of the interrogators.”
St. Quay-Portrieux: A L’Abri de la Ronce Benie by Mathieu Petitjean
Because eyewitnesses watched Ted Peterson drop by parachute, he did not need to pass through the interrogation house. There is some confusion about in which home Ted spent the next nights in St. Quay. He believed he was staying in Paul’s home as he stated in both his 1943 Escape and Evasion Report and also in his 1979 interview. Raymond Labrosse (whose alias was Paul Dujardin) did rent a home in St. Quay to be used for housing flyers. Andree Leveque, pretending to be Paul’s wife, also stayed in the home.
Andree Leveque, an attractive young woman in her early twenties, had arrived in St. Quay from Paris after the Gestapo arrested her mother and aunt in March 1943. In Paris, for two months the Resistance had hidden Sargent Frank Greene, an American B-17 ball turret gunner who had been shot down in January 1943. He stayed in a home across the garden court from the Leveque’s apartment building at 19 bis Ave d’Orleans, the Villa Adrienne.
On March 4 when Andree arrived as scheduled, Greene believed she came to guide him to a new hiding place. But Andree, obviously distraught, said her father had telephoned earlier advising her to be extremely cautious. From a second floor window, Andree and Sargent Greene kept watch on the street below. At 9:30 am they saw five men all in laborer’s clothing loitering in front of the building. In Their Deeds of Valor by Don Lasseter Greene recalled:
“They looked like ordinary workmen. One stood outside while the others went in. The lady with whom I stayed asked the concierge, and he said they were Gestapo. I made a quick getaway.”
But Andree’s mother Marcelle Leveque, her aunt, and a RAF evader, Sgt. Daniel C. Young, were arrested and taken away in shackles. Terrified, Andree telephoned her father at his office. Armand Leveque could do nothing more than save himself by vanishing before the Gestapo knocked on his door. By April he was hiding in Belgium, and Andree had left Paris and contacted the “Oaktree” network to begin working with Raymond Labrosse in St. Quay. Andree Leveque would help hide Ted in St. Quay and again, later, in Paris. Ted stated in his Escape and Evasion Report of August 1943:
“Andree Leveque was living at Paul’s house posing as his wife. Madame (Lonlou?) was helping Paul with the food problem and a French girl, Marcelle, stayed at the house to help with the cooking.”
Mathieu Petitjean in St. Quay-Portrieux writes Ted was taken to Captain Jean Lanlo’s home. Perhaps Ted, who could not understand French and lived under the extreme duress of fear of capture, assumed Paul owned the house of Jean Lanlo. Or perhaps they are the same house; maybe this is the house Paul rented. It is likely that the young Marcelle mentioned was Madame Marcelle Lanlo, Captain Jean Lanlo’s wife.
In this home Ted was joined by two of his crew, Sargent John M. Scott, the radio operator, and the guest gunner, Sargent William Ayres. At least six other evaders stayed in the home but they were not from Ted’s crew. They were Sargent Frank Greene who had escaped the Gestapo in Paris and Sargent Luehrs both (USAAF), P/o Spencer (RCAF), Sargent Riley, (RAF), another unnamed Canadian Flyer, and “Joe” the Russian.
According to author Mathew Petitjean, Ted then spent three nights at Madame Cellerie’s home. Madame Emilie Cellerie lived with her seriously ill husband at the villa “La Chimere” in the village of Trevenuc between Plouha and St. Quay. Madame Cellerie had been a military nurse in the Dardanelles during the 1914-18 War. She welcomed more than sixty aviators into her home during this war, some of them gravely wounded. Emilie Cellerie is remembered for her exceptional bravery because she often fed German soldiers on the main floor of her home while hiding young Allied flyers in her attic.
This was a time of uncertainty for me. Although we had made contact with the French underground, there seemed to be some confusion and wondering what to do with us. When I heard the story since that time, I learned that there was an escape route which took people like us to the port on the channel where they would be met by a boat and transported about 80 miles across the channel under the cover of the darkness. I learned that the day or two prior to our landing this escape route had been discovered by the Germans, so that route had to be abandoned.
“Oaktree” had brought almost ninety Allied airmen down from Paris to be hidden in the villages of Brittany as they awaited the hoped for rescue by sea in the days just before Ted’s plane crashed into the midst of the operation. On the very day he landed, the BBC in London broadcast a coded message from British Military Intelligence, “Denise is dead.” The coastal escape operation by sea was cancelled indefinitely.
Now, the “Oaktree” network needed to pursue the more costly plan of returning the ninety plus young men back to Paris where they could be hidden more easily and remove the danger to their lodgers in Brittany. But from Paris they would need to be taken to the South of France and escorted over the Pyrenees at the cost of 30,000 francs per aviator, an extraordinary sum of money. This solution required the additional burden of providing each airman with forged identity documents and travel papers.
Mathieu Petitjean in St. Quay-Portrieux writes:
During his stay with those who lodged him, Ted received a visit from Pierre Rillard. His father, Émile Rillard, had a photo studio at 20 boulevard Foch. Pierre Rillard remembers, “I left my studies at the Lycée Anatole Le Braz des Sablons. I had a dispute with my teachers in 1941. I then worked for my father before I took to the bush in 1943. In the meantime, I was contacted by “Oaktree”. The resistance knew who they had to deal with. I only had to photograph six or seven aviators. With my folding camera hidden on me, I went to the house where they were hidden. They placed themselves in the best-lit area, but one not too close to the window, and photos were taken for false identity cards.”
“Before this the lads had their hair styled and were dressed. The working conditions were often difficult. One time I photographed a boy who had been wounded in the leg and the look on his face was so pained that it did not look natural. Franck Ferlandin had a hair styling shop at 8 rue Sainte-Anne (a house ornamented with a little white balcony). He was charged with hair styling and shaving the aviators so that they would have a correct and credible look in the photographs for the false “ausweis”. For the photo sessions, clothing would be loaned to the military men.”
“One time, I had to loan my houndstooth check jacket to a lad. It had a leather cigarette case in it that I liked very much. The aviator was only supposed to keep it for the photo session, but I never saw my jacket or the cigarette case again! Another time there was a lad who had to leave and was afraid. He was helpless. He was cuddled in the arms of Madame Ligeron!”
“Ted had his photos taken. The photo still exists today. One sees in it the young pilot, very elegant, wearing a navy blue blazer and white shirt, ready for the occasion. The photo was affixed to a false identity card, and then stamped at the Etable mayor’s office. The mayor, Jerome Camard, and his son, Jean, members of a neighboring network, rendered this service, despite the terrible risk to which they also exposed themselves.
Full page of photos of Ted’s French Identity papers and photographs
Chapter 12: Paris to the Pyrenees
Using the name “Pierre Cathou” given to him by the “Oaktree” Resistance organization, Ted Peterson assumed the identity of a young French art student born in Quimper. He carried forged documents authorizing him to travel in the Forbidden Zone of the Coastal region because of the signature of the mayor of the village of Etables, Jerome Camard. On June 5, the Mayor’s son, Jean Camard, escorted Ted Peterson, John Scott, and William Ayres by train to St. Brieuc and then on to Paris.
Before we boarded the train, we received instructions about how we were to conduct ourselves. Although we were traveling as a group, three or four flyers plus two or three members of the French underground, at no time were we to make our acquaintance with our companions known. We were not to sit by each other; we were to travel as individuals. If anyone was questioned or taken into custody, he was not to make any of the others known to the authorities. You were to be on your own.
The train trip from St. Quay to St. Brieuc was made on a little “Tunerville Trolley” type train. The seat I sat on was next to a German soldier who was in full uniform with a rifle between his legs. The Germans were treated with contempt by the French, so I didn’t need to worry about conversing with him. However, I was very nervous because I was afraid he would recognize I was an American since I was wearing jodhpurs, very unusual American shoes.
The trip from St. Brieuc to Paris was on a fast passenger train that was loaded completely. Our entire time was spent in the aisle because there were no seats available. It was a trip of several hours into Paris and an uncomfortable ride. We arrived early the next morning and were guided through the train station in Paris, again remaining some distance apart.
There were many Germans in uniform, but the ones we were instructed to fear and to avoid were the Gestapo who sat in various areas in the train station observing the crowd. I suppose they had the authority to select anyone they wished to question or to detain to look at their identity papers. One of our group was stopped in the train station and asked for his identity papers. All he did was pull out the papers that had been prepared, show them to the authority, and he was told to move on.
The day before on June 4, 1943, Val Williams (head of the “Oaktree” Network along with Raymond Labrosse), two unnamed American airmen, two Polish evaders named Zaborwoski and Urbanski, and Monsieur Bourgoin and Monsieur Laporte of the resistance network were arrested on a train as they were making their way South of Paris towards the escape route over the Pyrenees. No one in the “Oaktree” network working in Paris or in Brittany learned of the disaster for several days. Regarding this ill-fated trip to the Pyrenees Roger Huegens in The Longest Nights writes:
“At first everything went well and despite the enormous risks of such long trips the organization managed to evacuate about thirty airmen in the first week. It was during the second week that Williams decide to go to Pau himself. He said he wanted to make sure the passeurs didn’t sell the airmen out to the Germans, as had been known to happen. In Dax, the two Frenchmen got out of the train to check that Bourgoin’s motorcycle had been placed in the goods van. When they got back to their compartment, they found the German police inspecting the airmen’s identity cards. Williams tried to move into another carriage but it was reserved for the Wehrmacht (German Army) and he was driven back. The Germans examined his papers and noted that his identity card, like those of the airmen, was issued in Etables. Williams’ luggage was searched and found to contain the four hundred thousand francs intended for the payment of the guides across the Pyrenees. Williams and the four evaders were arrested and taken back to Paris and Fresnes prison.”
Val Williams would endure six months of torture at the hands of the Gestapo and then miraculously escape. Eventually, in 1944 he would return to England along the Shelburne escape route from the beaches of Brittany via a British Motor Gun Boat.
However, on June 5, 1943, no one in “Oaktree” knew about the arrests of Val Williams, the “Oaktree” Network leader, or of the infiltration of the organization. When Ted’s group arrived in Paris the next day. Raymond Labrosse (Paul) and Elisabeth Barbier met Ted and the other airmen, and escorted them to Elisabeth’s apartment at 72 rue Vaneau which was already crowded with other airmen waiting to be evacuated across the Pyrenees.
Credited with aiding over 150 evaders, Elisabeth Barbier ran the Paris sector of “Oaktree” while simultaneously collaborating with Frederic de Jongh of the “Comet” escape line, which had originated in Belgium. Frederic de Jongh’s daughter, Dedee de Jongh, the courageous founder of the Comet Escape Network, had been arrested in January 1943 after she had personally made twenty trips escorting 120 evaders over the Pyrenees Mountains. Following several months of torture and interrogations in Gestapo prisons located near Paris, Dedee was deported to the Ravensbruck concentration camp fifty miles north of Berlin, Germany where her sister, Suzanne, had been sent earlier that year. In Their Deeds of Valor Don Lasseter suggests:
“Frederic de Jongh, perhaps a little too reckless in his sorrow over the deportation of his daughters, placed his trust in a helper named Jacques Desoubrie, alias Jean Masson, a small man in his mid twenties with a mop of dirty blonde hair and blue eyes as round as ping-pong balls, who had ingratiated himself into the organization. On 7 June, 1943 he escorted seven airmen from Brussels to a railroad terminal in Paris, the Gare du Nord. Frederic de Jongh, accompanied by Ayle and his wife greeted them. Gestapo agents suddenly appeared and surrounded the entire party. Ayle was later shot to death, and Frederic de Jongh died while imprisoned in Germany. The traitor, Desoubrie, over a period of several months, delivered approximately fifty Resistance members to the Nazis. After the war, French courts tried and executed him.”
Ted arrived in Paris early in June 1943 as these events of betrayal and arrests unfolded. He could easily have been swept up into the Gestapo’s net. During the first weeks of June Elisabeth Barbier still trusted in Comet’s nearly fifty workers including Desoubrie (alias Jean Masson). Unaware yet of the traitor in their midst, Andree Leveque came to Elisabeth’s apartment to escort Ted, John Scott, and William Ayers to stay in a hotel for the night. Lieutenant Spevak, also an American, joined them overnight.
The next day, June 6, Andree escorted them to a café, Chez M. Noel Legall, where they met Monsieur Henri Figuemont who would take them to his country home in Draveil, about 20 kilometers south of Paris. Andree Leveque helped care for the men in this home during the next weeks in June. Ted recalls:
After waiting in the Paris cafe, we walked out the same back entrance, and we were put into a van type truck. During the two or three hours we spent in the back room of the cafe, a man from the underground gave me a Gillette razor that had been given to him in World War I by an American soldier.
We ended up at a little home in the suburbs. The address was 54 Vingue South Seine. This particular little house was not occupied by anyone, and we were placed there to stay over night. Within the next day or two, André the young woman who had first met us in the field at Saint Quay arrived in Paris. She had volunteered or was designated by the underground as one who could communicate with us in English and who could look after us as we stayed here in this little home in the suburbs of Paris. By this time there was myself; my radio operator, John Scott; the guest gunner; and the two other RAF boys who had been brought to this little home to join us.
We were instructed to do nothing and to spend our time as unnoticed as we possibly could. People brought us food each day. Other than that, all we did was exercise and get some sun by going into the back yard for a few moments every day. It was now mid June. During this time we became acquainted with two people who had assisted us. One’s name was Dalicieux, and the other fellow’s name was Fiquemont. Both of these men had been in the French Army and had lived in that suburb of Paris. I believe one of them also owned the home in which we were staying.
They were apparently self-appointed resistance Frenchmen who prided themselves in having the opportunity to take care of some flyers who were enemies to the Germans. Because I was an officer and they had been officers in the French army, we had a rapport that the others did not have. Although I couldn’t speak French and they couldn’t speak English, we were able to indicate our own rank and communicate some. They were kind to us, and they were giving us food from their own tables. How they scrounged up the food that they brought to the five of us I will never know, but I shall be ever grateful to those wonderful people who helped preserve my life and the lives of the others during this rather long stay in Paris.
Elisabeth Barbier would pay dearly for her courage and compassion. When Frederick de Jongh and others were trapped and arrested, the Belgian informant, still posing as a Resistance member, gave a list of names to the Gestapo. Betrayed also by the traitor Jacques Desoubrie known as Jean Masson, Elisabeth Barbier and her mother were arrested by the Gestapo during a raid on her apartment on June 17, 1943. Both women were eventually deported to Ravensbruck concentration camp. Ted’s Escape and Evasion report records:
“When Elisabeth was caught we had to leave quickly because Andree had called Elisabeth on the day she was caught. They were afraid the call might have been traced. Lucien Bidault, a garageman near the railroad station took us in his car to a sanitorium at nearby Champrosy.”
Apparently our position had been discovered or they became concerned about it being discovered, so we were put into an automobile and rushed to another location. This particular night we spent in an abandoned chateau. We slept on the floor, and, the next day we moved to a tuberculosis sanatorium.
I guess we were put in there as though we were patients, and the operation of the sanatorium was apparently under the direction of people who were friendly with the underground, so we spent several days in rather good conditions where we had beds to sleep on and food to eat. John Scott and I and the guest gunner were together.
The three American men stayed in the sanatorium for another two weeks. Trust and patience were tested as nerves frayed. The flyers endured the moral chaos of trusting their helpers while fearing each moment one of them would betray them. Ted reported, “While we had been at the sanatorium a Dr. (Manfrancri?) and Dr. Roulet had taken good care of us.” Nonetheless, the men worried about whether or not they could do better trying to escape by themselves instead of just sitting and waiting. They could see the confusion of their hosts who were trying to recover from the infiltration, betrayal, arrests, and decimation of the “Comete” and “Oaktree” organizations. Suddenly, a new danger arose; on July 4, William Ayres, the guest gunner, disappeared and Ted records:
After four or five days, when John and I got up one morning, our fellow crewmember was not there. We looked around for him, and told the French people. They searched the premises, but couldn’t locate him. He had become despondent and was weary of just waiting. We decided he had gone over the wall during the night.
Extremely disturbed by the news, Lucien and another man brought a truck and took Ted Peterson and John Scott to a deserted chateau where the men spent four nights. Then Lucien took them across the river to Juvisy. Ted probably stayed at least one night in the home and wine shop of Pauline and Andre Lefevre. In Their Deeds of Valor Don Lasseter writes:
Pauline Helene Lefevre was the wife of wine merchant Andre Lefevre. At age 47 she accepted Gabrielle Wiame’s invitation to join the Burgundy organization in July, 1943. Her husband, Andre, and her 20 year-old daughter, Paulette, worked alongside Pauline to shelter airmen.
In Juvisy a short rail trip south of Paris, the family lived in a two story stone townhouse with red brick cornices and a steep red tile roof. Surrounded by a wrought iron fence laced with wisteria, it provided a safe refuge from sudden Gestapo raids.
Andre Lefevre ran a wine and cheese shop in the house’s ground floor. German soldiers from a fighter base nearby sometimes patronized it, during which time the airmen hiding upstairs exercised extreme caution. Their daughter Paulette, 20, often helped out by escorting men to and from the Gare de Austerlitz station in Paris.
The family would provide food and lodging for 18 aviators during the German occupation over an eleven months period. Sixteen of them were American evaders from the 8th Air Force. Official reports stated, “She was tireless in her efforts to make the evaders comfortable during their stay in her home. It is needless to say that her work necessitated a complete disregard for danger. The effectiveness of their work may be judged by the realization that every one of the men who stayed in the Lefevre home evaded capture and made it back to England.”
After only a short stay Ted and John Scott were moved to another home where they stayed until July 12. On that day a Madame Guelat arrived but could not identify herself adequately to Lucien so he locked her in the house. She managed to escape and later returned with a blonde Frenchwoman, Madamoiselle “Marie” (actually Gabrielle Wiame) who could vouch for Madame Guelat.
Gabrielle Wiame supplied food, clothing and safe-houses to many airmen. She often escorted them personally. Her husband, who was a policeman, helped procure false identity cards. She arranged a parachute drop of money to her brother’s farm for Val Williams to cover expenses for the Oaktree Line. She would be credited with helping over one hundred evaders before the war ended. After the war she wrote:
“When the Comete organization broke up, I was abandoned for almost three weeks with seventeen boys and Ray Labrosse, the Canadian. We got in contact with the Bourgogne line, and worked with them until the end of 1943.” It is very likely that Ted was one of the boys she sheltered until he was turned over to the Bourgogne Line. She would eventually come under constant Gestapo surveillance and have to flee from her home. But at this moment of upheaval in July 1943, Gabrielle Wiame, provided a place of refuge for Ted Peterson and John Scott. Ted remembers:
We spent one night on the second floor of a tavern. Outside in the courtyard, people were dancing and singing while a nickelodeon played “Beer Barrel Polka” over and over and over. The following day we stayed in a winery, then we moved into the apartment of a woman who had a small child. Her name was…. In this apartment we came in contact with our RAF friends, so there was myself and John Scott and two RAF flyers who were hiding out in the apartment.
While we were staying in this apartment in Paris, we witnessed an American Air Force raid on Paris on July 14th, 1943. The French people were celebrating their national holiday, Bastille Day. There had been word through the Resistance encouraging the people to defy the Germans, who required everybody to stay inside. On this particular day, the Americans also decided to celebrate by bombing the German installations in Paris. This was the first time I had ever witnessed a raid from the ground when I was near the target. We watched some B-17’s that were shot down fall from the sky.
Following the raid on Paris, Ted Peterson and John Scott remained in hiding until July 20 when they were told they would be traveling to the south of France to try to escape over the Pyrenees Mountains. Ted records:
I’m grateful now and I always have been for the fact that I didn’t realize just what we were getting into at that time. Escorted by some underground members we traveled in our usual way, walking some distance apart so that we could not be easily detected. We again boarded a train and traveled part of the day and most of the night out of Paris through Toulouse headed south.
After changing trains at least twice, we arrived in a little town in the south of France called Foix. Just prior to getting on a small train for Foix, those members of the underground who had been escorting us left, we were given tickets for our next destination with the understanding that someone would meet us. The method they would use to identify us was to have a ticket stub in our suit coat pockets. The traditional dress in France was for everyone to wear a suit; whether you were a businessman, a farmer, or dug ditches, you wore a suit of clothes. That was the way that we were dressed and this little ticket stub stood out of our suit coat pocket. This was the only way we knew we would be contacted in the little village of Foix.
We left the train at Foix and walked up and down the train platform hoping that someone would identify us. We spent 20 or 30 minutes just kind of wandering back and forth; finally someone did come and gather us together. Somewhere enroute to Foix we were joined by a young Frenchman who was trying to escape to join the free French forces in Africa.
Ted remembers walking a few miles out of town and waiting on a little hill for the next contact as he surveyed the valley below and thought:
It was a trying set of circumstances to be fully dependent upon somebody else and that somebody else not seeming to be very well organized. It left room for wonder in your own mind as to what was going on. But, like many other situations in which you find yourself, you are committed and there is no turning back.
Around this time, Ted was also given a bit of moldy cheese and crust of bread. He threw the food away because it was not at all appetizing. He would regret his haste and wish for that bit of sustenance many times over the next days. He recalls:
We waited in the outskirts of Foix on this little hill for several hours and finally we were met by a cattle type truck. We traveled maybe 15 or 30 miles along country roads into the foothills. There we were met by a small statured man who was designated as our guide. We came to understand he was a Basque who was a professional guide through the Pyrenees Mountains. All the time I was expecting that he may guide us a few miles and then we would meet up with a truck or we would get on a train again. But such was not the case.
For the next six days without food or water and walking mostly at night, we followed this guide. He was used to walking in the mountains and traversed the terrain like a billy goat while the rest of us were having a hard time. It was the sort of situation where you were trying to save yourself.
About the fifth day one of the RAF boys who seemed at the outset to be larger and stronger than any of us began to tire to the point where he just could not go anymore. We got one of us on each side of him and for a number of hours we helped him and tried to halfway carry him along these mountain trails. Finally we had to tell ourselves that it was an impossible situation and that there was no way we could preserve our own lives and his too.
At the first part of the trip there were two guides. They had instructed us not to drink water, yet every time this RAF boy came to a stream or to a cow track with water in it, he would flop to his belly and drink. We learned later that during his time in Paris, he had been living the life of wine, women, and song, and had not taken care of himself by exercising. He was just not able to make that trek through the mountains, so we left him by the wayside and proceeded on. The Basque guides wanted to shoot him so that if he fell into the hands of a German he would not identify them or reveal this route out of France. We persuaded them not to do that, but to this day we don’t know what happened to him.
Although it was August, we were in snow a good part of some of the days as we traveled. After we crossed the divide, we began a descent into the free state of Andorra. I shall never forget to my dying day the feelings that I had as we came into this village. We had been without food; we were absolutely exhausted and half out of our minds with hunger and fatigue. I remember how good bread and milk tasted to me at that time. We arrived sometime during the sixth day, and we thought this was our destination and the end of our trek. We lay down to rest that night and before daylight the next morning we were aroused and again began to walk through the mountains.
This second segment of our trek lasted five days and was more difficult and strenuous than the first because our shoes were about worn out. In Andorra we obtained some woven sandals, but they were of little value to us because we just couldn’t keep them on our feet. At the close of the eleventh day, we were on the outskirts of Barcelona. Our guides led us to a little village; there we boarded a train and traveled further into Barcelona. We got off the train and walked another two or three miles through the streets of Barcelona. I remember how difficult it was for me to walk through the streets of Barcelona and past the American Consulate where I saw the stars and stripes flying for the first time in two and one half months. We had to go to the British Consulate because that is the country the Basques had an agreement with. I don’t know what kind of negotiations went on between the British and the Basques, but I’m sure the Basques were paid some remuneration for having delivered us.
The fact that none of us were any high ranking officers made some difference because we weren’t given a royal welcome by anybody. We had gone five days without food or drink. I suppose the negotiations were being made with the guide to find out who we were and where we had come from, and I presume that there was a questioning period with them but we sat in a room by ourselves for quite a while. Finally I got a bit out of patience. I didn’t think it was right that we should just sit there while they discussed everything under the sun without trying to find us some food. Finally they realized what our plight was and they brought in some canned bully beef or corned beef and some bread. That was our first meal after another 5 days without food.
After arriving in Barcelona, on July 30, 1943, Ted and John Scott were required to spend several days in Barcelona “getting the records straight.” They then traveled by train to Madrid and later on to Gibraltar. Eventually they were able to hitch a ride on a British Air Force plane back to England on August 16, 1943. After leaving their air base in Kimbolton, England for what was supposed to be a bombing mission lasting only a few hours, the aviators returned two and one half months later now indebted to French villagers and Resistance members, ordinary people who demonstrated extraordinary courage and offered themselves as sacrifice for the lives of these American boys.
Chapter 13: Ann's Experience after Ted Was Shot Down
In April, after having said goodbye to Ted in Salinas, Kansas, Ann traveled back to Salt Lake City and back to work at Kress’s Store, but she remembers this about May 29, 1943:
It was Saturday, and after I came home from work, I was pressing clothes for church the next day. I remember hearing on the news broadcast, “the first largest concentration of American bombers” being sent out. I knew Ted was flying out of England. The broadcaster said thirteen planes were shot down. I said, “Oh, just think, that is 130 men that were shot down.” I just kept thinking one of them was Ted; I felt sure. That night in my diary I wrote, “I can’t help but feel one of them is Ted.”
The next day at Sunday School, I asked everyone if they had heard about the bombing raid. I said I just felt like one of them was Ted. That afternoon, I was listening to Phil Spitolmy and his all girl orchestra on a broadcast. I wrote to the James’s down in Pyote, Texas. I told them the same thing.
On the 7th of June, Mother called up at work and said Dad was coming to get me; she was crying, so I knew. Dad brought a cablegram telling that Ted was shot down on the 29th of May and was missing in action.
Telegram Dated June 7, 1943
I came home and then went back to work the next day. There wasn’t anything anyone could do. We started contacting the Red Cross, and then wrote to England for his personal things. We just had to wait. I wrote to Spencer Hunn and to some of those whom I knew were at Ted’s base. Because he had been sick, Phil Eastman, Ted’s gunner, did not go on the raid, so I was able to contact him.
I wrote to the home address of the crew and asked them if they had any word and if they would keep in contact with us. Then the word started coming through they had been captured, all but John Scott, this, guest gunner, and Ted. Later we were told that the navigator Woody Moore had been injured when he bailed out.
Eventually we heard that the crewmembers had been sent to Stalag 3, a German prisoner-of-war camp. But Hazel Scott, the radio operator’s wife, and I never did hear anything more about our husbands. We thought perhaps they had gone into the ocean with the plane.
I cried for a day, but it was wartime, and there wasn’t anything anyone could do. However, I felt like he was all right. It ended up that Ted’s mother and I were the only two who didn’t give up hope.
Chapter 14: What Happened to the Crew?
Ten young men specifically trained in their individual positions and duties comprised the combat crew of a B-17 Bomber. The average age of the crew was about twenty years old. For candidates who wanted to become officers, training began with military orientation as the boys learned to become soldiers. In Masters of the Air Donald L. Miller writes:
“There was physical training and close-order drill, along with instruction in marksmanship, chemical warfare, military procedure, and map interpretation. The physical training was intense: cross-country runs, obstacle courses, calisthenics and weightlifting sessions. Cadets marched in formation, singing cadence songs and Army Air corps anthem, and there were formal parades for the entire cadet corps, with saber saluting and close review, exercises that imparted a sense of “drama and a feeling of common endeavor.”
“It was the beginning of the most mentally demanding training program in the American military. For pilots, especially, selection and training had to be rigorous. They would not be handling a rifle, but a huge, highly complex weapon of immense cost and destructive capability. Before a pilot received his wings and his commission as a second lieutenant, he went through three flight training schools—Primary, Basic and Advanced—at three separate bases, each course of instruction lasting about nine weeks. After that there was a ten week postgraduate course.
In 1943, there were over 20,000 major accidents at Army Air Forces bases in the continental United States, with 5,603 airmen killed. Over the course of the war, some 15,000 airmen became fatal casualties at training bases in the States and abroad. Almost 40 percent of the cadets who entered the pilot instruction program during the war—over 124,000 men—washed out or were killed in training exercises.”
Typically, the pilot as “aircraft commander” could be as young as 21 years of age, just legally eligible to vote and still adjusting to military regimens yet completely responsible for nine other men in his crew. He had to log 300 hours of flight time in a four-engine bomber before being sent into combat overseas. Both he and his co-pilot learned every duty of each member of the crew and every function of the giant bomber as they prepared to lead their team into aerial battle. When under attack, everyone in the crew except for the pilot and co-pilot manned machine guns.
However, none of these young men could have been prepared to watch their comrades’ aircraft burst into flame and begin a final plunge to enemy soil or ditch in the ocean. Nor could they have been prepared for the death and destruction of the bombing raids themselves, or for the physical strain flights required from them as they sucked oxygen in an unpressurized aircraft at an altitude where the temperature dropped to minus 60 degrees. Fliers suffered from frostbite or passed out when moisture froze in the tubes of their oxygen masks causing hypoxia. Fear and air sickness caused them to vomit into their mouthpieces, and many returned wounded after engaging in combat five miles above the earth. Many others would be reported killed in action or missing in action after flying only a few missions.
On May 29, 1943, three Flying Fortresses and their crews did not return from the bombing mission to St. Nazaire, France. After their crash landing, all ten members of one crew became prisoners of war. Of the second bomber’s ten-men crew, five men were killed in action, one was listed as missing in action, and the other four men became prisoners of war.
The following includes some details regarding what happened to the crew of Ted Peterson’s B-17 Bomber on May 29, 1943.
Actually, many French individuals tried to help Ted’s crew in the villages around St. Quay and in the hours and days following the crash, but only Ted and his radio operator, John Scott, and his guest gunner, William T. Ayres evaded capture by the Germans. All seven of the other crew members immediately or eventually became prisoners of war. Because of the confusion and turmoil created by war and because of the secrecy surrounding the attempt to protect individuals working in the French Resistance, for many years Ted, himself, did not know what happened to the rest of his crew. Ted’s own “Escape and Evasion” report remained top secret for decades.
However, John Scott and William Ayres joined Ted in hiding in St. Quay within the first few days. The three men were connected to the “Oaktree” Escape line and convoyed to Paris together within the week. John Scott walked over the Pyrenees with Ted in August, 1943.
In his book St. Quay-Portrieux, Mathieu Petitjean wrote:
“John Scott, the radio operator, landed right in the middle of the courtyard of a farm, the “Villeneuve” in Plourhan. Eugene Le Dore came to his aid. He took him into the house and hid his parachute in a washtub that was heating on a fire in the fireplace. A group of Germans immediately stormed the farm, but John Scott was well hidden.” Eugene Le Dore then took John Scott to Louis Minguy, a member of the “Oaktree” Escape Line.
Louis Minguy and his family also helped William T. Ayres. Then Madamoiselle Yolande Rebours helped hide Ayres before taking him to Raymond Labrosse and Jean Camard who guided him to safe houses connected with “Oaktree.” All were almost discovered after crossing a field when they encountered a German Patrol watering their dogs along the way to the safe house.
The story of Sergeant William T. Ayres, the young guest gunner, parallels Ted’s experience until July of 1943 as they were hiding near Paris when Ayres chose to leave the Tuberculosis Sanatorium which had been safeguarding himself, John Scott, and Ted outside of Paris. Ayres was soon captured and spent the rest of the war as a POW in Stalag 4 located in Gross Tychow, Pomerania in what is now Poland. Conditions were very harsh with no heat and miserable overcrowding and abuse. After months of forced marches to escape the encroaching Russian army, thousands of prisoners were liberated by the British on the banks of the River Elbe May 2, 1945. (I believe he survived.)
(hyperlink to Stalag 4)
German soldiers immediately captured some of Ted’s crew as they dropped out of the chaos of combat by parachute onto occupied French soil. But many people in the villages of Plourhan, St. Quay, Trevenuc, and Treguidel sought to help the other desperate downed airmen escape in the first hours. Armand Hery, a mechanic in Plourhan, gave civilian clothes to an aviator to help him hide from the searching German Patrols. Louis Batard also provided clothes. Both men would eventually pay dearly for their compassionate acts by being arrested and deported to Germany. All seven of the other American crewmembers were soon arrested and became prisoners of war in two POW camps, Stalag 3 in Germany and Stalag 17B in Austria.
Stammlager Luft III (Stalag 3) served as the main POW camp housing captured air force servicemen. It was located 100 miles southeast of Berlin, Germany and was operated by the German Luftwaffe or Air Force. The camp is best known for two famous prisoner escapes depicted in the books and movies The Great Escape (1963) and The Wooden Horse (1950). The camp also holds additional meaning to our family because Ted’s friend and fellow B-17 pilot, Hal Gunn, was also captured and interned in this POW camp in the summer of 1943. Hal’s grandson, Cory Gunn Cosgrave, married Ted’s granddaughter, Lyndsey Quinn, in 2009 (see Hal Gunn chapter at the end of this book).
Stalag 17B was situated northwest of Krems, Austria. This site began as a concentration camp but began holding captured airmen from the American Army in October, 1943. The Americans occupied five compounds built to accommodate 240 men, but sometimes forced to house over 4,000 at a time. In April, 1945, 4,000 of the POWs at Stalag 17B began an 18 day march of 281 miles to Braunau, Austria. 900 men too sick to walk stayed at the camp. The Russians liberated the camp on May 9, 1945.
(hyperlink to Stalag 17B)
Sergeant Maynard Martin Spencer, the flight engineer, is also officially listed as a POW, but it is unclear about where he was kept in Europe as a POW during the war.
More details about Ted’s reunions with members of his crew in later years are discussed in Part Two.
French internet messages posted in 2009 and 2013 provide the following accounts about the day of the B-17’s crash. The first message is attributed to Jean Michel Martin. It is significant to note this account states that Warren Rosacker and Woodrow Moore died. We know this assertion cannot be true because these men visited with Ted at his home many years later. Also, the account indicates eight crew members were taken prisoner in Treguidel. We know that only seven could have been captured because three of the ten crew members evaded capture.
|Account by Jean Michel Martin, October 2009:|
|Original French||English Translation by Chantal Thompson 2016|
|Nouveau témoignage sur la chute du B 17F ‘’LADY GODIVA’’ codé: 42-29878 du 379ème Groupe de Bombardement USAAF 29 mai 1943 Saint Quay Portrieux. Témoignage de Monsieur C . Sur les deux aviateurs Américains tombés sur la commune de Tréguidel ce même jour. Nous sortions de l’école, il était environ 16 heures 30 mn. Des bruits d’avions et de tirs attirèrent notre attention. Nous avons aperçu deux chasseurs allemands qui attaquaient, sans répit, une Forteresse Volante qui visiblement était en grande difficulté. Elle avait quitté le groupe ou elle évoluait. Ce groupe de bombardiers continuait sa route vers l’Angleterre à haute altitude. Le ciel était bien dégagé. Les avions allemands s’acharnaient, tirant sans arrêter sur l’appareil en difficulté. Nous voyions également le feu des balles traçantes et aussi le bruit de celles qui tombaient sur les toits, surtout sur les hangars métalliques. On aperçu un parachutiste sauter de l’avion rapidement suivi d’un autre. Le premier à atterri dans un grand pommier au village du Guern près du bourg. L’aviateur fût aidé par deux jeunes du voisinage. Son parachute fût caché aussitôt sous un amas de ronces, il se dissimula derrière un talus puis fut aidé à trouver son chemin, bien court car il avait été arrêté au bourg par les occupants. Le second, tomba environ à un kilomètre du bourg, en pleine campagne. Mon père et un de nos voisins arrivèrent très vite pour lui porter assistance. Je suivais à distance. Il resta sur place. Voulut se cacher dans des fourrés épais. Il organisa lui-même sa cachette dissimulant son parachute. Il se reposa une heure environ. Mon père lui apporta du pain, des œufs, il but deux verres de cidre. Il expliquait ne pas connaître cette boisson, mais dit qu’il appréciait. Il demanda que ses oeufs soient préparés en omelette. Mon père décida de revenir chez nous pour préparer ce qu’il nous demandait. Nous le suivîmes. A notre retour au bout du chemin et à environ une vingtaine de mètres de la cachette de notre aviateur, on aperçu un attroupement avec les gendarmes français à la solde Pétain, des allemands et un jeune homme et une jeune fille. Nous connaissions ces derniers, ils étaient cousins. Le groupe ignorait notre présence toute proche. On entendit très bien le jeune homme demander à sa cousine ‘’Eh bien, dis leur où il est puisque tu le sais’’ la jeune fille sans hésiter indiqua la cachette et l’américain fut arrêté. Son premier réflexe de captif fut de tourner le dos à tous ces gens et de se mettre à chanter très fort le groupe parti vers le bourg. Nous les avons vus s’éloigner. J’ai toujours pensé que cet aviateur aurait pût croire que nous étions pour quelque chose dans son arrestation, n’ayant pût terminer notre mission de secours à son égard. Sur les dix membres d’équipage 8 furent faits prisonniers Sur Tréguidel sont tombés les 2nd Lieutenant Woodrow Moore et le second Warren T Rosaker. Il est difficile de dire lequel avait sauté le premier. Ted Peterson (23 ans) le commandant de cette forteresse volante avait déclenché le signal d’évacuation de l’avion faisant sauter en premier les aviateurs situés à l’avant de l’appareil. Son copilote a sauté en troisième position, ce dernier ne retrouvant pas son parachute avait pris celui de Ted, Ted dû prévenir ceux de l’arrière qui n’avaient pas entendu l’alerte. Ted sauta en dernier, ayant retrouvé heureusement à la dernière minute le parachute manquant. Le groupe de pilotage ne s’équipait pas du parachute avant de partir car certaines manœuvres de pilotage s’avéraient difficile avec cet équipement. Donc, il le mettait au dernier moment.
Jean Michel MARTIN. 22 octobre 2009
|New testimony about the fall of B 17F '' LADY GODIVA 'coded: 42-29878 the 379 th Bombardment Group USAAF May 29, 1943 Saint Quay Portrieux. Testimony of Mr. C. on the two American airmen fallen in the municipality of Tréguidel that day. We were leaving school, it was about 16 hours 30 minutes. Aircraft and shooting noises attracted our attention. We saw two German fighters attacking, without respite, a Flying Fortress that was clearly in great trouble. It had left the group it was a part of.. This group of bombers were continuing on their way to England at high altitude. The sky was clear. The German planes kept shooting the unit in trouble. We could also see the fire of the,tracer bullets and the noise they made as they hit the roofs, especially the metal sheds and barns. We glimpse a parachutist jump from the plane quickly followed by another. The first landed in a large apple tree in Le Guern, a village near Tréguidel. The aviator was helped by two young men from the neighborhood. His parachute was immediately hidden under a pile of thorns, he hid behind an embankment and then was helped to find his way, although short because he was arrested in the village by the occupiers. The second, fell about one kilometer from the village, in the countryside. My father and a neighbor came very quickly to assist him. I followed at a distance. He remained in place. Tried to hide in thickets. He organized his own hideout, hiding his parachute. He rested about an hour. My father brought him bread, eggs, and he drank two glasses of cider. He explained he was not familiar with,this drink, but said he liked it. He asked that his eggs be prepared as an omelette. My father decided to return home to prepare what he wanted. We followed him. On our way back down the road and about twenty meters from the hiding place of our airman, we saw a gathering of French gendarmes at the service of Petain, some Germans, and a young man and a young girl. We knew them, they were cousins. The group was not aware of our presence nearby. We heard the young man ask his cousin '' Well, tell them where he is, because you know ''. Without hesitation, the girl indicated the hiding place and the American was arrested. His first captive’s reflex was to turn his back to all these people and start singing very loud.,The group started walking to the village. We saw them walk away. I always thought that this airman might have believed we had something to do with his arrest, since we were not able to,complete our rescue mission.,Of the ten crew members, 8 were taken prisoners in Tréguidel.,2nd Lieutenant Woodrow Moore and the second Warren Rosaker died. It is difficult to say which one had jumped first. Ted Peterson (23 years old) the commander of the Flying Fortress, had triggered the plane's evacuation signal, making the aviators at the front of the plane jump first. His co-pilot jumped third, using Ted’s parachute, since he couldn’t find his.,Ted warned those in the rear who had not heard the alarm. Ted jumped last, having found the missing parachute at the last minute. The pilots were not fitted with parachutes in the cockpit, because the equipment made steering maneuvers difficult. So he put it on at the last moment.
Jean Michel MARTIN. October 22, 2009
|Account attributed to Henri Beloeil, April 2013:|
|Original French||English Translation by Chantal Thompson 2016|
|Samedi 29 mai 1943. PLOURHAN
Témoignage de Monsieur Henri Beloeil. (Avril 2013).
|Saturday, May 29, 1943. PLOURHAN
Testimony of Mr. Henri Beloeil. (April 2013).
|Samedi 29 mai 1943. PLOURHAN.
Témoignage de Monsieur Henri Beloeil. (Avril 2013).
Je me souviens de cet après midi du 29 mai 1943 ou avec mes camarades, Roger Daniel, Jean Le Breton, Eugène Le Dore et Marcel Jaffrot, nous nous étions rapidement retrouvés près du village de Kergrain en Plourhran. Je dirai plus exactement prés du Golfe, qui à cette époque n'existait pas. J'avais 13 ans. Mes camarades un peu plus. L'un d'eux nous avait prévenu en toute hâte,qu'un avion en détresse arrivait dans notre direction quand soudain nous l'avons vu au loin, volant lentement. C'était une Forteresse volante américaine , touchée sans doute par des chasseurs ennemis et qui se dirigeait vers nous avec ses moteurs en panne. On aperçu les aviateurs qui sautaient de l'avion en ouvrant aussitôt leur parachute. L'un d'eux était poussé par le vent vers le coin ou nous étions. On voulait l'aider à son arrivée au sol. Eugène Le Dore fut le premier auprès de lui. L'avion passa pas loin de nous et se dirigea vers le bourg. Il tomba en mer devant Saint Quay Portrieux. Le parachute caché, il fallait rapidement s'occuper de lui. Il nous dit qu'il souffrait terriblement de son dos. Il nous expliqua aussi qu'il était radio à bord du bombardier et qu'il était Américain. Manifestant sa souffrance, nous ne savions que faire. Roger Daniel qui lui était âgé de 21 ans, entrepris de le déshabiller tout doucement. Après avoir ôté son gros blouson et son sac qu'il avait avec lui. Il lui enleva sa chemise délicatement. L’aviateur souffrait. Découvrant son dos on s’aperçut qu'il avait une balle de mitrailleuse logée sous sa peau au dessous de l'omoplate droite. Un peu de sang coulait, l'endroit était enflé et tuméfié. Heureusement, Marcel Jaffrot parlait bien l'anglais. Il lui expliqua que Roger Daniel avait sur lui son canif et qu'il allait lui extraire cette balle. Ce que notre camarade entreprit de faire rapidement, opérant sur deux centimètres, il réussi à l'extraire et présenta à l'américain ce projectile qui aurait pu le tuer. Après cette opération de fortune, le temps pressait. Il fallait lui trouver une cachette ou on pourrait lui apporter de quoi survivre, des vêtements pour se changer et aussi soigner sa plaie. Il fut pris en charge par d'autres personnes et fut caché à Saint Quay Portrieux. (Où le retrouvera d'ailleurs le pilote du bombardier, le Lieutenant Théodore Peterson. Ils réussiront leur évasion vers l'Espagne).
Mes camarades me désignèrent pour aller cacher le blouson et le sac . Il ne fallait pas que les Allemands le découvre. Je décidais de partir en vélo vers la ferme Le Bouil au village de Kergrain. Monsieur Le Bouil pris la décision de dissimuler le tout dans un maie de paille tout en haut ou après avoir monté avec son échelle, il fit un trou au sommet et y cacha ce blouson de cuir et le sac. Sur mon retour, j’aperçus des soldats Allemands en camion, qui étaient à la recherche des Américains. Ils passaient sur la route à toute vitesse. Je m'étais caché derrière un talus. En rentrant à la maison ma mère me fit des remontrances car j'étais bien en retard.
(L'aviateur secouru, étais le Sergent John M. Scott radio du Boeing B-17, 42-29878 . ''Lady Godiva'').
Suite à l'aide apportée aux aviateurs américains, la Gestapo procéda deux mois plus tard à l'arrestation de trois jeunes hommes de Plourhran, dont mon camarade Roger Daniel, celui qui avait extrait la balle. Il mourut en déportation à Hanovre le 16 février 1945, il avait 23 ans. C'était un gars formidable et très serviable. Ils entreprirent de rechercher mon ami Jaffrot. Jamais, heureusement, ils ne purent le retrouver.
|Saturday, May 29, 1943. PLOURHAN.
Testimony of Mr. Henri Beloeil. (April 2013).
I remember the afternoon of May 29, 1943 when, with my friends, Roger Daniel, Jean Le Breton, Eugene Le Dore and Marcel Jaffrot, we had found ourselves near the village of Kergrain in Plourhran. To be precise, it was near the Golf course, which at that time did not exist. I was 13. My friends were a little older. One of them had warned us that an airplane in distress was coming in our direction when suddenly, we saw it in the distance, flying slowly. It was an American Flying Fortress, probably hit by enemy fighters and coming towards us with its failed engines. We saw the airmen jump from the plane, opening their parachutes immediately. One of them was pushed by the wind to the place where we were. We wanted to help his arrival on the ground. Eugene Le Dore was the first to get to him. The plane passed not far from us and headed for the village. It fell into the sea in front of Saint Quay Portrieux. After hiding the parachute, we had to hurry and take care of him. He said his back was hurting very badly. He also explained that he was the radio officer aboard the bomber and that he was American.,Seeing his suffering, we did not know what to do. Roger Daniel, who was he 21 years old, started to undress him slowly. After removing his jacket and the big bag he had with him, he removed his shirt gently. The aviator was in pain.,When his back was uncovered, we saw that he had a machine gun bullet lodged under his skin below the right shoulder blade. A little blood was oozing out, the wound was swollen and bruised. Fortunately, Marcel Jaffrot spoke English well. He explained that Roger Daniel had his pocket knife with him and he was going to extract the bullet, which is what our friend began to do quickly.,Operating across 2 centimeters, he managed to extract and present to the American the projectile that could have killed him. After this makeshift surgery, time was pressing. We had to find a hiding place where we could bring him enough food to survive, clothes to change into, and also treat his wound. He was turned over to other people and was hidden in Saint Quay Portrieux. (Where the bomber pilot, Lieutenant Theodore Peterson, would join him. They would succeed in their escape to Spain).
My comrades assigned me to go hide the jacket and the bag. We couldn’t allow that the Germans discover them. I decided to go by bike to the farm of Le Bouil in the village of Kergrain.,Mr. Le Bouil decided to hide it all at the top of a pile of straw. He climbed the ladder, made a hole at the top and hid the leather jacket and bag. On my way back, I saw a truck with German soldiers, who were searching for the Americans. They passed on the road at high speed. I was hiding behind an embankment. Back home, my mother scolded me because I was late.
(The rescued aviator was Sergeant John M. Scott, radio officer of the Boeing B-17, 42-29878. '' Lady Godiva '').
Due to the assistance given to the American airmen, the Gestapo proceeded two months later with the arrest of three young men from Plourhran, including my friend Roger Daniel, the one who had extracted the bullet. He was deported and died in Hanover February 16, 1945; he was 23 years old. He was a great guy, always ready to help. They began to search for my friend Jaffrot. Never, fortunately, could they find him.
May 29, 1943
Name of B-17F:Lady Godiva
8th Air Force
379th Bomb Group
526th Bomb Squadron
Base: Kimbolton England
|Pilot||1st Lieutenant Theodore Melvin Peterson|
|Co-Pilot||2nd Lieutenant Jack Willis Bourne|
|Navigator||2nd Lieutenant Woodrow Pershing Moore|
|Bombardier||2nd Lieutenant Warren J. Rosacker|
|Engineer||Sargent Maynard Martin Spencer|
|Radio/Gunner||Sargent John M. Scott|
|Right Waist Gunner||Sargent William Toye Ayres|
|Left Waist Gunner||Sargent Paul Reese Cribelar|
|Ball Turret Gunner||Sargent William Eugene Blublaugh|
|Tail Gunner||Sargent Gideon August Brown|
|Ted’s Crew Members:
POW Prisoners of War Stalag 17B
|Left Waist Gunner||Sargent Paul Reese Cribelar|
|Ball Turret Gunner||Sargent William Eugene Blublaugh|
|Ted’s Crew Members:
POW Prisoners of War Stalag 3
|Co-Pilot||2nd Lieutenant Jack Willis Bourne|
|Navigator||2nd Lieutenant Woodrow Pershing Moore|
|Bombardier||2nd Lieutenant Warren J. Rosacker|
|Tail Gunner||Sargent Gideon August Brown|
Chapter 15: Ye Are Bought With a Price
Ye are not your own for ye are bought with a price.” (I Corinthians 6:19, 20) “It takes little imagination to understand the sublime quality of the courage that, during Hitler’s occupation of France, dedicated French citizens displayed in undertaking to rescue Allied fliers downed over France. They undertook the work deliberately and with the certain knowledge that they were risking not only their own lives but those of all they held dear. This they did far from the excitement and frenzy of the battlefield: their inspiration was their patriotism, the determination to see their beloved country freed from the domination of the hated Nazis and by their ideals of liberty and justice that they shared with the Allied fliers who were risking their own lives each time they made a sortie into Europe.”Dwight Eisenhower
In our nation’s capitol, the national war memorial to World War II utilizes two major emblems on alternating pillars: wreaths of wheat symbolizing the agricultural power and role of the United States as the breadbasket of democracy, and wreaths of oak leaves symbolizing the military and industrial might of our nation.
Wreaths of Wheat and Oak
Poetically, those images of wheat and oak also stand today as central symbols for the story of Ted Peterson. His parachute tangled in the single oak tree standing as sentinel in the middle of the Breton wheat field where he landed in France. Through the years, the oak and wheat assumed the blended meaning of rescue and sacrifice made by the people of both nations, and in particular, by the members of the “Oaktree” Resistance Escape network.
Wheatfield and Oak Tree where Ted’s parachute tangled.
The “Oaktree” Escape Line never developed into the intended rescue by sea envisioned by its planners. Nonetheless, over 170 airmen flowed in transit through St. Quay between March and July of 1943 and managed to escape to Spain and on to England in spite of the “Oaktree” Line being infiltrated and decimated by the Nazis while Ted Peterson was hidden in Paris. Successful evaders returning to England hugely impacted the morale of the Eighth Army Air Corps and Britain’s Royal Air Force. The French people who helped the airmen evade capture always faced the risk of terrible reprisals. For many years the young evaders could not learn of the deeply heavy sacrifices paid by the individuals who aided them because of the secrecy required to protect their rescuers. Yet the young aviators knew that the humblest of people had not hesitated to help by feeding, guiding, and sheltering them, and thereby these French civilians deployed extraordinary courage in the common cause of saving humanity.
“Oaktree” Network organizer, Raymond Labrosse, escaped from the Gestapo by walking over the Pyrenees with 27 Allied airmen in the summer of 1943. Within a few months, Raymond Labrosse would again volunteer to parachute into the villages of Brittany, France (this time with Lucien Dumais, another French Canadian), and from the ashes of the annihilated “Oaktree” network he would lead the creation of the incredibly successful Shelburne Escape Line, which would never be infiltrated by the Gestapo. Based on the foundation of “Oaktree” and the courage of the French villagers, nine French agents and 121 Allied airmen escaped by ship from the coast of Brittany to England through the Shelburne Escape Line during the early months of 1944.
However, some of those members of “Oaktree” who helped Ted Peterson’s crew on May 29, 1943 ultimately paid in blood to allow these young men to return to their families. They laid down their lives that strangers might live. American boys were enhungered and the French people gave them meat; America’s sons were thirsty and they gave them drink. At a cost unspeakable, the French people redeemed for these Americans their freedoms and dreams of tomorrow.
The American Air Force Escape and Evasion Society (AFEES) was established in 1964 with the purpose of gathering to commemorate, remember, and honor all those involved in escaping and evading—both the escapers and the thousands of brave, ordinary people in occupied countries who made their return possible. In Their Deeds of Valor Don Lasseter writes, “The Air Force Escape and Evasion Society Reunions generally end with a religious service to honor comrades who gave their lives in battle and those who have since passed away. The following prayer is often used:
“We bow our heads this day, O God, in memory of those who laid down their lives that others might live. They redeemed for us our liberties. They saved us from oppression and debasement; they pushed back barbarous evils that were threatening to engulf us. They gave, at fearful cost, the promise of tomorrow. To them, as to us, the life on earth seemed fair and bright. They loved the blueness of the sky, the firmness of the ground beneath their feet, the snows of winter, the blossoming of spring. They loved the works of man, the busy world, and the tasks before them. They loved their homes, their families, the companions they had chosen for life’s journey, their intimates and friends. But more than this they loved the virtue that mankind must live by. The truth was being trampled and the vision profaned. They loved the honor and their duty; and so they fought and died. They gave us tomorrow! The tomorrows they themselves would not return to share. They left us bright dreams. Dreams that for them could not come true; paid for in blood; the blood of youth with pulse and passion; and in the grief of the vainly waiting who were told that those they loved would not come back. This was the cost, the cost unspeakable. Oh God, be with us. Make us worthy. Lift us high in Resolve. Amen”
Surely these American men remember their French helpers with the words; “They gave us tomorrow with dreams paid for in blood.” In the months following Ted Peterson’s escape from France, the Gestapo turned their attention to St. Quay, Plourhan, and the surrounding villages into which the crew had dropped from the sky. Because only seven of the ten men were captured, the Germans became certain the French people had helped the fliers. The Gestapo spread out over the country and ransacked the houses. Pierre Moreau remembers, “The arrests did not take place right away, but a few months after the landing of these aviators.”
One day, Madame Daniel, who managed “Le Café au Carrefour” (The Crossroads Café) in Plourhan, received a visit from a French Legionnaire. He sat at a table and ordered a drink. Then he said, “I am a Lieutenant in the French Navy. I am looking to make contact with the Resistance.” Although Madame Daniel did not respond, he continued in a low voice, “I heard that your son is a real patriot.” The poor lady let herself be deceived. She was not on her guard and revealed the name of her own son who had taken part in the rescue of the aviators. Tragically, she sent him to his death.
A few days later, in October 1943, the Gestapo agent returned to arrest the young rescuers from Plourhan. The following three men who had helped Ted’s crew were all sent to prison camps in Germany. Roger Daniel, age 23, died in the SS Prison Neuengamme in Hannover, Germany. Armand Hery, age 32, was arrested and sent to Dachau, Mauthausen, and finally died in Nordhausen Dora on March 27, 1945.
Louis Batard was imprisoned at Cherche-Midi, then Fresnes prison outside Paris. He was later transferred to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in eastern France where many suspected resistance fighters were imprisoned without any notification to their families. These prisoners simply disappeared into the terror of the “Nacht und Nebel” (Night and Fog) system. Almost 20,000 people died in the Natzweiler-Struthof camp system in its four years of existence. As the Allies advanced in March 1945, the Germans sent most of the remaining 7,000 prisoners on forced evacuation marches over long distances and brutal conditions toward the Dachau concentration camp in southern Germany. Louis Batard survived the tortuous march and terrors of Dachau, finally returning to France after the camp’s liberation in April, 1945.
Louis Batard with Ted 1987
Jean Camard’s father, Jerome, the Mayor of the town of Etables who had signed Ted’s forged identification papers, Jean Lanlo’s father, and Monsieur Ligernon were all arrested and taken to Germany. Monsieur Ligernon and Monsieur Lanlo did not return from deportation. Arrests in September 1943 included Pierre Ancelin from St. Brieuc and Monsieur Gauthier from St. Quay who were both deported and died in Germany.
Madame Daniel, Joseph Daniel, and Hélène Seguin were ultimately arrested.
After being imprisoned for periods of time, Eugène Le Doré, Eugène and Marcel Fleury, Gaston Pédron and Yolande Rebours were released due to lack of evidence.
Marcel Jaffrot and Marcel Bolloch were hunted by the Gestapo but succeeded in taking to the bush and making contact with the Maquis.
In the book St.Quay-Portrieux, author Mathieu Petitjean includes the following:
THE SAINT-QUAY-PORTRIEUX RESISTANCE NETWORK
|List of persons providing shelter for “Oaktree”|
|Name||Address or duty|
|Monsieur and Madame Lanlo||rue Clemenceau|
|Madame Marcelle Lanlo||rue de la Marne|
|Madame Cécile Hervé||rue des Besaces|
|Monsieur Maurice Hervé||rue des Besaces|
|Messieurs Millet (brothers)||Plourhan|
|Madame Pauline Bringuet||25, rue 3 Frères Salatin|
|Madame Céllarié||“La Chimère” in Trèveneuc|
|Monsieur and Madame Ligeron||rue du Grand Léjon|
|Madame Charneau||rue du Martouret|
|Madame Killien||rue Charcot|
|Madame Plusquellec||4, rue des Sentes|
|Name||Address or duty|
|Madame Griffon||rue Clemenceau|
|Madame Corrapied||boulevard Foch|
|Monsieur and Madame Cosson||boulevard Foch|
|Madame Martel||le Portrieux|
|List of other participants:|
|Name||Address or duty|
|Monsieur Lejean||gave tobacco (!)|
|Monsieur Daniel||maps for espionage|
|Messieurs Camard (father and son)||false papers (Étables)|
|Monsieur Gautier||Mayor’s stamp|
|Madame Bellèvre||Mayor’s stamp|
|Messieurs Rilliard (brothers)||photographs|
|Monsieur Ferlandin||hair styling|
|List of prompt rescuers on May 29, 1943:|
|Name||Address or duty|
|Monsieur Batard||the Verger farm|
|Monsieur Doré||the Villeneuve farm|
|Monsieur and Madame Foisin||the Villeneuve farm|
|Monsieur Poulouin||the Grandville farm|
|Mademoiselle Rebours||the Saint-Pern fountain|
|Monsieur Héry||the Borough|
|Monsieur and Madame Minguy||Saint-Barnabé|
Betty de Maudit would be betrayed in June 1943 and deported to Ravensbruck, but she would survive.
George Jouanjean took over for Val Williams but was arrested while Ted Peterson was hiding in Paris in June 1943. Jouanjean was imprisoned, interrogated, and deported to Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Flossenberg, Birkenau, and back to Auschwitz.
He miraculously survived the brutality of the death camps.
Documents signed by the hand of the president of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan, officially thanking Pierre Moreau and Henri Poulouin for their action during the rescue of American aviators:“We can never repay you, but we will never forget.” (June 1985)
Up the coast from Brittany along the shores of Normandy stands a memorial built by the American people to remember the lives lost on D-Day. The citation engraved in stone honoring those who died reads:
“These graves are the permanent and visible symbol of their heroic devotion and their sacrifice in the common cause of humanity. To these we owe the high resolve that the cause for which they died shall live. This embattled shore, portal of freedom, is forever hallowed by the ideals, the valor, the sacrifices of our fellow countrymen.”
Before the sacrifices made on D-Day, almost one thousand days before D-Day, young men of the United States Eighth Air Force had already fought a battle in the skies above that hallowed ground. They gave 26,000 lives, another 18,000 were wounded, and 28,000 more were shot out of the sky landing as prisoners of the Germans for the remainder of the war.
For some reason, our Father’s life was preserved. But his future and liberties were bought in exchange for lives of some of the French people he sought to defend. These French souls have earned our family’s “undying gratitude.”
Years later in remembering his ordeal, Ted Peterson said:
“When one hangs in a parachute above a foreign land, he knows if he lands that anything can happen—either he can be taken prisoner, or his life will be snuffed out, or he can be miraculously preserved. I don’t have any shadow of a doubt that the Lord preserved my life and helped me to escape. I know my life was preserved for some reason other than to squander it. You look more deeply into the purposes of life and you subscribe your life to those purposes, which are forever, and eternal, which are binding, and which the Lord has ordained for man. As I knelt in prayer on the soil of that foreign land and begged the Lord to preserve me… my life was changed.”
As descendants of Ted Peterson, we, too, have been changed. We echo those words engraved on marble memorials in Normandy. For our family, the coastal village of St. Quay also will remain forever as a hallowed “portal of freedom” where we go to remember the courage of French people who recognized and defended the value of a single human life.
Why does this story of sacrifice matter so many years later? Because our individual freedoms were purchased by strangers. Because the loss of millions of lives deserves to be remembered. Because we, our family and those who live with us in these free countries, inherited peace, a legacy of peace bought by the blood of those fighting the “common cause of humanity.”
Our family makes this journey, our pilgrimage, to the monument marking memories in a small village in France where a portion of our father’s B-17 stands as a memorial to heroism, courage, sacrificed lives, and answered prayers.This monument serves as a beacon of hope for those who are cruelly dominated and for persons living in bondage and enslavement. And for us, this monument symbolizes a place where God condescended to preserve our Father’s life and where French individuals chose to give their lives for strangers. As we stand on their soil, we pay homage to the French men and women who bought our lives. We reflect more deeply on the debt of the living to the courage of those who gave all to secure our liberties. We know that “we are not our own.” At this forever hallowed monument we mark the price of freedom, and here we resolve to remember their sacrifices so that their legacy of peace might live.