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Escape from Hitler's Europe

An American Airman behind Enemy Lines

George Watt

Publication Year: 2013

"A hell of an adventure story." -- Ring Lardner Jr. "A story of what is best in human beings triumphing over what is worst." -- John Sayles November 1943: American flyer George Watt parachutes out of his burning warplane and lands in rural Nazi-occupied Belgium. Escape from Hitler's Europe is the incredible story of his getaway -- how brave villagers spirited him to Brussels to connect with the Comet Line, a rescue arm of the Belgian resistance. This was a gravely dangerous mission, especially for a Jewish soldier who had fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Watt recounts dodging the Gestapo, entering Paris via the underground, and finally, crossing the treacherous Pyrenees into Spain. In 1985, he returned to Belgium and discovered an astonishing postscript to his wartime experiences.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. vii-8

List of Maps and Figure

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pp. viii-9

My Thanks

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pp. ix-x

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Prologue

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pp. 1-4

In 1984 my wife and I traveled to Belgium in an effort to tie up of touch since the end of World War II, and it was a bittersweet fuur days later, in beautiful Nice, a thief broke into the trunk I had to go back! In the course of preparing my return in 1985, I learned for the first time that the organization that had engi ...

Part I: Walking Out

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1. Happy Birthday at Happy Valley

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pp. 7-12

November 5, 1943, Knettishall, England.
"Bramwell's Crew! Grab your socks!"
I was startled out of a deep sleep. My watch said six o'clockbut there'd been no alert the night before, and they usually woke us between one and two-thirty when we were scheduled to fly...

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2. Here Comes the Flak

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pp. 13-20

It was one of those drab autumn days you find so o~n in England. The sky was gray. The 10/IOths layer of clouds above us had to be scaled before we could rendezvous with oh~ group.
When we finally came through the clouds, we saw hundreds of B-17s rattailing all over the sky. Gradually the formations...

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3. No Regrets, No Regrets

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pp. 21-23

It took me a few seconds to realize we were going down. So this was it! The dreaded moment for every flyer.
I tried the interphone. It was dead. I turned around for my chest pack. It wasn't there! When the ship nosed over, everything loose slid down to the waist...

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4. "lci Belgique?"

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pp. 24-30

I don't think I can describe the feelings that raced over me as the prop wash whipped me through that free air. There was unbridled exhilaration, a wild joy at being alive. A moment earlier I'd been dead. Now I was born again. What a wonderful rebirth...

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5. The Ditch and the Outhouse

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pp. 31-40

I lay down gasping for breath in a dry irrigation ditch surrounded things out till nightfall. And sweat I did, literally. It was only suit lying beside me, he insisted on taking it off my hands and in the trees on the other side of the dirt road, I saw a man and had protected our plane only an hour ago. (Only an hour ago? It ...

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6. Birthday Party in Hamme

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pp. 41-48

As the door closed behind me, I felt at long last the relief of being and still longer since I had been in a home. Those four walls of that jutted out into the room. While I was thawing out, she was already dishing up potatoes and getting out beer for me. I could grin soon breezed in. It was impossible to tell his age; he could ...

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7. The Policeman and the Parachute

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pp. 49-55

We still had some three or four kilometers to go before arriving cold. I was no longer afraid. Even my ankle didn't bother me. We had left the cluster of houses in Sint-Anna, a hamlet in Hamme, lined both sides of the street. Again, the noise of the old man's surprise or fear at seeing me? I marveled again at the courage of ...

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8. On the Tram

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pp. 56-66

I felt very strange in that early morning tram. Belgian trams were nothing like American streetcars. The seats were arranged in compartments, so you sat facing other passengers all the time. That's what made me so uncomfortable. These were workingmen on their way to work. They carried their lunches in bags...

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9. The War within the War

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pp. 67-75

From here on my escape was no longer a stab in the dark, a hit-or-miss proposition. I no longer had any decisions to make. Everything was planned for me. The spontaneity was gone but not the hazards. The underground was well organized, but it was up against a well-oiled and ruthless machine. The greatest...

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10. All That Glitters

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pp. 76-81

A man about forty years old, of medium height and with reddish hair, met me at the door of his second-floor apartment and asked me to remove my shoes. He handed me a pair of house slippers and walked me to the kitchen, where he put my shoes in a...

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11. I Meet the French Resistance

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pp. 82-91

It was dark when the other escapee and I followed Madame De Bruyn aboard the train. The ride from Brussels to the French border took about an hour. We got off at Rumes and followed our guide to the end of the station platform. We stepped into a shadow behind a large structure. She told us to wait there while...

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12. The Gestapo Looks Me Over

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pp. 92-99

The train was already crowded when we boarded, and there were no seats left. So the four of us and our guide took up positions in the corridors of two adjoining cars, making sure to keep at least one other companion within view...

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13. Spain Again

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pp. 100-108

Safe at last? Franco's Fascist Spain could never be neutral for me-I was still in enemy territory.
The embassy car drove through San Sebastian and headed south toward Madrid. I had not been in this part of Spain before, but every terraced mountain, every olive grove, every hairpin...

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14. Over and Out

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pp. 109-114

Such memories stirred strong feelings in me, and my excitement mounted as the embassy car approached Madrid. Madrid had been the heart and soul of the Spanish Civil War. It was here that La Pasionaria rallied the embattled Madrilefios with the cry "Better to die on your feet than live on your knees." It was here...

Part II: Going Back

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15. Reunion in Hamme

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pp. 117-129

May 1984-Belgium.
"Did you know I canied a gun and was prepared to shoot you after we left Dr. Proost's house?"
"No." I was startled.
"I thought you might be a German spy." Henri Malfait laughed, enjoying my astonished look...

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16. Homage to the Comet Line

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pp. 130-143

In 1985 Margie and I returned to Belgium. This time we spent four weeks instead of four days and were able to tie up important loose ends.
Finding the Thibauts, the couple with the baby, at whose house I had stayed for eight days, was one piece of unfinished...

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Epilogue: Debriefing

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pp. 144-154

Lexington, Kentucky, October 1988.
"The purpose of this roundtable is unfinished business. When we returned from missions like Munster and Schweinfurt, we were debriefed completely and in depth. Of course we got a tumbler of bourbon to loosen us up a little so we could talk about...

Images

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pp. Image 1-Image 16

Index

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pp. 155-158


E-ISBN-13: 9780813144122
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813191768

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2013