At the National Archives there are nearly 3,000 reports containing information on escape and evasion activities and training of U.S. soldiers serving in the European theater during the Second World War.
These records contain dramatic and gripping firsthand accounts of survival, including these three:
Oscar Klass Hamblin
On September 6, 1943, 22-year-old Oscar Klass Hamblin (T/SGT.) and crew were flying over northern France when they were raked by fire from a German Fw 190, necessitating an evacuation from their plane.
According to Hamblin’s report, “I made a free fall for about 10000 feet and then opened my chute. I saw three lakes with woods and a field nearby. I tried to drift to the field, but a south wind blew me to the middle of the lake and I went 10 to 12 feet under water. When I began swimming, I became entangled in the shrouds of my chute. Just when I had released myself from the chute, a Frenchman and woman came out in a boat, helped me into it, and pulled the chute in after me. When we reached the shore, they hid my chute, and flying boots under the boat. They took me to their house, there they dressed my wounds, fed me, and gave me some civilian clothes.”
Sebron Andrew McQueen
On September 3, 1943, 25-year-old Sebron Andrew McQueen, Jr. (2nd Lt) and crew were flying east of Paris when their aircraft was attacked, and the pilot gave the order to evacuate.
“I landed in an oat field and wrapped my flying equipment in the chute before covering it with oats. About twenty Frenchmen were watching me quietly, waiting to see what I would do… I could tell they weren’t sure of me so I concentrated on a boy who knew a few words of English. Finally when I showed him my dog tags he motioned me to follow him… My friend and I were joined by two Frenchmen who ran with us about two miles. We stopped near a house and while I waited in some bushes the Frenchmen were gone into the house for several minutes before calling me. Inside the house I was treated politely, fed and questioned in great detail. Then I was told by an English-speaking man to go back in the bushes and stay until dark.”
On September 6, 1943, 23-year old Allan Johnston (2nd Lt.) and crew were flying over France when their aircraft received heavy damage from a fighter attack.
According to Johnston’s report: “The order to bale [sic] out was given by the pilot and acknowledged by all crew members. Because the bombardier’s arm was injured, I helped him with his chute and watched him leave. Then I crawled forward and set fire to the maps. The pilot and co-pilot were still in their seats. I saw the radio operator go out through the bomb-bay before I jumped at 7500 feet, from the nose.
I think the best way to leave the nose is on the knees, tumbling head-first. Before I fell I unhooked my chute from the chest hooks and hugged it to my chest so that before pulling the rip-cord I could hold the chute over my head and not risk face injury when the straps went up. Leaving the aircraft I seemed to fall first at terrific speed and then more slowly… Touching the ground I hit the release on my chute and it fell away with the silk draped over the limbs of a tree. My flying pants fell off and I remember grabbing them in my hands before running…. I ran in the opposite direction from the soldiers I could still see in the field, I heard the sound of motorcycles. I had a glimpse through an opening in the trees of three chutes coming down in the fields. I stuck to the ridge for several minutes, running hard, before crawling into some blackberry bushes.”
Access Other Stories, Help Transcribe
Hamblin, McQueen, and Johnston’s reports, along with nearly 3,000 others, are part of a series containing information on escape and evasion activities and training of U.S. soldiers serving in the European theater during World War II, and are available to view and download in the National Archives Catalog. (Including the Escape and Evasion case file for Flight Officer Charles (Chuck) Yeager.)
The records typically include questionnaires about the use of escape and evasion (E&E) training and equipment; a listing of crew members; dates; locations, as well as a typed or handwritten narrative documenting the escape and evasion experience of the escapee or evader.
These reports were maintained by the Administration Branch of the Escape and Evasion Section of the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff (G-2) of the European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army, of the War Department.
You can help make these records more searchable in the catalog by joining the new citizen archivist transcription effort. For more information visit the National Archives Catalog website.
Photos, from above: Hamblin, Oscar Klass (T/SGT.) Escape and Evasion Reports, 1942 – 1945; McQueen, Sebron Andrew Jr. (2 L.t) Escape and Evasion Reports, 1942 – 1945; and Johnston, Allan G (2nd Lt.) Escape and Evasion Reports, 1942 – 1945 courtesy National Archives.