In the last post I mentioned the escape and evasion reports of Allied aviators who crashed in occupied territory, evaded arrest and made their way back to England. Such men did not just hitch a ride back to their base and report for duty. First they answered a whole lot of questions about what happened to their aircraft, what happened to them in occupied territory and what they saw while they were there. The answers were compiled into the escape and evasion reports.

The American reports are divided into sections according to the type of information they contain. The first section was meant for the men who designed the planes and trained the crews. It discusses the aircraft’s performance and what the crew did to, say, keep the motors going long enough to reach occupied territory. German civilians were understandably unfriendly to the airmen who were bombing their homes around the clock.

There is another section intended for the strategists in which the evaders report any likely bombing targets such as military installations that they saw, the result of any bombing that they saw and civilian opinion about the bombing. The evaders were also asked to report any rumors that they heard, especially rumors about the course of the war.

The rest of the report was meant for the small cadre of intelligence officers in charge of training men to evade capture if they had to abandon their airplanes. These officers could not go to occupied Europe to investigate the situation themselves or take surveys. They had to piece together the circumstances and possibilities for evasion from the stories that successful evaders brought home. So they asked the men to rate the usefulness of the items in the “escape purse” such as foreign currency, maps printed on silk, passport photos (never the right kind), energy tablets and the like. They also asked the evaders about the people who helped them and the routes they took.

The intelligence officers in England knew that there were resisters in occupied Europe who were willing to help Allied aircrew escape. Some of these lines could be understood because they were run by British or American agents. But there were some, like Dutch-Paris, which were grass-roots efforts. They were harder to understand because all the officers had to go on was vague descriptions along the lines of “a heavy set girl who spoke some English helped us.” After more than a hundred men arrived in Spain with Dutch-Paris’s help, the intelligence officers knew that Dutch-Paris existed, but they did not have a clear picture of how it operated or who was in it.

The detail in the reports varies widely. Some men were simply a lot more observant than others. The pilots tended to keep track of their crews. Navigators and men who grew up on farms or in rural areas had more to say about their physical surroundings than others. Men who spoke French had more to report simply because they understood more of what was happening around them. Some men were probably too injured or traumatized by their aircraft’s crash to notice very much. And some men deliberately did not notice so that they would not be able to betray their helpers if they were caught.

There is also a purely bureaucratic reason for the unevenness of some of the reports. The officer who compiled them, wrote them and typed them on rationed paper sometimes took a shortcut. If a group of men from the same crew took the same path back to England, only one report from that group will give a full account. All of them provided a full account of the technical details of the crash. But once the men were gathered together or in the hands of an escape line, the report will end suddenly with a phrase such as “rest of journey arranged” or “rest of journey same as X [on same crew].”

The RAF reports, which were organized differently, can be found at the British National Archive in Kew. The USAAF reports, which are described above, are at the American National Archive and Records Administration. They were declassified 10-20 years ago and have been put online at

To read an E&E report online, it’s best to know either the last name of the man you’re looking for or the number of his report (which has to do with the order in which he reappeared in England). Go to On the far left is a tab “research our records.” Click on it. On the left of the next screen is a the box that offers ways to search, click on search the catalog. When you get to the screen for the catalog of the national archives, type in “escape and evasion” and either the name of the man you’re looking for or the number of his report. That will take you to a pdf of that particular report.  Depending on who it is, you will have more or less information.