One hundred and twelve Allied airmen made it to Spain and on to England courtesy of Dutch-Paris, but they didn’t all join the escape line at the same point or even travel with their own crews. If, say, a B-24 Liberator bomber were attacked somewhere over Germany while on a bombing run, the pilot may have been able to make a run for England through the cloud cover. If the plane couldn’t make it that far, it could crash in the Netherlands, Belgium, France or the Atlantic ocean. Hopefully the crew would be able to bail out first. But some might not make it out of the airplane. Some might be captured when they landed. Those who made it safely to the ground would be scattered over some distance and might be picked up by friendly local people who had no connections to each other. It’s entirely likely that at least one member of the crew would be badly injured with, say, a broken ankle or severe burns.

The safest thing for the patriots who found a downed airman to do was send him along his way to Spain as quickly as possible. The Germans executed people for helping aviators. So if the airman was healthy enough, and his helpers had connections, the airman started off to some point where a proper escape line such as Dutch-Paris collected airmen into convoys to take to Spain. Dutch-Paris collected airmen in Brussels and in Paris.

This is how that worked for one young American whom we’ll call James, whose Liberator bomber was shot down on December 30, 1943. James landed safely somewhere in northern France with nothing worse than a bullet wound in his foot. He approached a group of French men, who were happy to see an American. The French customs agent among them took charge, organizing civilian clothes and a meal for him. That evening armed Belgians belonging to the Resistance’s White Army showed up in a small truck and took him and a few other members of his crew to Belgium where they were sure the Germans wouldn’t be looking for them.

After two weeks, he went to Chimay, Belgium, to meet another patriot and four other Americans. They took the train to Brussels and then another train to the French border at Mouscron. The plan was to walk from a café on the Belgian side, over a brook, and into the café on the French side. Except there were a uniformed German and a uniformed Frenchman behind a bush near the French café. They were all carrying cigarettes for just this eventuality. Fortunately one of the Americans spoke perfect German and was able to convince the German that they were a bunch of smugglers, which was only a minor misdemeanor. The German pocketed their cigarettes and their papers and handed them over to the French customs officer.

They revealed their true identities to the French officer, who told them to go back to Belgium, get better papers and come back the next day when he and his colleagues would be sure to be looking the other way.

It worked the next day and they were able to get to Lille to take a train to Paris. They were taken to a farm a few miles outside of Paris that was owned by a Dutch family to wait until their convoy of Allied airmen and Dutch Engelandvaarders was complete. They took a train to Toulouse, and from their they walked over the Pyrenees.