Most airmen got rid of their flying boots after their aircraft crashed on occupied territory. They were much better quality than any foot gear available on the Continent by 1943 and so would have immediately given away an evading airman to an even minimally observant policeman. But very few (short) Belgian or French farmers had a spare pair of shoes lying about that would fit a (tall) American.

So the aviators squeezed their feet into the best that could be found. But the best usually wasn’t good enough to walk over the Pyrenees into Spain, especially in the winter. So shoes had to be found at a time when shoes were rationed, and not usually available even with the coveted ration tickets.

Dutch-Paris solved the problem by having shoes made for aviators by a cobbler who lived just outside Paris in Versailles. This cobbler (born 1917) had been captured as a French soldier in 1940 but escaped from his POW stalag near Vienna in February 1941. He joined the local resistance in the summer of 1942. A priest recruited him for Dutch-Paris in late 1943.

The Germans arrested our cobbler at his parents’ home in early March 1944 in the last round of arrests that decimated Dutch-Paris. Like most of the others, he was deported to Germany. The train pulling cattle cars jammed with prisoners left Compiègne on 17 June 1944.

On 18 June 1944 a crossing guard found the following note written almost illegibly on a scrap of wrapping paper lying on the railway track. He sent it to the cobbler’s home address, which was written on the paper twice.

En route pour l’Allemagne le 18 juin, en bonne santé, bon moral. Courage à bientôt Bons basiers à tous”  [“En route to Germany 18 June, in good health, good spirits. Be brave see you soon Hugs and Kisses to all”]

His family didn’t find out until late 1946 that he had died in the concentration camp at Flossenburg on 17 January 1945.

Some of the American aviators who got to Spain courtesy of Dutch-Paris during the winter of 1943-1944 undoubtedly wore shoes made by this man. I hope they appreciated those shoes, and the price that others paid for them.