When he was still 20 years old, R.F. Anderson took off in a B-17 named “Martha” to bomb Brunswick, Germany. The German air defenses disabled the plane but the pilot and Anderson, as the navigator, managed to nurse it far enough westward that they could bail out over the Netherlands, jumping 500 feet into a soft, sandy carrot field. The farmer, who had already returned from Mass, saw him and hid him in the barn. The Croojman family of Bakel later brought the other four surviving ambulatory crewmen who had been rescued from the German search to their home, where they sheltered and fed them for several days.

Mr Anderson has never forgotten the courage and generosity of the Croojman family, nor of any of the other Dutch people who helped him even if he never learned their names. In his mind, they are the true heroes.

After a few days at the Croojmans’, the Americans were put onto an evasion line that turns out to have been Dutch-Paris. It was all a blur of sheds, attics and barns for them until they were given train tickets and told they were going to Brussels. They had crossed the Dutch border by Maastricht.

In Brussels they rushed first to a hotel near the train station and then to a three story pension that was the line’s HQ. There were rumors that the Paris safehouse had been raided, explaining the high number of aviators at 19, rue Franklin. There were nine Americans, a New Zealander and a man purporting to be a Pole. The aviators were amazed that the Belgian landlady managed to feed them all and suspicious of the Pole. He kept going out for walks.

Early in the morning of 28 February 1944, loud noises woke up the aviators. A large man burst into Anderson’s room, stuck a gun in his face, and demanded to know where his companion was. Anderson said he was alone, but his roommate revealed himself by falling through the floor of the armoire. The aviators were lined up in the garden and counted. Ten. No Pole.

Taken to Gestapo headquarters, Anderson was beaten while questioned about a new device in the B-17. He’s still not sure why. He was even put in solitary confinement, where he spent his twenty-first birthday. Eventually he was moved to the local prison with the others. The guards lifted the tedium one day by promising a special treat. The next day they presented the treat as roast squab, but it had four legs and a tail and Anderson wasn’t that hungry yet.

Eventually the aviators were turned over to the Luftwaffe and moved to Stalag Luft III. The six young Dutchmen arrested at the rue Franklin were kept in the military prison in Brussels until the liberation in September 1944. The Belgian landlady was deported to Ravensbruck, where she perished in January 1945.

Thanks to the precautions of anonymity among the Dutch helpers, the German investigation of Dutch-Paris did not reach as far as that carrot field near Bakel, nor the Croojmans’ farm.