On March 4, 1944, my great uncle Francis Witt, Jr. was a pilot with the 547th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 384th Bombardment Group. He flew 10 successful combat missions before his luck ran out. He was forced to bail out of his B-17 over France after dropping bombs on Berlin.
Thanks to the efforts of a group of historians to collect and archive information related to the 384th Bombardment Group, Francis Witt’s evasion and escape report is available for anyone willing to undertake a quick Google search. This report was written by Francis after being ‘recovered’ in May 1944. It’s an incredible 30+ page narrative with supporting documents that he wrote showing that although he crashed only 25 miles from the English Channel in NE France, he took a 1,500 mile journey to Gibraltar and then back to Bristol, England, evading capture. It details all the support he received from locals, things he carried with him and his escape route. You will see that Francis was lucky; of his 11 person crew, only three evaded capture. (And Francis only barely, as you will read). Eight more were guests of the Fuhrer in POW camps for the remainder of the war.
Using information provided in his report, I was able to map his journey. The map points A (Bruchamps, France) through J (Montauban, France) are correct, but his report doesn’t state how he traveled from Montauban to Gibraltar (point K), so I let Google Maps take care of that route for me. (map no longer available)
My uncle Tom actually transcribed this document, which makes it slightly easier to read. However, there is something to be said for reading it in Uncle Francis’s own hand. You can read the transcribed document by clicking HERE.
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[…] Squadron during World War II. He was stationed at RAF Grafton Underwood in central England. He was shot down and survived a harrowing evasion and escape effort in March 1944. Just two weeks prior, he posed for this crew photo. On February 21, the crew of the ‘Rum Pot […]