American Serviceman Risks it All to Escape the Nazis; Recalls Astounding Details

Stan Stanley’s incredible story began 70 years ago, when the American airman was downed while on a mission over Berlin. His harrowing escape, while trying desperately to escape the Nazi German soldiers, took him through the Netherlands until finally finding freedom at the end of the war. He took the time to remember the ordeal, which was heroic in some places, and tragic in others.

While on duty in his B-24 bomber, Stanley and his crew were successful in bombing the city of Berlin towards the close of the war. If he or his crew had any time to celebrate it wasn’t long, as the sky began to fill with German flak. So numerous was the enemy fire that to this day Stanley can recall the pitch black air, and the smell of flak all around. His plane was hit and the trajectory of the landing didn’t look promising, the reports.

They didn’t believe they had much chance of survival – by Mr. Stanley’s reckoning they were headed straight for the freezing cold North Sea. The men must have made their peace with death, but fate had something else in mind. It turns out that the crew of nine were headed for the Nazi occupied province of Friesland, in which their crash landing would be fatal for some.

The plane’s pilot was killed on impact, and the co-pilot’s legs were completely crushed. Unwilling to leave their injured comrade behind in pain, the men administered morphine to the man who would otherwise be unable to do much in the escape. The co-pilots legs, Stanley would later hear, were amputated.

The conspicuously large band of Americans would find it difficult to avoid notice . Stanley paired with another airman through most of his journey, and their first destination would be a Dutch farmhouse. Though they must have been tired after all of their travel, they didn’t hesitate to take off once they discovered that the otherwise friendly farmer’s partner had gone missing. The threat of being turned in to German soldiers was very real, the other men from Stanley’s crew would serve out the remainder of the war as POWs.

The Germans, who were well aware of the B-24s crash, pursued the crew throughout Dutch territory. Taken in by the Dutch Resistance, Stanley and his partner were nearly caught while Stanley gathered wood at the final farmhouse. On spotting approaching German Soldiers, Stanley and his partners took off in order to avoid capture. They would later be returned safely home thanks to Canadian soldiers.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE