Humanity During Conflict: Mighty Eighth Airmen Interactions with Civilians and Soldiers in Europe

Section II: Stories from France
By: Michael Elmore
Photo Caption: Photograph taken of Joseph Walters as the French farmers help him get out orchard. This photo is on display in an exhibit. Joseph Walters collection | National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force.
For most of World War II, France was a dangerous place to crash land in as it was under German military occupation. Even as the Allied forces began to advance into the heart of France after the D-Day invasion, crews had to be careful to try and land near the Allied lines, or they risked being caught by the enemy. Joseph Walter crashed in German-held territory after landing in a orchard and was nearly captured but was helped at the last minute by the French farmers whose field he landed in. The Free French, a popular resistance group, smuggled Joseph across France to get him safely back to England. Joseph was able to evade capture thanks in large part to the selfless actions of the resistance members who helped countless airmen make it back to England.

Other airmen, like Norman Grant, were captured quickly after landing and taken to the prison camps. Grant was alone when he went to the Stalag, as his crew had died in the destruction of their plane. For Grant, it took over fifty years to discover what had happened to them the day of the crash. The French people provided Grant with all the help they could to help him find the village that the men were found and then buried. Compared to other places such as Germany, the people of France did much to provide aid to the Allied airmen. Their efforts helped to keep resistance alive in France and showed that even amid an oppressive regime, people still opted to do good deeds.

To read more about their stories, click on the link below.
Humanity During War Section 2
To listen to some of the oral histories and read their transcripts, be sure to visit the Roger A. Freeman Research Center at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force.