The following is a narrative of William F. Baker, a Kampina soldier.
He was one of three crewmembers that bailed out of their transport plane before it
ended up crashing in Brabant.
He and two of his fellow crew members were helped by the Dutch underground to keep
them from falling in to enemy hands.
‘William F. Baker, 2nd Lt, A.C., 0-2059865, 72nd Troop Carrier Squadron, 434 Troop
Carrier Group, APO 133, U.S. Army.
On September 17, 1944 I, William F Baker, 2nd Lt., A.C., was co-pilot on a C-47 number
316033 B plus; piloted by Donald A Pahlow, 1st Lt, A.C., Rollin D. Ellis, S/Sgt.,
Radio Operator, Cristopher S. Domitrovish, T/Stg., Crew Chief. This was the thirteenth
trip of our new plane and the mission was a paratroop drop with the “LZ” just across
the Wilhelmina canal and East of Best, Holland.
Captain William Wade, A.C., 0-902714, intelligence Officer, and Tom A. Hoge, Cpl.,
32335600, War correspondent, were going along with us to take pictures and report
on the mission.
Everything went along as planned until we had dropped out troopers on the “DZ” and
began to come back. We were fired upon on the way in but were not hit. We could see
the bullets and tracers coming from our left. However, just after we made our 180
degree turn and started out over the same area Where we had received fire, hell broke
loose. We were just over Boxtel, Holland when we saw Lt. Nixdorf’s plane burst into
flames. I saw two men leave the plane, but I watched them as they fell into the middle
of the town and observed that no chutes opened. Just about this time I felt the jar
of a direct hit on our plane. The Crew Chief told us we were on fire but it was not
until I felt the jar of a second burst that we heard them calling us on the radio
telling us we were on fire and had to jump. Lt. Pahlow immediately yelled to the
others to get ready to jump. By the time he and I got out of our Seats, removed our
flak suits and snapped on our chutes, I figured it was time to get out; so I wasted
no time getting any equipment. I had a khaki shirt, O.D. pants, G.I. Shoes and dog
tags only. Pahlow had not distributed the purses and my kit was in my A-2 Jacket
that I left on the plane. Ellis, Hoge, Dimitrovish and I jumped and I remember Pahlow
was fiddling with Wades chute when I left. He told me to go ahead and I thought
they were ready to go.
I could see guns just below me and did not want to make myself a dead target so i
delayed my chute until I was approximately 300 feet, though I was 1,200 feet when
I jumped from the plane. The chute opened, caught me and I had a few seconds to tug
at the lines to keep from falling on some high tension wires before I was on the
Remembering the advice given at the briefings, I lay low in the bushes for 30 hours
even though it had been raining all the time and I had nothing to eat or drink. Monday
night I began to walk over the area getting the lay of the land. I remember the map
from briefings and I used the North star as a guide. I found German sentries along
the RR on the east and couldn’t find a bridge across the canal that wasn’t blown
up. I passed a heated battle along the canal but passed along unnoticed.
Convinced that I could not get that way I went back north crossing the highway to
Tilburg, on which were German troops moving in force. I lay in a haystack the remainder
of the night and knew I would have to do something come the dawn.
I awoke in a field adjoining a machine-gun battle and approached an old woman and
young boy milking cows. I told them I was American and was cold and hungry. They
gave me some warm milk and the boy gave me a coat. In spite of the fact that we were
in sight of Germans marching to Best, they took me to the farm house and put me by
a stove and gave me food. They sent for a Priest in a nearby monastery that could
speak English and he fixed his own room for me to stay in. I put on peasants clothes
and clomps and went to the monastery where I stayed for about four day’s. one day
I sat in the second story window while Germans fired with rifles at our own planes
in the air overhead.
One day I was told that there were two other Americans in the area and since I was
an officer they asked if I wanted to be taken where we could al be together. I found
out they were Ellis and Dimitrovich from the same plane so I fixed it so I would
be taken to a certain place in the woods about two hours walk away by day and then
at night the other two would be brought. Everything went as planned and the three
of us managed to get together.
Food was brought from a nearby farm house even though there were Germans in the house
most of the time and we were kept informed of events. I was interested in trying
to make it back to our lines and tried to find out the odds of making it safely.
We were told that we couldn’t have much hope of making it due east but had a 90%
chance of making it by swimming the canal to our troops on the other side. However,
Dimitrovich couldn’t swim and I wasn’t willing to attempt it since he was deathly
afraid of water, so we just had to wait it out.
After about ten day’s or two weeks (I couldn’t keep a diary as I was afraid the Jerry’s
would find out who had helped us) the civilians had to evacuate this area so the
G’s could use the farm houses themselves. So one night the people came to us and
told us we must move immediately to another place about two hours walk from there.
The young fellow that had hid Ellis and Dimitrovich came there and he went with us.
He also has seen Hoge captured by the G’s and taken away on a truck. Packing everything
on our back we marched for a couple of hours due west to this new place about twenty
minutes walk from the farm house where the kid would bring us food. The Germans moved
in and put dynamite under a bridge across a canal near there (perpendicular to the
Wilhelmina) and they posted a sentry to guard. Since they had to pass by the sentry
to get food to us, they brought food to last three day’s and we were left to our
fate, temporarily. We knew Germans were at the other farm house and we could hear
rifle fire at intervals. One thing that worried us was that so many people knew we
were there and that is always dangerous, especially since so many were woman. Again
we discussed the possibility of escape and we had the kid go all over the area to
see how many G’s were in each area. Again we found that to swim the canal was the
only probable way out but I couldn’t leave Dimitrovich, even though the kid wanted
to go along with us and guide us. Too, there was the threat that this area would
be evacuated and we had no other place to go. The three day’s lengthened to four
or five and we thought we were deserted. But one night the farmer came to us and
told us the kid had not returned from Tilburg.
To secure our position, we were moved one night to a small tent erected by a fellow
at the farm. It was within sight of the farm and we had to talk in a whisper since
there were paths on either side of us. We camouflaged the tent, sat ore lay in cramped
positions and awaited further developments. It rained all the time and the tent leaked
Finally the blow came and the area had to be evacuated by noon of that day. The kid
knew of a man in the next town of Moergestel that might take care of us. Having no
one else to turn to, we put on civilian clothes (except our GI shoes), put a rolled
up blanket under our arms and struck out. The kid walked by himself and we followed
just keeping him insight. We knew we were taking a great chance for we had no identification
and we had to walk along the main highway for at least an hour. The Jerries all looked
at our GI shoes but luckily, none of them stopped us, though the highway had lots
of traffic, bicycles, autos, trucks, motorcycles; both enlisted men and officers.
Just about dark we had contacted the man of the underground and we were taken to
a farm north of the town where we were taken care of for the night. We were told
that the G’s had dug in along the canal and had mined it, so it was impossible to
try to break out.
They did know where forty-seven Americans were hiding in the woods and they would
take us to them in the next morning. We were well fed, listened to the radio and
slept in the barn on the hay. We cleaned up the next morning and the fellow came
to show us to where the American troops were. A Dutch girl and a Dutch boy were to
go with us to talk to any Jerries that might ask questions. We walked for a couple
of hours trough the town of Oisterwijk to near Boxtel and with G’s all around but
we had no mishaps.
We found that other fellows had come into the woods and that we made 100 American
and English troops in the wood. (F/O Jacobson of my outfit was in the bunch and we
stayed together.) The underground was very helpful and kept us informed of events
and conditions. They also kept us supplied after a fashion with food although some
day’s the rations were very short and at best it was a couple of slices of black
bread with some butter and jelly or sugar. It tasted good, however.
All of the troops were well armed and eager for a battle. Some of them wanted to
try to fight their way trough the G’s lines and get to our own lines, but we kept
them from it until we had a good chance of getting trough. Five German soldiers were
brought in by the underground and they were deserters who had helped the underground.
We let them keep their guns and sleep with us. There was one Austrian, one Czech,
one French, one Pole and one German. We used them for patrol duty in their own uniform.
One day we counted the different nationalities and counting Americans as one, there
were eleven. We called it the Foreign Legion. We were cleaning German guns and they
were cleaning ours, all in the same dugout. One was a former officer reduced to a
Corporal. He was said to have been active in the Hitler Plot.
One day the underground came in with the news that the long-waited push had started
on all fronts in Holland and we were elated.
The English send out a patrol and shot a German Officer and captured six Germans
who were manning a machine gun nest within sight of our woods.
The same day news came in that English tanks were sighted on the opposite side of
the canal east of Boxtel and that the G’s were making a delaying retreat from the
town. They were digging in from three sides of our woods on the way out and 88 guns
were all around. That evening as the G’s moved out of Boxtel along the main woods
and by ways west of the town we went in east parallel to them in the woods and reached
the town just about dark. We did not fire a shot and we and our eleven prisoners
marched into the town amid thundering shouts and welcomes of the people. We were
the first troops into the town. That night we drank five year old Scotch, wine, Cognac
and celebrated with the people.
The next morning about 08.30 hrs an English tank came into the town to liberate the
town and saw us already there. “Were in the Hell did you Yanks come from?” Then the
town was officially liberated and it was something to experience. American Airborne
went out in the town and brought three more Jerry prisoners in.
The next day F/O Jacobson and myself went to the cemetery and saw the grave of Harry
Dunbar, Radio Operator on Lt. Nixdorf’s plane. The sister who saw him said he was
burned badly and he was crushed from the fall. There was another grave of an unidentified
American. On the way out of town we saw the grave of Lt. Charles F. Nixdorf and the
co-pilot, Lt Crawley. The ones in the cemetery were buried in good boxes but Nixdorf
and Crawley were just in the ground without a box.
I went to Eindhoven and from there to Nijmegen, then to Brussels.
I was behind the lines 38 days, some good, some terrible but everyone filled with
a great hope and faith that I would get out alive by the grace of God.
The people of Holland were wonderful and risked a fate worse than death for us everyday.
I appreciate it and thank them.