History Podcasts

How to Reach Allied Territory When Your Plane Is Shot Down in Nazi-Occupied France

How to Reach Allied Territory When Your Plane Is Shot Down in Nazi-Occupied France

Lieutenant George W. Starks' worst fear came true when his B-17 was shot down over Nazi-occupied France. Earlier that morning, the boyish 20-year-old and his crew were assigned to the most exposed section of the bomber formation: the “coffin corner.” Now, scattered across the countryside of Champagne, each of the B-17's ten American crew members discarded his parachutes and began a wartime trek. Some were hidden by heroic civilians, a few were saved by the French underground, others fell into the hands of the Nazis, but all miraculously survived.

Carole Engle Avriett, joins me on the podcast today. She is author of the book Coffin Corner Boys: One Bomber, Ten Men, and Their Harrowing Escape from Nazi-Occupied France to tell these stories. She worked with Captain George W. Starks-now ninety-four years old-to bring them to light.

In this discussion we talk about how:

  • Twenty-year-old Starks set out on a 300-mile trek to Switzerland with a fractured foot and a 20mm shell fragment in his thigh, barely evading capture despite face-to-face encounters with Nazi officers
  • Irv Baum and Ted Badder were betrayed to the Nazis, from whom Baum needed to shroud his Jewish heritage
  • Leaders of the French Resistance audaciously smuggled Americans to safety-scorning the promise of facing a firing squad if they were caught
  • Andy Brenden and Wally Trinder dashed madly across the border of Spain under a rain of German bullets

RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

Coffin Corner Boys: One Bomber, Ten Men, and Their Harrowing Escape from Nazi-Occupied France