A Letter from Chile
After the release of my book, The Shelburne Escape Line: Secret Rescues of Allied Aviators by the French Underground, the British Royal Navy, and London’s MI-9, I’ve received several encouraging and complimentary letters and e-mails from people who have read the book. Many had connections to the stories in my book and some share their own similar experiences. Daniel Arellano-Walbaum, a friend from Chile, took the time to write me a three-page letter about how my book helped him understand what happened in Europe during WWII. When he was in France several years after WWII, he tried to talk to a friend’s father who had been part of the French Resistance. Even through several decades had passed since the war, the elderly man found the subject too painful to discuss. Here’s part of Daniel’s letter:
About the Shelburne Escape Line I must tell you that I really enjoyed reading it. It took me some time because of all the places and distances mentioned, I read it with a detailed Michelin map and guide of the area by my side, so as to have the whole picture and be fully immersed in the subject. I also spoke with an uncle that served in the Royal Navy during WW II on a motorboat similar to MGB 503, but he knew nothing about these operations. He was posted near the Pas de Calais and the only occasion they got close to France was during D Day. Of course he's preparing to read the book, and I'm sure that he will enjoy it as much as I did.
I must recognize that I'm not very familiar with the literature about the activities on the Resistance in France. I only remember that when I went to Lyon, several streets and squares had names of French people killed by the Gestapo and I was very impressed, but I never took the time to read or study more about the subject. When I was in France I had the chance to talk to the father of one of my friends that had been part of the Resistance. He lived in Tarbes, near Pau, close to the Pyrenees, and after a couple of minutes talking, I realized that it was not a theme he wanted to remember so I changed the conversation. That was nearly 30 years ago. With all that background, you can realize that for me your book was very interesting and I really appreciate the enormous effort and research you made. It seems that in France, to get into the people and their stories you need to pass a barrier that takes some time and confidence. You did it. For sure, the VWV II years are times that many French are not willing to remember, and I respect that.
But what I really enjoyed, were the accounts of the people you were able to talk with. It's amazing to learn that among all the brutality of war, the human being keeps the motivation of liberty and justice, giving them the strength and courage to fight even in the worst conditions and disadvantages. I try to imagine the situation of all those men hidden for weeks in a small room and the anguish of those French exposing their lives to feed and take care of them.
I was also happy to learn about your French family. It's great to have the opportunity to know people with another culture, and feel that you are a part of them. I think it gives you an additional view of humankind and teaches you to understand and respect other habits and ways to stand up before life. I understand very well your strong feelings to your French brothers and sisters, as I have the same feelings for my French comrades and their families that helped us so much during our time in France.