The final chapter (Chapter 15) of The Shelburne Escape Line was written by Don Douglass and describes the experiences of his longtime friend and mentor Woody Blondfield, who served with the US Army Air Forces in WWII as a B-17 pilot. Woody’s plane was shot up twice during his 25 bombing missions over Nazi Germany but, in both cases, he was able to fly the crippled aircraft to emergency fields behind Allied lines in Belgium. In May 1945, a few days before V-E Day, Woody and his crew volunteered for a humanitarian mission to drop food supplies to starving citizens in Holland. One of the beneficiaries of this mission was John Slagboom, a Dutch friend of the Douglasses in Anacortes, who had been a teenager during the war. When Don and Réanne told Woody’s story to John Slagboom early last year, John realized that the plane that had dropped tons of K-Rations over his town had probably been Woody’s. John made contact with Woody by email and the two set a date to meet at Woody’s home in California. Tragically, on April 18, 2013, three days before their meeting, Woody died unexpectedly of a heart attack. John subsequently penned a letter, which was read at Woody’s memorial service:
April 18 2013
Good Morning Woody,
Today is the day we were going to meet each other, at 1000 hours. That was the plan. Well, Woody, the last time we met was in Holland on April 15, 1945. You were flying over our heads at treetop level in a B17—the biggest airplane—with open doors and unloading, on the fly, tons of food only a starving boy can imagine. That was the best bombing we had ever seen.
Our part of Holland was still occupied and there was nothing to eat. (I ate my neighbors' cat, but don't tell anybody.) You saved many lives that day—that winter was known as Hunger Winter. We found out that you volunteered for that mission. THANKS, WOODY. That food drop made you my Hero forever.
Can I tell you how you changed my life, Woody? During the German occupation (my age 12 to 17), our first school was taken over by the German troops. The second school was too close to the Allied bombing raids and was shut down. All that was fine with me (I didn't like schooling anyway). Families were torn apart and each on his own. After the war, my passion was flying. (That's where you came in.)
I had no money, but I had a plan . . . Go to the USA. That was my plan. Sign up as a sailor in the Merchant Marine. And walk off the boat in America. Well, that boat went to South America instead, and I walked off in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But eleven years later, in 1958, I migrated to the USA. Woody, the story is more complex, but simply, you are my inspiration that helped make it happen.
So long, Woody. I will see you upstairs.