Shotdown over Holland and escaped to Spain — Tom Hubbard 355th Fighter Group

[av_heading heading=’LtCol Tom Hubbard – US Air Force’ tag=’h3′ style=” subheading_active=” show_icon=” icon=’ue800′ font=” size=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” subheading_size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” icon_size=” av-medium-font-size-1=” av-small-font-size-1=” av-mini-font-size-1=” color=” custom_font=” icon_color=” margin=” margin_sync=’true’ padding=’10’ icon_padding=’10’ link=” link_target=” id=” custom_class=” av_uid=’av-kwhpvfil’ admin_preview_bg=”][/av_heading]

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The second pilot featuring in Journey to the Horizon is LtCol Tom ‘Speed’ Hubbard from 355th Fighter Group. He was shot down over Holland on 13 November 1943 and reached Spain in June 1944 after a six month journey with his fellow evaders.

During his evasion he met the love or his life, a Belgian girl he met while hiding in Brussels. She joined him after the war and became his wife. If that is not the ultimate romance, what is??? A brave man, who had seen action both in the Pacific and over Europe. The pictures show him before, during and after his Journey to the Horizon.
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A rookie American fighter pilot

[av_heading heading=’2nd Lieutenant Jack Donald Cornett USAAF’ tag=’h3′ style=” subheading_active=” show_icon=” icon=’ue800′ font=” size=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” subheading_size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” icon_size=” av-medium-font-size-1=” av-small-font-size-1=” av-mini-font-size-1=” color=” custom_font=” icon_color=” margin=” margin_sync=’true’ padding=’10’ icon_padding=’10’ link=” link_target=” id=” custom_class=” av_uid=’av-kwi0ijsd’ admin_preview_bg=”][/av_heading]

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Our fourth hero is 2nd Lieutenant Jack Donald Cornett USAAF, a rooky American fighter pilot with No 375 Fighter Squadron of the 361 Fighter Group at Bottisham.

On his second mission flying P-47D Thunderbolt, 42-75219, E2-G with serial number 0-816632, his aircraft was hit by Flak while he was strafing Étampes-Mondés¬ir France on 27 April 1944. Jack force-landed near Arrancourt, south of Paris. Evading capture for a few days, he was found by loval Gendarme Marcel Dussutour and famer Lucien Pilian.

They helped him hide in a safe house. First the local resistance checked Cornett’s credentials and once satisfied they took him under their wings. He went to Paris and was handed over to the Comète Line. With four others, LtCol Hubbard, Major Willis, P/O Barnes and Sgt Emeny, he travelled to the Basque region of France and crossed the border on 6 June 1944.

After a few days of internment in Pamplona, he went to Alma de Aragon and Madrid. American embassy officials arranged for transport to Gibraltar. He reached England on 30 June 1944. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the USAF having seen action in Korea and Vietnam. He died in September 1986.

He was one of the braves who ran rather than surrendered!
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The remarkable story of the escape of an American pilot who fought in WW2 since 1939

[av_heading heading=’Donald Kenyon Willis – US Air Force’ tag=’h3′ style=” subheading_active=” show_icon=” icon=’ue800′ font=” size=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” subheading_size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” icon_size=” av-medium-font-size-1=” av-small-font-size-1=” av-mini-font-size-1=” color=” custom_font=” icon_color=” margin=” margin_sync=’true’ padding=’10’ icon_padding=’10’ link=” link_target=” id=” custom_class=” av_uid=’av-kwhoaxcj’ admin_preview_bg=”][/av_heading]

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‘JOURNEY TO THE HORIZON’ tells the story of three fighter pilots and two Lancaster crews who were shot down by the Germans. It follows them on the run, hiding, in captivity and in some cases in death. They were Britons, Canadians, New Zealanders and Americans. Five of them met in Paris while being guided by members of the Comete Escape line, others evaded in different ways. Some endured the harsh life in a POW-camp, while in one case an airman even ended up in Buchenwald concentration camp. Those who died now rest at various cemeteries in France.

The main character is Donald Kenyon Willis, an American pilot who fought with the Fins against the Russians in 1940, then joined the Norwegian Naval Air Arm against the Germans, escaped to the Shetlands, joined the RAF as one of the first Eagle Squadron pilots, until he joined the USAAF. After the war and a spell as a base commander in Austria and Germany he became a test pilot in JATO (Jet Assisted Take-Off) experiments from Wright-Patterson Air Base in Ohio.

Donald Kenyon Willis was an American furniture maker and a whiskey smuggler, who decided that he should volunteer to help the Finnish people in their fight against the communist Soviet Union. He sold his car, booked a birth on a freighter to Tornioon in Finland and offered his services as a pilot in the Finnish Air Force. After a brief training he flew Bristol Bulldog biplanes in a reconnaissance role over the frontline near the Lake Ladoga area. When the Finns surrendered, he fled the country at the end of March and arrived in Kirkenes a few days after the German invasion of 9 April 1940 had taken place. Having received documents from the Norwegian embassy in Finland he reported to the Norwegian army and was quickly accepted as a crewmember on a Heinkel He115 floatplane of the Norwegian naval Air Services. When things went wrong, Willis followed his pilot Hans-Andreas Bugge and flew to the Shetland Islands to save the aircraft from German requisition. For w while the Norwegian He115s were used by SOU for covert missions from Malta. Willis followed his Norwegian friends to Canada. He returned the Britain and became a Spitfire pilot in one of the American Eagle squadrons and stayed until the Americans entered the war. Willis then joined the 4th Fighter Group. In April 1944 he participated in a P38 raid against Gutersloh airfield. After his aircraft was hit, he force-landed at Oud-Gastel in Holland behind a football pitch where a match was being played. Some of the supporters took him to the pitch, gave him a raincoat and a cap and when the Germans arrived, chasing all the supporters from the field, he too left in a hurry. After staying with a Dutch family, he wandered across the Dutch border until he reached Antwerp and was spotted by someone who was connected to the Comete Evasion and Escape line. After a long journey Willis and his four allied companions crossed the Pyrenees during the night before D-Day, thus becoming one of the last five airmen to evade capture. After D-Day all Allied aircrew were told to stay hidden until their allied friend has arrived. Interestingly all the aircraft Willis flew while with the RAF and USAAF were called Ridge Runner, which is the name for an alcohol smuggler. His fellow evaders were two Americans Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas H. Hubbard and 2nd Lieutenant Jack Cornett and Britons Pilot Officer Len Barnes and Sergeant Ron Emeny.

In the book Onderwater and Lissette also write about the sometimes dreadful experiences of the fellow crew members of Barnes and Emeny, after their two Lancasters crashed in France. In the course of the research Hans Onderwater followed the same evasion route, meeting the helpers who risked their lives, crossed the Pyrenees on foot with the Basque guide of 1944 until he too reached Gibraltar. He visited Stalag Luft 1 Barth on the Baltic coast and Stalag Luft 3 Sagan in Poland, Buchenwald near Weimar and Ravensbrück near Berlin. He visited the five airmen or their families and corresponded with other people who dealt with the evaders. During the last forty years he interviewed over 100 people who were in some major or minor way connected to the airmen and their experiences.

Brian Lissette, being a police officer in New Zealand, got in touch with Hans in 2017 and managed to find relatives of all airmen involved in the story of the two Lancaster bombers. Himself being a relative of the pilot of one of the Lancasters, he followed an amazing trail, which ended at the grave of his uncle Warrant Officer Leslie Lissette, who stayed behind the controls of his burning Lancaster until the living members of his crew had successfully jumped. When it was his turn, the aircraft was too low for him to be able to take to his parachute and Skipper Lissette died in the aircraft.

The book is a rare example of intense research by two determined men, who visited each other and became friends. The book is the result of mutual interest, friendship and a quest for the truth and an attempt to give credit to the airmen as well as to those who helped them. The book must be read to be able to understand the experiences of the often very young airmen, the resistance members who played a deadly game with the Germans and their collaborators, and the families waiting for many months to know the fate of their loved ones.
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Journey to the Horizon

Almost 40 years after the publication of the acclaimed Dutch version of the book, known Dutch historian and author Hans Onderwater MBE recently finished ‘JOURNEY TO THE HORIZON’, the epic story of Escape and Evasion during World War Two. This time he did more research, ably assisted by retired New Zealand police officer Brian Lissette, whose late uncle is one of the airmen mentioned in the book.

‘JOURNEY TO THE HORIZON’ tells the story of three fighter pilots and two Lancaster crews who were shot down by the Germans. It follows them on the run, hiding, in captivity and in some cases in death. They were Britons, Canadians, New Zealanders and Americans. Five of them met in Paris while being guided by members of the Comete Escape line, others evaded in different ways. Some endured the harsh life in a POW-camp, while in one case an airmen even ended up in Buchenwald concentration camp. Those who died now rest at various cemeteries in France.

Main character is Donald Kenyon Willis, an American pilot who fought with the Fins against the Russians in 1940, then joined the Norwegian Naval Air Arm against the Germans, escaped to the Shetlands, joined the RAF as one of the first Eagle Squadron pilots, until he joined the USAAF. After the war and a spell as a base commander in Austria and Germany he became a test pilot in JATO (Jet Assisted Take-Off) experiments from Wright-Patterson Air Base in Ohia.

He was one of the last five airmen to evade capture via de Pyrenees, the night before D-Day with American Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas H. Hubbard and 2nd Lieutenant Jack Cornett and Britons Pilot Officer Len Barnes and Sergeant Ron Emeny.

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