World War II Pilot Escapes

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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