Chapter 7

The route we were taking seemed to be in good repair, indicating that the Allies were not concentrating on this rail system, because we did not stop once for repairs to the rails. We made quite good time and now that we could sit down, the journey was endurable. The only thing was, we had nothing to eat and we had left very early that morning. But, all in all, an empty stomach is worth freedom anytime. Very late that day, we went through a town called Montauban. It was a good-sized town and, after a short stop, we continued on south for about another 35 miles to Toulouse. This was a much larger town and proved to be the end of the journey. The two people ahead of us got off the train, and John and I followed. We were inside a huge station with about four tracks across for servicing various routes to and from the area. As we had been instructed, we stayed together in twos but this time we could see our conveyers. We all stood near the shops and along the wall of the station, keeping our eyes on the man and woman. They had taken up a position adjacent to the nearest tracks, upended their suitcases and sat on them. We had been advised, in our briefing, that someone would walk up to them and engage them in conversation. They then would give us the all clear signal, and then they would simply leave the station while we waited for the next act. We stood and they sat for hour after hour, but nothing happened. We, John and I, felt in our bones that we were in deep trouble. This feeling got worse when the man and woman got up and simply left with no signal to us. There were German soldiers all over the place, some on leave, I presume, as well as Gestapo men because they were everywhere all the time and watched everything. Again, we could not talk because of the fear of being overheard, so we communicated by eye contact and head nods. We moved inside a small coffee shop for a while to change our positions so as not to be quite so obvious. We could not stay there for long because no one could contact us under those circumstances, so we moved back into the station proper. John was great; even though he was hurting, he never let on that anything was wrong through the whole trip. Mind you, both of us were scared to death by the uncertainty of the situation.

The two of us stood there, watching and waiting, and finally a man came by, looked me right in the eye, and said in English, "Follow the man with the pipe." He said this quickly and moved on. John and I looked at one another with a question in our eyes. Was this a contact that could be trusted? Was this the Gestapo trying us on for size? Should we move out or stay put? Now, none of the other people had made a move nor had anyone contacted them, and we could not figure out why we had been spoken to but they were ignored. All of us around the station were keeping an eye on the others. We had to, we were all in this together, and what happened to one happened to all. We decided that moving and following the strange order the man had given us was much too risky so we waited some more. After about one half hour, the same man came by and again looked me in the eye and said the same thing but this time he was mad as hell and said it through clenched teeth as well as slightly louder. I looked at John, shrugged my shoulders and nodded my head in the direction of the exit tunnel. We had to do something, so let's go for broke. But believe me, I was scared to death.

We strolled toward the tunnel trying to be nonchalant so as not to attract attention. A glance over my shoulder told me that the others were now moving also. Was I condemning all of us to be captured once we left the station? As we arrived at the tunnel, there stood a man of average height, smoking the largest pipe I have ever seen. He was leaning against the wall with a casual air, but as we approached, he turned and walked ahead of us, through the tunnel and outside. We followed for about two blocks when he then stopped and allowed us to catch up to him. We stood there and he finally said, in English, "Are you people the shipment from Paris?" We told him that we were and asked him what about the other people with us. He said that they were being taken by twos by other men, and would be safe and that we would be together tomorrow if all went well. We asked why we had been left there so long, and he said that his people knew a shipment was coming through that week but the men who handled that had been captured the week before and were either dead or in prison. He said that they had been going to the station every day to meet the train from Paris but had no way to tell who was who or what was what. Today, he said, they had gone again and without much luck. They had seen the couple sitting at the tracks but it meant nothing to them so they were about to give up when one of their men indicated he wanted a meeting. They left the station and had a conference. The man said he had spotted a young man with American army shoes that had been dyed black and he felt it worth the risk to try and make contact. In fact, he was so sure he was right, he insisted they try. They were my shoes that I had bailed out with and had been wearing right along. We airmen had been advised in lectures regarding escape and evasion that shoes were the hardest item to get in Europe and that it would be wise to take ours with us and do as I had done. So, a pair of shoes, it turns out, moved us to the next part of our escape.

Previous Home Table of Contents Next