National Geographic : 1994 Mar
was drawing the story from his long-locked memory. First, what happened to Johnny Ste vens, the pilot who named his plane for his hometown. Unseen by Quilla, Johnny leaped out seconds before the explosion. When the tail broke off, Hank the tail gunner had been left dangling from his seat belt. He crawled into what was left of the plane and found the wounded waist gunner lying in a puddle of icy blood. Hank gave the waist gunner a shot of morphine and told him, "Now, when you get far enough out, you just pull the rip cord." Hank rolled him out the hole in the fuselage and followed, along with the radioman. Every chute opened. Every man survived. Youngsters in the Dutch underground found and hid Quilla, Stevens, the bombardier, the tail gunner, and the wounded waist gunner. German patrols tracked down the other crew men and took them prisoner. Quilla became what was officially called an evadee. One long night he and another air man lay in the loft of a Dutch farmhouse; with them was 20-year-old Kobus Woering and his sister's husband. Below, German soldiers, searching for the airmen, beat up and carried off Kobus's mother, his sister and her baby; they took away his father to kill him. Later in the night Kobus slipped downstairs, overpow ered a Nazi sympathizer left to guard the house, and led the airmen to their next refuge. On the run for more than a month, they then hid for 91 days in a shed ("No bath, no soap, no change of clothes"). Moved to another refuge, they hid for several weeks more before seeking out Canadian troops, who were lib erating the area in April 1945. Someone in the Dutch underground, writing of Quilla's exploits, called him boyish, and he still has that quality. Speaking softly, in an Alabama drawl, he somehow manages to make heroism sound ordinary. Another 91st veteran, Chasten Bowen, also had an evadee's story to tell. Chat bailed out of Take It Easy on July 8, 1944. Members of the French underground found him, put a beret on him, and eventually slipped him into a house THOMAS B. ALLEN, who often covers military sub jects, wrote "Pearl Harbor" for the December 1991 GEOGRAPHIC. He is writing a book with Norman Polmar about the planned 1945 invasion of Japan, Codename Downfall, to be published in 1995. Pho tographer IRA BLOCK's most recent assignment for the magazine was "Pueblo: Search for the Ancient Ones," in October 1991.