Home > Tasting Notes and Wine Reviews > Escape and Evasion: Wine was often the first drink for downed American pilots in WWII

Escape and Evasion: Wine was often the first drink for downed American pilots in WWII


Boeing B-17E. (U.S. Air Force photo) Image from Wikipedia.

Boeing B-17E. (U.S. Air Force photo) Image from Wikipedia.

When the National Archives digitized nearly 3,000 Escape and Evasion reports from World War II, archivists noticed that first beverage downed pilots typically drank was wine.  With my curiosity peaked I randomly selected the report of John L. Dunbar, 2d Lt, Bombardier in the 351 Bomb Squadron, 100 Bomb Group.  On July 4, 1943, his squadron departed Thorpe Abbotts, England to bomb La Pallice, a German U-Boat bunker in La Rochelle, France.  His B-17 Flying Fortress lost oil pressure during the flight out forcing all of the crew members to parachute out of the bomber.  Indeed, after landing in a field a Frenchman applied first aid then gave him a drink of wine.  John L. Dunbar, 2d Lt., eventually walked 300 miles over three weeks until he was repatriated from Spain.

A breeze was carrying me toward a road so I dumped the chute and dropped into a cornfield.  A frenchman with two companions was standing about 50 feet away waving his arms.  In one hand he carried a bottle of wine.

After getting out of my chute I dragged it over to the Frenchman.  He put a tourniquet on my arm and bandages my wrist, using the first-aid kit which was strapped to my belt.  I gave him the chute.

After drinking some of the wine I ran northeast through a wooded section.  Eventually I crawled into a thick bramble patch and remained there for three days.  During that time I could hear the Germans looking for me. [1]


[1] E & E Report No. 90. Evasion in France. John L. Dunbar, 2d Lt, 0-730774. 21 September 1943.  The National Archives. URL: http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-90.pdf

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