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John Clayton: China
The Great Escape
Of B-17 Pilot Lieutenant Wes Coss in WW 2
Wes Coss, a 37 year resident of Palos Verdes, California,
lived an adventure in occupied Europe so fantastic, it seems
like a make believe Hollywood movie. Except this one is true.

Words and Wes Coss Photo by John Clayton

Wes Coss and B17 bomber
Wes Coss stands in front of the Flying Fortress, "Aluminum Overcast," that recently came to Torrance Airport for a 4-day series of demonstration flights. "It was wonderful and yes, really magical, to fly again in this marvelous airplane called the B-17" said Wes.

Author's Note: Regular readers of my travel features in Traveling Boy know they are about unique and offbeat things to see and do around the world - hence the title "Travel With A Difference." This month's article takes a somewhat different journalistic direction. May is the month in which we celebrate our Armed Forces, and their service to our country, and June is always the anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, on June 6th, 1944. I recently came across an amazing story of a B-17 pilot who was shot down on his 21st mission over occupied Europe, and because it's a wonderful testament to the courage of our military, as well as to the French Resistance, I wanted to share this incredible story with you. Yes, it's a travel related story, but one that is "travel with a (distinct) difference" - as you'll see in the following words and pictures.

t's early morning and there's a slight edge to the air as Lieutenant Wes Coss and his 9 crew members walk towards Stardust, their B-17 bomber. During WW2 so many British and American bombers were shot down before they'd even flown a few missions, meant that Stardust was a real veteran with an incredible 84 missions over enemy territory to her credit. Flying out of their Italian base at Foggia, Lieutenant Coss was about to set off on his 21st mission. He and his crew were part of the USAAC (United States Army Air Corps) 99th Bomb Group - and they had another 29 missions to complete before rotation back to the USA. It was the 27th of January, 1944 and the target was a German airfield at Salon de Provence, France that was being used by the Germans as a base to reinforce their troops at the Allied beachhead in Anzio, Italy.

As a youngster growing up in Illinois, in a town with the unlikely name of Paw Paw, Wes Coss loved flying almost before he could walk and talk. When most kids wanted bicycles or baseball bats, Wes found great joy in things like sending off an advertisement he'd cut out of the local paper, for a Piper airplane. While they did not (!) send him an airplane, they did mail out a large color photo of one of their aircraft. Some of Wes' happiest days were spent working at the local airport - and so, when WW2 came along and America was not initially involved, Wes joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. It was only when the US joined the fray in December 1941 that Wes signed on with the USAAC, where he became a Flying Fortress, or B-17 pilot, and was - after training in the USA - sent to North Africa to begin the first of his mandatory 50 missions. When he was posted to Italy it was the beginning of an incredible adventure that, unless you knew it to be true, sounded more like some make believe Hollywood movie.

B17 bomber over Western Europe
This is a B-17 Flying Fortress, as it heads towards occupied Europe on a bombing mission. It is worth noting that it was more dangerous to fly in a B-17 or a B-24 Liberator bomber, than it was to be in the US Marines in WW2 - more US flight crew were killed, wounded or listed as missing, than all the combat deaths of US Marines in that conflict.

The squadron's intelligence officer told the airmen they could expect heavy German fighter plane attacks over the target area, and that Wes' group of bombers would be the first over the objective, with Stardust flying in the so called 10th position - often called "Tail End Charlie." With his crew all on board, Lt. Coss started the engines, and at 0745 the first aircraft of his group began to take off. Wheeling Stardust onto the runway, he pushed the throttles forward and the four giant 1200 horse power Wright Cyclone engines pulsated with power, as Stardust roared down the runway. Seconds later she rose majestically into the air to join the rest of the squadron.

At 12.23pm they were over the target, and the intelligence officer's remarks that there'd be heavy German fighter activity was, at that moment, almost an understatement as two Messerschmitt 109's came roaring in to attack Stardust at the 11.30 position. As they zoomed towards the B-17, they completed a half roll and were completely inverted as the navigator, Walter Amundsen, began firing his twin 50 caliber guns from the upper turret. "Moments after the 109s had disappeared, I saw immediately that my #2 engine (that's the one nearest to the fuselage on the left hand side of Stardust) had been hit, and I had to shut down this engine," said Wes.

German fighters knew it was a "damaged bird," and did all they could to finish it off. Seconds later two more 109s, thundering in at the same 11.30 position, began their attack." "It was" says Wes, "incredibly surreal to see, right in front of me, the red hot blasts from their guns as they roared towards us." He pauses a moment, and then in a reflective mood says, "I've often wondered since then, if it was the same two 109s on the 2nd attack." This time #1 engine was hit - not only did it catch fire but it was totally uncontrollable. Stardust - because of this damage - was now falling farther and farther behind the squadron.

a pair of ME 109 fighters
These are two German Me 109's - the type that caused so much damage to Lt. Coss' aircraft, Stardust. They were, along with the Focke Wulf 190 shown below, two of the main fighters in the Luftwaffe during World War 2

FW 190 fighter Source: US Government (National Museum of the US Air Force)

Despite this damage to two engines, Wes felt he could make it with the right hand ones to Corsica - but that thought was shattered when Stardust was attacked yet again. This time by a German fighter called the Focke Wulf 190 - known to its opponents as the "Butcher Bird." The 190 hit Stardust on the right hand side, at the 1 o'clock position, destroying the #3 engine. Now, with only one still working Lt. Coss had to give an order he hoped he'd never have to say. Stardust couldn't make the 220 miles to an airfield in Corsica, so he told the crew to bail out.

With his parachute hitched onto his harness, Wes jumped out of the forward hatch. "Even though I was sad to leave Stardust, I felt a sense of relief in being safely out of our old bird, but I was worried about what might happen next, as we'd heard stories of German pilots shooting at our crewmen as they drifted downwards - so I delayed opening my 'chute as long as I could." Thinking back to those terrifying moments, Wes says that from the time of the first attack to leaving Stardust, just 8 minutes had passed. When he landed on French soil it was 12.29pm.

Seconds before he hit the ground, Wes saw Stardust pass behind a nearby hill and explode --- and he knew the B-17 had ended her career. After getting out of his parachute (and burying it behind some rocks) he took note of his surroundings and prayed that he'd not spend the rest of the war as a POW, as he heard stories while in Italy with the 15th Air Force, that no one had been able to escape to freedom from France. When you've just been shot down over enemy territory, that's a pretty frightening thought - even more so if you are, like Wes, just celebrating your 20th birthday. He noticed a farm in the distance and decided to spend his first night in a nearby haystack. But life was already beginning to take a turn for the better - and capture by German troops seemed a distant nightmare. Wes made contact with some local French citizens who were with the Resistance. Wes was questioned by a woman who wanted to know a lot more things than just the normal rank, name and serial number. They had to be sure he was who he said he was, and not a plant by the Germans to infiltrate the Resistance. He was told the plan was to smuggle him into Spain and freedom. Space does not permit us to detail the numerous friends he made; the shopping trips they did; and even sightseeing German soldiers marching through the streets, but Wes' escape makes for a fascinating story on courage and the will to survive --- and the French Resistance' ability to outwit the Germans' - all of which is detailed in Wes' truly exciting book "Stardust Falling." However, several amazing encounters with the enemy must be mentioned.

Wes and model of a B17
At his Rancho Palos Verdes home, Wes relaxes by a model of one of his all time favorite aircraft - the B-17. "Even though I loved flying the DC-10 and B-747 with Continental Airlines," says Wes, "there was nothing to compare with the Flying Fortress in WW2."

On a beautiful Saturday, Wes was asked if he knew how to ride a bicycle, and he said of course. His French "Guide" told him it was important to follow him and always keep him in sight." After a brief ride they came to a steep hill, but when Wes got the top, the sight that met his eyes caused his heart to miss several beats, and an inner fear rise to the surface - for there, at the bottom of the hill, and completely blocking his onward passage, was a throng of German soldiers! It was probably the "courage of youth," and the feeling that anything was possible, that kept Wes pedaling away and heading straight towards the Germans. He was almost on top of them when, quite suddenly, they parted and let him through with the comment, in French "you crazy Frenchman!" His guide thought it was "very funny," but to Wes, it was one of the scariest moments so far, in his entire escape attempt.

While it was much like that scene from the movie "The Great Escape," where two British escapees board a bus, and the Gestapo agent standing by the door says as they board, "Have a nice trip" in English, and they say - without thinking - "Thank you," a moment which was the start of their eventual capture, Wes says that almost the same thing happened to him - but with much better results. "We had to take a train to Perpignan, and as we passed through the gate barrier to our train, the attendant said, in English, 'Thank you," when we showed him our tickets -- he then returned to speaking French to the next passenger. It made us worry that our cover had been blown." But, again incredibly, the luck that was following Wes held, and they boarded their train.

German soldiers entered their compartment and asked Wes for a light for their cigarettes - but he pretended to be asleep! Wes' French escort had told him they must get off the train before it reached the Perpignan station. They did, but fellow crew members further up the train did not and, when they got off, were arrested by the Gestapo! Yet again the amazing circle of luck that surrounded Wes, was still holding.

Finally they reached the mountainous Pyrenees on their way into Spain, but Wes began to wonder if he and crew member, Joe Kinnane (his left waist gunner) would be able to endure the cold and treacherous mountain paths, as they began their trek to freedom. Wes says at times they both wanted to give up, but they found comfort and encouragement by helping each other.

cover of Stardust Falling
Wes' adventures after being shot down on his 21st mission over Europe, are described in his book "Stardust Falling."

After numerous encounters with "officialdom," and meetings with people connected to bringing them back to England by way of Madrid and the British outpost of Gibraltar, both men arrived in Britain on March 19th, 1944. Seven weeks had passed since they'd been shot down, and soon after they reached London, Wes was asked by the USAAF to speak about his experiences to crewmen at US airbases around Britain - even though he was forbidden from talking about specific information. He did highlight one point again and again - "if you can survive the first 48 hours without being captured," he told his audiences, "chances are you'll get back home again."

Wes eventually made it back to the USA where, after the war ended, he joined Continental Airlines for a 37 year career as a pilot. Asked if he thought there was any benefit at-all (apart from the obvious ones!) of not being a POW, Wes smiles and says, "Yes, as a matter of fact there is. Not being cooped up in a prison camp for the rest of WW2, gave me the extra flight hours that enabled me to begin my career as a commercial pilot ten days after my 23rd birthday, than otherwise would have been possible." My meetings with Wes, and talking about his series of amazing adventures during his escape, confirmed one thing --- never one talk about his many amazing moments of near capture in France, and his ensuing adventures --- Captain Coss, whether as a Continental Airlines Captain, or the Lieutenant in command a great B-17 bomber called Stardust, I knew this to be a gentleman of the finest order - and a true American hero. Captain Coss, I salute you!!!

To order Captain Coss' 376 page book about his escape, please send $24.95 plus $5.99 S/H to: Stardust Falling, 584 Cielo Lane, Rio Rico, AZ 85648 --- Or phone (520) 377-2258 --- or --- VISA and MasterCard accepted

For "Ride With John Aboard Europe's Most Dazzling and Luxurious Train":

You and your trains and boats and planes, you always make me want to get off my more-than-ample behind and travel! Thank you again for yet another vicarious adventure.

Richard F., Saugerties, NY

Yes, Richard, THANK you for your kind words, so delighted you (with all YOUR worldly travels) enjoyed it. Travel journalism has given me the opportunity to be aboard and relish, some of the best and finest in train travel. The Orient Express was THE thrill, THE total enjoyment, of the best of the best. So good to hear from you.

From "Always training John."

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For "Harry Potter's 'Hogwarts Express'":

Loved the Hogwarts Express article.

Nancy – Hawaii

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For "Tantalizing Takeoffs, Trains, Trips and Tennis":

Dear John,

Lovely story as always, and your photos are superb. You do have a way with words.

Corinna – Washington DC

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That is indeed an interesting and enlightening article. I will remember how to get away from the airport and to London proper. Wimbledon looks spectacular; I suppose they're going to use some of it for the Olympics?

Mary J. Purcell – London

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John - excellent as usual and full of interesting details and anecdotes. Masterful writing!

Agnes Huff – London

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For "Exciting Adventures in London — By Way of San Diego":

Hello John,

I enjoyed reading your article on London by way of San Diego, it was a fun and informative read. You flew past Carlsbad on your way to San Diego. Have you visited Carlsbad lately? When you have a couple of days available I would like to invite you to visit Carlsbad. You can get to Carlsbad by train as well. I look forward to part 2 of the article.

Frankie Laney – Carlsbad, CA

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Thank you very much for your story to me and Old Town Trolley Tours. I am happy you had a nice tour and that we were referred to you! I enjoyed reading your story and can't wait until I forward this email to my Manager and the General Manager tomorrow,

Yoli – San Diego, CA

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That is wonderful! I really enjoyed Part one of five....awesome writing skills you have!! A true gift!!

Best regards,

Agnes Huff, PhD – Los Angeles, CA

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Great stuff, thanks for sending this through and the other emails – great read…

Val Austin, Senior Visit Britain International Press Visits officer, London, UK

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As a subscriber to Traveling Boy, I love reading your stories John. I send them through to my Mum as she appreciates them too!

Lisa, Australia

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For "Must See Attraction" in Northern Spain:

Hi John! Loved your article and Castro de Santa Tegra is added to my "want to see" list. Would love to visit Portugal and Spain and this added to the desire.You are a marvelous source of information and I'm sure Travel Boy will appreciate your experience and information. I look forward to reading more of your articles.

Nel Stingley, Hermosa Beach

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Mr. Clayton,

Thank you for your intriguing article on Castro de Santa Tegra. Quite literally, I have never even heard of the place, but it it is now officially on my 'bucker list.'

Brock Alston, Boulder, CO

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I saw that! That was so cool! I wasn't expecting it, so when I started reading it I was thinking, "Wow, another person wrote something similar to what I was saying to John!" Hahahaha! I didn't recognize it at first. :) That was really nice - thank you for answering me regarding the UK. I'm going to buy a travel book and check out the places you were talking about. Your experience about Normandy got me appreciating visiting battle "destinations," if you will, so I'd like to check out a couple of those that you mentioned.

Always a pleasure,

Cristina Lovett
Museum Educator, The Banning Museum

My dear Cristina,

If you go to the current Traveling Boy website, and click on my current story about crazy signs around the world, at the end of the piece you’ll see your question and my answer/suggestions about your travels.


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John, your ardent love of travel and discovery, seem to be the grist for your excellent writing skills.

Having just returned from a visit to France, to visit old friends, and enjoy that lovely country, it is not hard to comprehend how travel truly spawns, witin all of us, inspiration out the "gazoo."

Terry Hare

My dear Terry,

Thank you so much for your wonderful and very, very encouraging words. They made my day - hey, it made my month!!!



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(The letter below was sent in response by a reader to the article A Most Unusual Tourist Attraction)

Did you ever serve in the army? Were you in a combat zone? This affinity/hobby of war for the sake of the competitive and challenge is beyond me. I served 3 years (mandatory) in the Israeli army and was only involved in it while I had to be there (even that seems like too much). This article is inspiring to me because of the answer of the cemetery official and the figures of dead on both sides. I can not understand saluting to a person who did his best to kill as many people as possible. If you live out of fear or brainwash you will never stop killing and harming. Does that deserve a salutation or pity?

On Behalf Of Etan, USA

Etan, Greetings:

Many thanks for your thoughtful email with regard to my Traveling Boy story about my visit to the German cemetery in Normandy. To answer your first question, yes I did serve in the Army although NOT in combat. I‘ve been in this great country, the USA, for 48 years and was born in London, so when I was 18 I had to spend time in the Army doing (what was then called) National Service. I was in North Africa and Malta. Although I wished I’d been in combat, I never was. As a travel journalist I was, obviously, very happy that you found what I wrote inspiring, based on the comments of the French manager of the cemetery, and of the tragedy of how many young lives were lost on all sides due to that dreadful conflict.

He, the old, guy, was a fascinating individual, and I really enjoyed chatting to him. I’ve always had a (and let’s call it what it is) fascination with war, and the military, and have watched (almost!) every show on the Military channel, the History Channel and the Discovery Channel, countless times. I’ve also been to many WW2 sites around the world. Yes, I agree with your view that war is terrible, but what if we – the Allies - had not done anything about Hitler? Could we, or should we have allowed him to run amok around Europe and the rest of the world? I think not.

As terrible as war is, it seems human beings cannot find another way to settle certain problems – although I’m hugely encouraged by the approach of the EU and how so many people now realize that fighting is NOT the answer. So I live in hope war might be a thing of the past, but I doubt it.

My saluting M. Wittman’s grave. As I stood there I was, to be totally honest, in awe of the fact that I was standing above the grave of this incredible Nazi tank Ace who was the top, or among the top scoring tank commanders in the Panzers. I saluted not who he was, nor – certainly – what he stood for – but for his talents as a tank tactician. Most British and American historians of that war, and who are really interested in such things, will confirm to you that whatever else one might think about Wittman, he was a brilliant tank commander. That, and only that, was what I was recognizing.

For 16 successful years – 1992 to 2007 – I was on three top LA radio stations (KABC, KKGO/KMZT and the KNX) with my show “John Clayton’s Travel with A Difference” and I always enjoyed hearing from my listeners - even though at times what they sent me might not have been what I was expecting. In other words, I found it fascinating to hear both the upbeat, offbeat and down beat. When I wrote what did I knew that it would generate some responses like yours. While I do not (NOT!!) advocate TBoy's writers' doing stories that are provocative, the fact remains that human beings (whether they admit it or not) like controversy - witness Glenn Beck, O'Reilly etc and of course R. Limbaugh. What I am saying is that if you, as the writer, feel strongly about something, you MUST put those thoughts down in your story. While I abhor all things that guys like Wittman did as a Nazi, the fact is he was a brilliant tactician.

I must share with you yet again how delighted I was – and still am – by your words, and I’m so glad you wrote and said what you did, and that you took the time to share your feelings. I do hope you can – at the very least – accept my thoughts and ideas that I’ve laid out in this email on this very sensitive subject. Perhaps even more so, for someone from Israel.

With best regards,.


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John, Your refection on how young those can be who die in war reminded me of the A.E. Houseman poem at the entrance to the Fighter Command museum in London (beside the photo and engine of the RAF fighter pilot who died in the Battle of Britain): "Here dead lie we because we did not choose to live and shame the land from which we sprung. Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose; But young men think it is, and we were young."

Eric, San Diego, CA

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Ringo and Deb can have their Oasis - this to me smacks of heavenly travel - thanks for the article and photos.

Brenda - Richland, WA

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Hi John,

I have read a few articles about R for Robert, but yours by far is the best. My grandfather was co-pilot John Slatter (my Dad's dad). It is so neat to hear about ancestry. There is actually a book published called R for Robert. Another interesting detail.... I live in NH, and in 1985 a lawyer with many interests from Concord,NH and a sonar exploration company from Salem, NH were the ones who started the project to pull the Wellington out of the Loch. I am always trying to find information about that side of our family, and love to read articles such as yours. Thanks for the piece.....

Cyndi - Raymond, NH

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Greetings my dear Cyndi

I was born in Kensington in London, and although I've been in this great place called the USA for 48 amazing years, if it is still true that Brits ARE noted for understatement, let me tell you that your email not only made my day, but gave me a huge, huge thrill.

I am a WW2 aficionado, and had one of the biggest "thrill sensations" of my life, when the French government invited me to the 60th Anniversary of D-Day on June 6th, 2004. In fact, I sat 50 feet from world leaders like Bush, Putin, and Queen Elizabeth. When I went to Loch Ness and heard (and saw!) that a wonderful Wellington had crashed there, and that it also pin pointed WHERE it had happened, I was in nirvana. I stood on the side of the road and, as I gazed out at the cold and forbidding waters that day, I was instantly transported back to the time and day when it happened - and in my imagination I saw and heard it all. So to get your amazing and (to me) riveting letter, was and is totally amazing - and wonderful.


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Hello John,

Ed Boitano (who I met on a Star Clipper cruise in the Mediterranean last July) has sent me a link to your above article on the 'Little Steam Trains of North Wales' which I read with interest. One of the photo captions mentions a sign above the train in Welsh, which says: FFORD ALLAN GOFYNN'R DEITHWYR DDEFNYDDIO'R BONT I GROESI'R LEIN. Rougly translated it is a Notice to travellers to use the bridge to cross the line. In Welsh bont is a bridge or archway, Groesi is a crossing, Lein a line, (in this case a rail line or alternative it could mean a line-out (as in Rugby football - but that's another game!) Although born in Wales as Ed may tell you my Welsh is very limited, but trust this answers your question and it amuses! Kind regards,

John Dann - Hove, East Sussex, England

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How wonderful to know that people in Hove (for heavens sakes!) are reading Traveling Boy. I remember -- with much fondness --- visiting Hove during my early years in the UK - charming and very British, so I hope it is still that way and that it has NOT been over run with neon signs and crass commercialism.

Thanks too for your comment about the Welsh wording on the bridge. There were so many wonderful things that intrigued me about Wales, and one of them was - and is! - the language. I mean you'd see this long series of words in Welsh, and then underneath it would give the British translation, and it'd very often be only one or two words. I attach a photo I took of a road sign to illustrate my point. In any event, thanks for your kind words and interesting feedback. MOST appreciated.


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Dear John,

Your website is fantastic. I am building a Messerschmitt BF109E Model in Balsa Wood and I have a problem in finding the numbers of its original colour (BF 109E-3 with a Donald Duck painted at rear of Romania.)I've been looking around and tried to see through the internet but can't find any help. Please if you have this information and can help me, I would appreciate it very much and I thank you in advance I send you my best regards,

Philip Vella - St. Julians, Malta

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Hi Philip,

Very nice to get your email and I'm so glad you like what you've seen and read on Traveling boy. Sadly, I do not have the answer to your question either. I do, however, have one suggestion and idea.

Among all my aviation books form that period, I have one called "Aircraft of World War 2." It is published by Chartwell Books, 114 Northfield Avenue, Edison, New Jersey 08837, USA. The editorial and design was done by Amber Books at Bradley Close, 74-77 White Lion Street, London N1 9PF, England. Their website is

As the above book is jam packed with fascinating facts about all the aircraft from WW2, I feel that if you write to both of them with your question, they might be able to help you. The book is written by Robert Jackson and he seems to be a mountain of information. Google his name and see what comes up.


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Hello John, I don't know if you remember me or not but my name is Cliff Pleggenkuhle, Jr. I flew for Cal from 1964 to 2003. I got the article you did on Wes Coss from the Cal Chief Pilots office. The communications people forwarded the article to them. Anyway, I sent the article to the Golden Contrails editor and he is going to include the article in our next edition. The contrails is the publication of our retired group the Golden Eagles.

I have read the book and it was great. It would make a good movie. I also sent your article to my old banker, who is a airplane and WWII nut and I think he is sending you an article about the underground in WWII. He writes articles of interest in a weekly local paper in Liberty County, TX.

I will quit rambling and just wanted to let you know your fine article on Wes will be appreciated by many.


Cliff Pleggenkuhle, Jr., Huffman, TX

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Sir...A good friend, a captain with Continental Airlines, Cliff Pleggenkuhle sent me your website. Indeed, your story about the great escape (albeit brief) was one that should be shared. Chuck Yeager also made his way to Spain and his story was somewhat similar. But it takes a real writer to set the plan in motion (and I really mean...motion) as you have done.

I'm taking the liberty to send you a copy of my newspaper column about another hero that I have known. Ironically, your mention of the escape of Wes being true can set aside the Great Escape of Stalag whatever. The untrue part that it was led by an American pilot when actually it was a Dutch pilot named Bob Vanderstock and others. When I went to Belgium with my friend Pieter Cramerus, a Dutch ace who flew Spitfires during WWII for the RAF, he told me about his friend Vanderstock's escape. Then, he introduced to me this fantastic former agent of the Belgium Underground who married his cousin. The rest is in the article. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks again for your expertise in writing the word.

Bob Jamison, Dayton, TX

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You're getting some serious journalism on your site! Literary indeed. Award-winning potential, and I'm not just talking about YOUR stuff!!

Terry Cassel

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Of all the stories I've written in my lifetime, I cannot think of any one that gave me as much pleasure and joy, in writing the piece about Wes. It required all my best "creative juices," and also - truly thrilling for me - gave me a marvelous opportunity to put words together about battle, about flying and about military history. Knowing how important editing is to any story, and to a reader's enjoyment of same (in other words it has to flow freely and be very concise) I wrote the article in one sitting, and then re-wrote it six times.

I have no idea who this Terry Cassel is, but I cannot tell you how thrilled and how, yes overwhelmed I am, by his brief (editing again proving that less is more) comments about my story. Thank you Ed for giving me this opportunity to put THIS story on the amazing Traveling Boy website. And Wes, thank you for allowing me to chat with you and glean from you (and then your book!) all the fascinating stuff that came together as my article.

Thanks must also go to my wife and my two daughters who have always believed in me, and who (as Father's Day has just passed) gave me the most wonderful and heart wrenching Father's Day cards imaginable. I have always told them that anything is achievable and possible, and that one should NEVER give up. Keep on knocking on doors and even if 20 are closed in your face, if you find yourself knocking on the 21st one, that'll very probably will be THE one that opens up for you - and demonstrates that your determination to never take NO as any sort of answer is a key part of success.

Finally, all of this has only been made reality, by my living and working in this place called the United States of America. Thank you all for everything.


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Thanks so much for sharing this great story - I am going to copy it to VB who runs the Travel Journalism awards.

Fiona Stewart, Edinburgh

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Nice piece. I adore Scotland, wish I could live there someday...

Chris, Pawling, NY

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I enjoyed reading your piece on France; it was very informative. Unfortunately, I've spent very little time in France; it's more to the favor of my oldest brother. But your words painted a good picture.

Danny Simon

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Hi John, I am a friend of your daughter Heidi and she sent me your link so I could read your articles. I have heard so many things about you from her but reading your article I can see why she is so proud to call you her Dad. Your writing transported me to Chewton Glen, I hope to one day be lucky enough to stay there!

Frances Crymble, Auckland, NZ

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You describe a city on wheels - er, wings - and an absolutely perfect way to travel. SHOWERS & FLOWERS! Amazing! I love that your passion for all-things-aviation comes through in this story about an almost unbelievable airplane. Thanks for breaking the news in such an engaging way!

Richard Frisbie, Saugerties, New York

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Good article on the biggest commercial airplane in the world. Very interesting. Love your easy personal writing style. Can't wait to get inside one of these sky monsters. I wonder how they will ever recoup their expenses. But then again, with the Arab nations overflowing with cash I shed no tear of sympathy. If anyone has to beta test these babies, it should be them.

Peter Paul, South Pasadena

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Dear John Clayton:

Thank you very much for your enthusiastic report on the Zeppelin Museum. I am very pleased you like it as we -- the people working there -- do. We try to collect everything on Zeppelins and to make it available to visitors. Only the number of visitors I would like to correct: since the opening in 1996 we hosted more than 3,600,000 people. So we are among the most visited museums in Germany.Thank you very much again -- and kindest regards,

Ursula ZellerDirector

Hi John,

I know the places you describe in your aticle, and I usually feel exactly the same as you did, when I wander in the countryside - I live in this region. How could this places, so peaceful today, be such a hell for some men? But if you're attentive to many details in the ground and the scenary, finding shell shrapnels and tumb stones for example, then you begin to understand

Thank you John.

Florence L.
City: France


It's as if I was there with you. I grew up with Sgt York comic books. To see the real place where a real person so heroically saved the day is something I never expected to experience. Thanks for the historical detail and great photos.

Richard Frisbie
City: Saugerties


As a history and Churchill buff, I found your article to be chilling. I hope someday to make it to the museum. Is the CWR at all part of the Imperial War Museum? I don't know how I missed it in my only trip to London back in 2000.

Thanks again,

Gary Avrech
City: Santa Monica

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Hey Gary....

Yes it is. If you go online and click on the IWM website, you'll find out even more information about this intriguing museum. Thanks for your times and words.



Very excited to see your appearance in the Boitano Blog. I don't know who the hell all those Boitanos are, but I know who John Clayton is! Hey, I wrote a note on your column on the Cabinet War Rooms. I'll be a regular reader. I certainly hope all are well and happy on the Peninsula and that all your travels are still terrific.

Ed P


I urge anyone traveling to London to put the Cabinet War Rooms high on their "must see" list. All who've taken my advice have thanked me, just like I thanked you, and do so again, for recommending the museum to me years ago. But then, it's just one of many suggestions of yours, every one brilliant!

Port St. Lucie, FL

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