Oroville Mercury Register
By Naomi Cazier
Meeker Tells How French Saved Him; His Plane
(Continued from last week)
His Bombardier Appears
“The first comrade
the underground brought over had been injured. His face was
covered in bandages so I didn’t know at first that it was Lt. Blaine
Barritt of Hutchinson Kan., bombardier of my own crew. Later,
we met the other comrade. He was Staff Sgt. John Borowski
of Chicago, our right waist gunner. That was a reunion we’ll
never forget. “Aided all the way by the French patriots, we
three began to make our way back toward our lines The underground
set us along from house to house. Everywhere we stayed were
treated royally. The food they gave us was wonderful.
Everything was cooked in butter. The French peasants didn’t
have butter or much of anything but they managed to get it for us.
“Everything Was For Us”
“ We would sit down to a table spread with a beautiful dinner.
Our hosts would keep insisting that we eat more and more.
They themselves took little. Everything was for us.
They were rationed to two packs of cigarettes a month. All
the neighbors pooled their cigarettes and gave them to us.
During the first month of our slow journey back we didn’t have a
bath or a change of clothes. We never brushed our teeth all
the time we were gone. We did manage to keep shaved most of
the time. The second month we knew our spearhead troops were
close and we waited. I was quartered in the home of an elderly
couple. The first thing the woman did when she saw me was haul out
hot water and soap. She was a motherly woman. She brought
me clean clothes that belonged to her husband.
Germans Pass By
a couple of close calls. Once we were walking along a road
when a truck load of Germans came by. We were dressed partly
in civilian clothes. We had French coats, shirts and berets.
We turned our backs to the road and stood still. We didn’t
dare run for fear of arousing suspicion. They passed us by
without stopping. “Another time we were hiding in a house
when some German fliers our troops had shot down stopped outside
the window. For some reason they did not come in. One
day we saw a French girl coming along the road. In one hand
she had a package of Camels. We knew then that our troops
were close by. We walked and finally they got up to us.
They were an infantry outfit. The men sure seemed glad to
see us and we were pretty happy too. We stayed with them a
couple of days before we were sent to
for interrogation and wait for our orders back to the states.
The French people gathered around when it came time for us to leave
them. They did not want us to go. They cried and we
darn near broke down ourselves. It was almost like leaving
home. They asked us to come back. After the war they
want us to fly over and drop them a bouquet of flowers with a bottle
of whiskey tied to the blossoms. We hope we can do it. Turner
made it back to the lines too but he had a pretty rough time.
He never got in with the underground.
French Cry At Parting
“Barritt and I are going to rest at Santa Monica. (This as of
September, 1944) Turner and Borowski are slated for Miami, Fla.
We don’t have to go back into combat duty because, in Army language,
“We’ve had it.” We may want to volunteer later for more overseas
duty.” Meeker said one of the most important
factors in a successful escape from the enemy was the will to live.
During his hazardous journey he carried with him a pocket Bible
given him by his mother. The Bible and his leather flying
jacket were his most cherished possessions. They were the
two things he wouldn’t fly without. His leather jacket remains
in France, a gift from him to one of the
loyal French underground boys. The Bible remains with Meeker.
Stu’s Notes: Three of my friends,
John and Randy Fowler and Ray Wheeler knew of Sgt. Harry Meeker’s
mother, Mrs. Ina Meeker. Seems she took in young Ray
when he was 8 years old and that she also raised Harry Meeker’s
4 children. Harry’s sister Pauline and husband Pete Karagris
owned the Karagris store downtown on
Meyers St. We will continue Sgt.
Wilton Wixom’s story next week. Daryl and I will try to contact
that little French Town
and see if anyone remembers the Soldiers that they helped.
I want to thank all who participated in
the Corn Beef and Cabbage Dinner put on by the Native Sons of the
Golden West. The South Side Center was full it was wonderful
to see the Community Come out in Support of the Oroville Veterans
Memorial Park Honoring all of Butte County.