Captain Ed Clark and Lieutenant George Haas
This is the story of a spectacular and daring escape from Occupied Jersey.
Two members of the 6th Armoured Division, Captain Edward R Clark Assistant Division Engineer and 1st Lt. George C Haas, an aerial observer with the 231st Armoured Field Artillery Battalion. Both were captured on the 2nd of August 1944, in the Dinan area of Brittany and taken to St Malo by the Germans. They were brought by boat to Jersey. Haas, from Mt Kisco, New Your, was captured in the vicinity of Dol near Dinnan when the cub plane piloted by 1st Lt. John Townley, was shot down by 20mm Flak. Townley was hurt so badly by a fragment and the crash that he died an hour later in a German ambulance. Haas was hit by flak and in crashing he's left leg was broken just above the ankle. When German Ground troops came on the scene firing, one round struck Haas just an inch above his first wound, causing another break. Following treatment on his leg the Lieutenant was taken to a hospital in St Malo, then Still in German hands. Haas and other American prisoners were placed on trucks the next day, enroute to Brest, but when Germans could not reach that point because of advancing American forces, they returned to St Malo. Taken to Jersey on August the 4th Has was placed aboard a German minesweeper and taken to Jersey, being placed in the care of the Military Hospital. Clark, whose home was in San Benito Texas, was in the Dinnan area on August the 2nd in search of a water point for the division. He and his driver were surrounded by Germans firing small arms and throwing hand grenades forcing them to surrender. Unhurt the two were taken to St Malo and then to Jersey by boat.
1st Attempt of Escape
After Haas was released from the hospital, he and Clark attempted to escape by digging a tunnel from the latrine in the Officers Quarters under the fence and to freedom. Tell tale marks of tunnelling mud was discovered on Haas as the tunnel was almost completed, caused him to be placed in solitary confinement for ten days.
Not so Solitary Confinement
Haas was moved to Newgate Prison for 10 days solitary confinement only to discover he could easily talk to the other inmates. All of whom were locals that had been held for resistance activities. These loyal Jersey residents give Haas detailed plans of the island, as well as a list of loyal friends that would help them if they got out. All this was memorised by Haas.
The Prison Escape
A simplified plan was put in to place and on the 8th of January Clark and Haas escaped through a window in the officers quarters they had broken with great care and over the barbwire fence via a ladder they had improvised with Haas's two crutches, wire and a bent poker.
On The Run
They dug a cave a half mile from the home of an resident, who had been recommended to Haas in solitary. Here they lived for three days, while it rained and snowed they received food at a prearranged point. Though offered shelter indoors the pair declined, due to the risk faced by the brave locals if they were caught. The Germans had already threatened death to anyone aiding them.
Brave Local Heroes
With the aid of a new friend, Deputy Wilfred (Bill) Bertram, they listened to nightly BBC news broadcasts and he offered them an abandoned house to shelter, where for three days and nights they plotted the final part of the escape. In the dark of night, the American officers followed the costal path to Gorey, they encounter a large bungalow blocking the walk and slip down from the seawall to the beach and wadded to a rowboat. When they ascertained the weather was too rough, they hid in a cabin of a beached German converted trawler until conditions improved. Observing the harbour they soon realised the bungalow was a camouflaged bunker! and the harbour was a busy strongpoint of German activity. They keep there heads down and wait for a break in the weather.
The Final Escape
On the 19th of January 1945 they took the row boat, and floated out the harbour dodging the ever present German combat patrols. When they reached the channel, however, the wind climbed to an estimated 60 miles an hour, and waves mounted 30 to 40 feet in height. This was some luck as all the German Naval craft where not out. The Oars for the 12 foot boat didn't do a great deal of good in that type of sea, but with Captain Clark's skilful navigating and Lt Haas energetic bailing with a pump, they kept a float. Snowfall cut visibility to zero. Sighting land at daybreak, they paddled for three more hours until they came ashore, after 14 hours afloat, at a point near Coutance. Just before striking land they were fired on by a cavalry patrol, causing them some uncertainty as to what coast they were landing on. When they saw that it was Americans, they were greatly relived and safely back on their own lines again.