Origins & Establishment

Following the fall of mainland Europe during WWII, hostile Allied actions against land-based Axis forces were generally limited to air attacks. However, as the number of those attacks increased, the number of aircraft and crews failing to return grew alarmingly: something needed to be done to provide these crews with aids to enable them to evade to safe territory or escape captivity, or losses of irreplaceable aircrew would become critical.

Britain’s MI9 and U.S. MIS-X military intelligence organisations were formed solely to support evaders and prisoners of war in occupied territories. They developed a wide variety of evasion and escape devices that were given to Allied Forces prior to operations in hostile territories or delivered clandestinely to POWs. It worked: the aids facilitated the return of thousands of men to their squadrons and units.

An American cartoon depicting the huge protective armament of the B-17 Flying Fortress. While the aircraft were certainly well armed, they proved still to be vulnerable to the heavy flak and swarms of Luftwaffe fighters tenaciously defending the airspace over the Third Reich, committing thousands of American aircrew to the prisoner of war camps within occupied Europe. Courtesy Royal Air Force Museum