Zef Dassen and his bomber boots


The story of Zef Dassen and his bomber boots starts on the Rimburgerweg. That is the road near the crash site of the tail part. There - as his story goes - he meets a pilot and together they take the field road that ends on the Groenstraat where Zef lives.

Aerial view from Oswalds Ortmanns PowerPoint-presentation.
Eygelshoven - near boating lake pond (trapezium shape) north of coal mine Julia
Thanks to ‘Eygelshoven door de eeuwen heen’. Bottom left the hamlet ‘De Hoven’                               


The story of Zef Dassen - and the possible origin of the bomber boots of his father Frans-Joseph
In the published family chronicle of the Dassen family from Landgraaf there is a story that might have connections with the crashes on October 14 1943.

That day Zef Dassen - a coal trader because Eygelshoven than had 2 coal mines - went home with a horse cart filled with sacks of coal along the road that passes by the place where the tail part fell down.

There - the story tells - he met a US bomber crew member who asked for help.

Zef put him under some empty coal sacks, made his face black with coal dust and took him home. There he gave him food and clothes, hid him for some days in the beet cellar and later handed him over to the resistance via a local priest Father Charles Frehen; a known resistance leader.

Was it Breeden or maybe ball turret gunner Ken Maynard - one of the 3 evaders of the Floverich crash (B-17 of Lang/43-37750/MACR 779)?
But there is no name mentioned and no story line about the origin of the big bomber boots Sjeng his grandfather wore for many winters after the war.
Opa Dassen used the boots as overshoes in winter.

Above the photo of Zef‘s father Frans Joseph Dassen in these boots in 1949 when Gus Vek went to Indonesia. Below the whole story - translated by Wim Slangen and Sue Moyer.

In autumn 2017 there was a new comic book (stripboek) published with local stories called ‘Grenzenloos’ (Borderless). In that book it was said that the bomber boots were from McDarby; not Breeden. See the bottom paragraph.


From a family chronicle called ‘Frans Joseph Dassen 27-09-1878 29-08-1974: mijnwerker en boer uit het bewogen leven van een Groenstrater een autobiografische verkenning’.

Wim Slangen got this story from Sjeng Dassen (+2017).

Grandpa Frans Joseph Dassen used to wear bomber boots in winters after the war. Up till the fifties many people saw grandpa wearing them on his way to church. Where were they from? A probable story starts in 1943…

1943 - Germany has started losing the war - They are stopped at Stalingrad in Russia and defeated in Northern Africa. In The Netherlands tension is mounting after 3 years of occupation. When will this all end?

In April all Dutch ex-POW had to report to the Germans to go working in Germany in the Arbeidseinsatz for the German lose work force day by day due to enlistment and air bombardments. The other objective is to reduce the number of Dutch people available for resistance activities.

In the beginning of May coal miners in Limburg strike because of these measures. The Germans quickly crush it ruthlessly with several random executions.

Thursday October 14 - Zef Dassen is riding home with his horse cart heavy loaded with sacks of coal he picked up at the coal mine Laura – one of the two coal mines in Eygelshoven. Instead of taking the shortest road home at the Groenstraat 23, he rides in the direction of Rimburg – longer but less steep for his horse: horses are precious in war time. Or maybe he wants to avoid all the fuss at home because of the upcoming marriage of his youngest sister Mientje with Bernhard on the 16th – preparing the right clothing, the baking of bread, cakes and pies and what to cook for the family and guests? At least this way he also can have a quick cup of coffee at the house of family Vossen - his mother in law.

Above Zef, beyond the clouds, he hears the humming of the airplanes going east to bombard Germany. Suddenly he hears another sound – the engines of German fighters. Is that the sound of machine guns rattling?

Suddenly he sees a big plane coming through the clouds, out of control, on fire and with one wing hanging down. Zef also sees some parachutes (he sadly mentioned no number) and the plane breaking into two parts. The tail part smacks down in the meadows between the road Zef is on and the river Worm. The nose part crashes near the houses of Finkenrath. ‘Help, that is where the parents of his brother in law Herman live.’ A big explosion in Finkenrath and then… silence.

Zef heads into the meadows where some 10 meters from him a man lands with his parachute. Of his question ‘Please help me’ Zef understands the word ‘help’. But they have to be quick before the Germans and the Police arrive. Maybe the big fire in Finkenrath diverts the attention from them and this part of the plane.

The man jumps in Zef's cart, lies down in the front and makes his face black with coal dust. Zef gets on the buck and urges his horse to go on and they take a short cut – a field road. They ride on in silence - Zef does not speak English, the pilot no Dutch. Before they come to the main road again Zef puts some empty coals sacks on the man. So that he is invisible from above. ‘No coffee at the Vossen family’. Luckily their entrance gate is closed – so also no quick talks.

While riding and getting closer to home and familiar people his heart starts throbbing in his throat. Zef hopes his father is at home. ‘Where will we hide him, what about the wedding?’

At home he parks his cart out of sight behind their barn, gestures the man to stay there and lie still and goes in to find his father. His mom sees that something is wrong and Zef urges his father out and tells him his story.

After dark they put the pilot in their beets cellar and hide the entrance with beets as well. The pilot says that he is an American, but Zef nor his father understand the rest he says – like maybe his name.
Sjeng Dassen in 2016 told me that he got a dynamo torch and could walk in the night in the back of their house in a meadow that then streched up to the Maastrichterstraat.

They talk about what to do next. Mother Antje is clear on that: ‘Soap, washtub and other clothes’. Others in the family sense the mood of their parents and Zef – they are old enough - and are informed that Zef has brought an American home that landed near the Worm.

June 2016 – Groenstraat 95 (in 1943 #23)

Entrance to the beet cellar (straight ahead) and hiding place on the right side.

The hiding place - right and left side of the hiding place (divided by a wall/column).


Zef is sent of to contact Father Charles Joseph Frehen who lives in the (then) Marktstraat in Waubach. He is a Montfortaan (from the order of The Company of Mary) who was on sick leave from the Congo but unable to go back after the war started. He is known to have contacts with the resistance and admits to Zef that new clothing is OK and that he has to hide the pilot so that Father Frehen can make arrangements for his escape.

He also tells to have the marriage go on and keep the American in the beet cellar - out of sight.

Back home the picked up American gets the clothes of Juup – a son who is imprisoned by the Japanese in the Dutch Indies. When Mientje brings him the clothes the American asks ‘Can you wash my pants’ which is misunderstood by Mientje.

‘Pants’ sounds like ‘pansch’ which is translated ‘belly’. Mientje turns red and hurries out of the cellar saying ‘Wasch du dich der pansch zelf – You wash your belly yourself’.

Meanwhile the food, cakes and pies for the wedding are brought to the cellar of the neighbors - daughter Lisa and son in law Frans. So then the cellar leading to the beet cellar is no longer needed as long as the American is hiding there.

The American gets his food and is told to have patience while they are arranging his escape. The wedding takes place as planned and the American is helped on by the resistance, but nobody knows what happened to him.

1943 – Marriage on October 16th – in the circle Zef and Sjeng Dassen.
Photo made in front of the house next to that where the American pilot still hides in the beets cellar.

Zef Dassen was interrogated for an day by the SD (SicherheitsDienst - the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party) in the ‘Witte huis’ in Maastricht at the corner of ‘Prins Bisschopssingel’ and the ‘Lambertuslaan’. Father Frehen advised him to lie with a straight face, and that worked for he never heard of the Germans again.

Here ends this part of family chronicle regarding grandpa's bomber boots.


Meer over Mgr Charles Frehen

Geboren is hij op 29-11-1907 Waubach, geprofest op 08-09-1929 in Meerssen en priester gewijd op 16-03-1935 in Oirschot. Overleden is hij op 19-02-1953 in Lieki (Congo).

Op 19 November 1935 kwam hij aan in Kongo. In mei 1936 werd hij mede aangewezen om de nieuwe missiepost Opala te stichten. Hij verliet Opala in 1938 en kwam naar Isangi ter vervanging van de overste.Toen de nieuwe missie-overste was aangekomen verliet hij de missie (1940) vanwege een ernstige ziekte en zijn verminderde  gezondheid. Hij herstelde, maar zijn terugkeer werd verhinderd door de uitbraak van de wereldoorlog. Hij werd tijdelijk professor te Oirschot en rector van de zusters in Schimmert.

Vanwege zijn actieve deelname aan het verzet ontving hij kort na de oorlog een oorkonde van het Frans Verzet een decoratie van generaal De Gaulle.

Terug in Kongo werd hij overste in Elisabetha van 1946-1952. Na 5 jaar moest hij weer gaan herstellen in Europa. Terug op zijn post stond hij machteloos voor het zware missiewerk en vroeg hij om een minder verantwoordelijke baan. Hij vertrok naar Wenge waar hij op 3 februari 1953 aankwam. Maar hij zou er slechts 14 dagen blijven. Hij wilde terug naar Isangi voor medische hulp omdat hij zich ernstig ziek voelde.
Hij ging met de boot over de Lomarivier naar het hospitaal, 2 confraters gingen met hem mee. Hij stierf echter op de boot waarmee zijn confraters hem naar het hospitaal brachten. De volgende dag werd hij in Isangi begraven - 45 jaar oud.
Bron: www.Kapel.org


Left - 2016 - Court yard of the Frehenhouse (nowardays called ‘De Bloemenhof’) – in the barn straight ahead pilots where hided by Father Frehen before transporting them on to Belgium in the direction of the UK.
Right - 1935 - Charles Frehen ordained priest on March 16. –  photo in front of the farm house.

Honoring Father Frehen

To honor Father Frehen the Landgraaf community council changed the street name Marktstraat in Waubach into Charles Frehenstraat in 1983.

Sure is that Father Frehen was active in the resistance - the LO (Landelijke Organisatie voor onderduikers) - in the Limburgian East Coal Mine district.

Motivation Verzetsherdenkingskruis - awarded  the Croix de Guerre

There are trustworthy records used for investigations before decorating people like resistance ‘rayon leader’ (rayon = district/area) Father Charles Joseph Frehen who was awarded by the French government and got the Dutch ‘Verzetsherdenkingskruis’ - posthumously - in 1983.

From Dutch Ministery of Defence I got a copy of the request for the Verzetsherdenkingkruis (1983) and in that it is stated that Father Frehen in WWII started the L.O. R6-ZL8 which covered the region Schaesberg, Nieuwenhagen, Ubach over Worms and Eygelshoven.

He also had contact with K.P.-members to get allied pilots on the Escape Line via Banholt.

His resistance work is confirmed by several fellow resistance persons; like Jo(zef) Apers, Jan Cornips, Wiel Janssen, Jan Lemmens en Frans Soomers.
Zie ook HET VERBORGEN FRONT’ van Cammaert (*1955).

The French Resistance requested a Croix de Guerre for Father Frehen. This award was given to him in 1953 in Leopoldville (Congo).


From Delpher / Limburgs Dagblad

Parts of the 2nd column


Other names of men that worked in the resistance are Frans Soomers (from Eygelshoven), Zef Apers and Cor Karel (Rimburg). They picked fugitives (like escaped French prisoners of war or escaped forced laborers) up at the German border near Rimburg and via Waubach (Father Frehen?) they were passed on through Limburg to the Belgian resistance.

Mr Frans Soomers in 1951 was given the ‘Croix de Guerre’, the same French decoration as Father Frehen.

From Mr Cammaerts book ‘Het verborgen Front’ in page 674:

‘In Eygelshoven trad F.H. Soomers op als duikhoofd. Hij kreeg assistentie van onder anderen F. Kortbeek, G.A.J. Franssen en kapelaan P.J. Keybets. Veel onderduikers konden terecht in het gezellenhuis van Eygelshoven, beheerd door J.S. Schoffelen.’
‘Het gezellenhuis’ is a home for unmarried coal miners. Eygelshoven then had 2 coal mines an many people hiding from the Germans worked in these - and other - coal mines.

The complete article (Delpher / Limburgsch Dagblad 30 May 1951)


PS by Sue Moyer
‘The American Escape and Evasion Society does have some records of the escapes lines you mention. I am having little success in finding information about Breeden or Father Frehen. He had to operate with as much secrecy as possible. I am not giving up on this. It may be helpful if any of the parachute or even the communion dress remains.’

WS: I asked, but her dress is long gone.



Stan Alukonis’ boots?

Were they the boots of a crew member from another shot down B-17? Because no one of the surviving McDarby crew members mentions seeing Breeden landing or being picked up in their part of the MACR 1034. Two of the survivors landed in the vicinity of the tail part - Dominic Leporte and Ben Roberts both say they looked into the wrecked tail part.

In the German report there is another parachutist mentioned who landed near the Rimburger Forest - but not from the McDarby crew. And the McDarby crew met other pilots/crew members afterwards. Mr George C Kuhl in his book (pag 148) mentions that it was Lt Smith of the Murdock crew, whose ship crashed in Limmel some 30 km west from Eygelshoven. It is documented that they met in Maastricht in their first night on the continent of Europe.

It might have been crew from the 2 B-17’s of the 305th Bomb Group shot down near Floverich (Lang/42-37750/MACR 779) and Puffendorf (Holt/42-29988/MACR 914) in Germany - some 12 km NE of Eygelshoven. Maybe Zef Dassen picked up one of the evading survivors like Ken Maynard?

Co-pilot Stan Alukonis (left), tail gunner Steve Krawczynski (right) and ball turret gunner Ken Maynard were the 3 evaders of the Floverich crash. Ken Maynard was picked up by the Germans after 4 months.

Alukonis and Krawczynski used the ‘Comet-line’ to get to Spain and via Gibraltar back to the UK in January 1944.

And both the E&E reports of Alukonis (321) and Krawczynski (393) mention no meeting with a coal trader as their first contact on Dutch soil.

From E&E report 321

From E&E report 393

Ken Maynard was picked up by the Germans after a few month of wandering around on the continent. Not while on the Comet-line.

The distance in a straight line from Rimburger Forest to the site of the tail part - where the story of Zef Dassen starts - is some 1.000 meters in a SW-direction. This direction ‘fits’ with the direction of the wind - East 1m/sec - according to the Dutch Meteo Service - KNMI at that date.

But there still is the coincidence that the shoe sizes of Mr Alukonis was size 47 as were Mr Dassen his bomber boots.

Comet Line documents

In the publicly known information of the pilots and soldiers helped by the Ligne Comète / Comet Line, Donald Paul Breeden is not mentioned.


2017: Bomber boots in a comic book

In July 2012 there was a presentation in Eygelshoven on the McDarby crash by Mr Oswald Ortmanns. Then the boots where said to be from the missing co-pilot Breeden or pilot McDarby. But Breeden appeared to be MIA/buried in Margraten in 1 or 2 graves.

In the autumn of 2017 I saw a new comic book (in Dutch stripboek) in which the  story of the bomber boots of opa Zef Dassen was shown. The title of the comic book is 'Grenzenloos' (Borderless) and it has stories that are situated across the Dutch-Belgian-German borders in history.

In this book the boots are said to be from pilot McDarby who landed on his parachute in Eygelshoven on 14-10-1943 after his B-17 was shot by the Germans. He was the man said to be picked up by Zef Dassen and left his bomber boots with him.

However, McDarby came to the ground with only one shoe, which made him brake the ankle of this bare foot and therefore first ending up in a German lazaret and after that in a German POW-camp.
This really does not fit with the story about the encounter, the hiding and the origins of the pair of bomber boots of Opa Dassen. 


Back to the story of all of the crew members of B-17 # 42-3436.
A story I started to find out why and how
Donald Paul Breeden could get missing.