Veteran Stories:
Joseph Healey

Air Force

  • Operational Training Unit #12. J. P. Healey is in the top right.

  • J. P. Healey (right) and Renaud de Pret, Fallais, Belgium. November, 1943

  • This document shows evaders and the Belgian resistance fighters who helped them

  • J. P. Healey's Air Gunner badge

  • A page from Healey’s logbook showing the flight on which he went missing

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"On reaching your designated dropping zone, they'd recognize the aircraft and they'd send a light up, then you'd fly over and then the ground would send a Morse Code letter up to you…"


My name is Joseph Patrick Healey, Royal Canadian Air Force, R179472, and I was in the European theatre, Warrant Bomber Command.

I was working with a special digit squadron, attempts were at 138, and our job was to drop enemy agents and containers to the Underground into Occupied Europe. October 19th, '43, we were carrying two enemy agents and our dropping zone area was east of Antwerp. It was located by using longitudinal latitude because often we dropped in the bush and there's nobody there. We had to use that method to get to the signal point. On reaching your designated dropping zone, they'd recognize the aircraft and they'd send a light up, then you'd fly over and then the ground would send a Morse Code letter up to you. If it was the correct letter, that the aircraft ... sent back and you made your run and your dropping zone. Then they'd light the lights up.

There were three white lights and a red light to the right. And then we made our run and dropped our agents and that was it. Sometimes we dropped the supplies right after, but that particular night we were there we were dropping the spies in one area and containers in another area. So we had a double duty, but we didn't make it. That night we reached our area about three o'clock and we had no signal from the ground, nothing, so we didn't know what to do. We went back and forth. But it's the right area. The pilot said, "Well, I'll make one more run, and then we'll give it up and go home." So we made one more run and we turned in and all of a sudden all hell broke loose. They hit us with anti-aircraft fire, the two motors exploded, and the aircraft was all on fire, and we were down low - we couldn't bail out. So we just looked for a field and we crashed through fences and a haystack and hit a tree. We were lucky we didn't explode. And then we come to rest.

And we all disappeared out of the aircraft, including the agents. I went with one of the agents in the bush, but I left him right away because too dangerous to be with him. So I heard the Germans there, and so I took off across the railway tracks, and I stayed there. Then it still was dangerous. I seen a farm and I stayed in there, and I was okay, and I never heard no more noise or motion or anything. And the farmer came in and chased me out with a pitchfork. So I headed up north to another bush and I had hurt my leg so I was having a heck of a time. I waited a few hours and I didn't know where to go, so I headed up toward the Albert Canal. I thought, well, I'll go up near Harentel. I went up past Harentel and there were hundreds of Germans there. That's no good, so I headed towards Keil, another area, and more Germans. I nearly got caught at a bridge. All the overpasses were guarded by Germans. So I tried several locations - they're all guarded. I went up Kiel and I headed away north of Kiel and came down. I came down to a canal again and I found an old dilapidated bridge, so I crossed the canal.

I went into Northen Belgium because it's safer - no more Germans. So I was walking, I'd look at my maps, I didn't know where to go, and I come across a little village called Pul. I thought, well, I'll go up there and I'll see if I can get help at the church or somebody'll give me help. There was no Germans around at that time. Anyway, I noticed a house. I thought, aw, heck with it. I'll go knock at the door. I knocked at the door, and the people looked at me and pulled me in and I start speaking to them and they couldn't talk to me. They understood hunger and a drink of water. So they gave me some bread and milk and threw me out in the bush. And then when I was there, and I heard the young lad and there was somebody hollering, I came out, and he had a note written in English. It said, "Follow me". The guy was with the Underground.

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