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Two Escapes: Capt. Jack Ilfrey

DAYTON, Ohio - Capt. Jack Ilfrey’s service coat. His winged boot for evading in France is on the left breast pocket. This is part of the Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Capt. Jack Ilfrey’s service coat. His winged boot for evading in France is on the left breast pocket. This is part of the Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Ilfrey in front of his P-38 “Happy Jack’s Go-Buggy.” (U.S. Air Force photo)

Ilfrey in front of his P-38 “Happy Jack’s Go-Buggy.” (U.S. Air Force photo)

Ilfrey wearing the clothing that the Voileau family gave him. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Ilfrey wearing the clothing that the Voileau family gave him. (U.S. Air Force photo)

One route to safety for evaders was to board foreign vessels. (U.S. Air Force photo)

One route to safety for evaders was to board foreign vessels. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Helpers faced great danger. Protecting their identity could mean the difference between life and death. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Helpers faced great danger. Protecting their identity could mean the difference between life and death. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This poster reminds aircrews to bring their E&E aids with them and what could happen if they did not. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This poster reminds aircrews to bring their E&E aids with them and what could happen if they did not. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Ilfrey's MIS-X report. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Ilfrey's MIS-X report. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. Jack Ilfrey, an ace who ended the war with eight victories, twice escaped capture. In November 1942, on a ferry flight from England to North Africa, Ilfrey diverted to an airfield in neutral Portugal because of a malfunctioning drop tank. The Portuguese seized his P-38 and Ilfrey was to be interned. However, while sitting in the cockpit showing the Portuguese how to fly the now refueled aircraft, Ilfrey quickly started it up, took off and flew it to Gibraltar. 

On June 12, 1944, six days after the Allies invaded Normandy, Capt. Ilfrey was shot down by anti-aircraft fire while strafing a train near Angers, France. After bailing out of his burning P-38, he evaded until he met Jean Voileau. His family, at great risk to themselves, hid Ilfrey for two weeks in their home. The Voileau family gave him food, clothing, false identification, and a bicycle. 

Ilfrey posed as a deaf and mute French farmer named "Jacques Robert." Helped by several French civilians along the way, he rode the bicycle about 150 miles to friendly lines in Normandy. Unlike most successful evaders, Ilfrey returned to fly combat missions over Europe until the war ended.
 

Click here to return to Winged Boot: Escape and Evasion in World War II.

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