USAAF airmen were supplied with many tools to help them evade the enemy if they were downed or to escape from POW camps if they were captured. In addition to these, ingenious POWs made their own from material at hand.
Evasion purses were issued to aircrews before they flew over enemy territory. Custom-made for specific areas, they contained escape maps, compasses, local currency and escape saws.
Photographs for False IDs
While flying missions over Europe, USAAF airmen carried photographs of themselves in civilian clothes.
Pointie Talkies and Phrase Cards
These aids helped downed airmen communicate with local inhabitants. Airmen pointed to the words and phrases and followed instructions on pronunciation contained in a "pointie talkie" or on a phrase card.
Handmade POW Escape Tools
Some POWs fashioned ingenious escape tools from everyday items found in the camps.
Escape and Evasion Maps
Officially made escape maps have changed several times over the years, and the earliest maps were made of paper or tissue. During World War II, the most common types were silk or rayon.
"I am an American...misfortune forces me to seek your assistance..."
Blood chits are documents that offer rewards to anyone who provides assistance to a downed flier. They also identify a flier's nationality and carry messages in several languages that request aid. Each blood chit is individually numbered to identify specific pilots.
The first blood chits were used by British pilots in colonial police actions as early as 1917. The first Americans to carry blood chits served in the 14th Volunteer Bombardment Squadron in China during 1937-1938, while the best known blood chits were those used by the American Volunteer Group (or "Flying Tigers") in China during 1941-1942.
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