Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An American who flew for Britain in WW11

Derek Andrews

"Under the Wire" is an excellent wartime memoir of a Spitfire pilot, legendary escaper and "cooler king" before Steve McQueen earned the sobriquet in the film "The Great Escape".

William Ash from Dallas TX was one of a relatively rare breed, an American who fought in World War Two before the United States became involved following the day that would live in infamy.

But here's the thing. Later there would be many Americans who flew for the Royal Air Force in their Eagle Squadron and a special arrangement was made with the U.S. government that their U.S. Citizenship would not be revoked because of their unusual entry-mode to the conflict.

But pre December 7th 1941, an American needed to go to Canada to "sign up" with us Brits and in "taking the King's shilling" his U.S. Citizenship would be taken from him, effectively making him a stateless person !

William Ash was shot down over France in 1942, survived, evaded capture for months thanks to the help of ordinary French men and women who would have been shot by the Nazis if they were caught. (Note to Americans who were critical of France and its lack of enthusiasm for a Middle-Eastern conflict and banned the French Fry. Never forget the enormous sacrifice their citizens made to help downed American and other Allied airmen during those years. There are instances far too numerous to list).

Eventually betrayed to the Gestapo, tortured and sentenced to death as a spy, he was saved from the firing-squad by the Luftwaffe and sent to Stalag Luft 111, the POW camp from where the real Great Escape took place.

He spent the next three years attempting to escape until ultimately being freed from his camp by the advancing American forces.

Stateless, he settled in England, studied at Oxford University, having been awarded the MBE (Member of the British Empire), worked for the BBC's External Service in many foreign lands.

Sacked from the BBC because his extreme political leanings (which must have been very extreme as he was banned from the Communist Party of Great Britain!). Undaunted he founded the  Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and as far as I know, is still, at age 93, a Communist at heart.

Whatever his political persuasion, our thanks for his stance at an early stage of the war and his bravery and service during it.

The one thing I would like to know, and if anyone reading this can help I'd appreciate it, is whether people such as William Ash ever had their U.S. Citizenship re-instated.



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Sunshine on Discovery Bay

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