Agnes Jensen accounts her experience of traveling through German-occupied Albania to Capri.
On Nov.8, 1943 I boarded a C-47 transport plane at Catania, Sicily for a last minute flight to Bari, Italy to evacuate sick and wounded soldiers. En route we were caught in violent storms that I feared would tear our plane apart – to add to our predicament the radio quit, severing contact with area bases. After a harrowing five hour flight we found an opening in the clouds and flat land below, where we crash landed. We were then on foot in German occupied Albania.
For the next 62 days, my colleagues (including 12 other flight nurses of the 807th medical squadron) and I dodged enemy patrols while hiking on rugged mountain trails in rain, sleet, snow, or sunshine – always in search of food and lodging. We were constantly plagued with dysentery, boils, hepatitis, and body lice.
After one month we made contact with a British SAS Group (comparable to our OSS) who had wireless contact with our headquarters in Cairo. They assigned an officer to guide us across the country to the Adriatic Sea. At the same time our AAF dispatched an OSS officer into Albania to try [to] reach us.
An attempt to rescue us by air on Dec. 28th ended in disappointment – the young British officer decided it was too risky to signal the planes to land since German troops had occupied a nearby town a few days before. We tearfully watched them fly away and leave us.
On the 6th of January we finally met Capt. Lloyd Smith – the OSS officer. With his help we reached the coast by hiking non-stop through the heavily patrolled coastal mountains. A British launch picked us up after midnight and we finally reached Bari exactly two months late. We had walked over 800 miles!