So Close to Freedom


So Close to Freedom

A World War II Story of Peril and Betrayal in the Pyrenees

Jean-Luc E. Cartron
Foreword by Roger Stanton

256 pages
27 figures, index


April 2019


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2019


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2019


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

During World War II many escape-line organizations contributed to the Allied cause by funneling hundreds of servicemen trapped behind enemy lines out of occupied Europe. As the Germans tightened their noose around the escape lines and infiltrated them, the risk of discovery only grew for the servicemen who, in ever-increasing numbers, needed safe passage across the Pyrenees. In early 1944 two important escape-line organizations operated in Toulouse in southwestern France, handing over many fugitives to French passeur Jean-Louis Bazerque (“Charbonnier”). Along with several of his successful missions, Charbonnier’s only failure as a passeur is recounted in gripping detail in So Close to Freedom.

This riveting story recounts how Charbonnier tried to guide a large group of fugitives—most of them downed Allied airmen, along with a French priest, two doctors, a Belgian Olympic skater, and others—to freedom across the Pyrenees. Tragically, they were discovered by German mountain troopers just shy of the Spanish border. Jean-Luc E. Cartron offers the first detailed account of what happened, showing how Charbonnier operated, his ties with “the Françoise” (previously “Pat O’Leary”) escape-line organization, and how the group was betrayed and by whom. So Close to Freedom sheds light not only on the complex and precarious work of escape lines but also on the concrete, nerve-racking experiences of the airmen and those helping them. It shows the desperation of all those seeking passage to Spain, the myriad dangers they faced, and the lengths they would go to in order to survive.

Author Bio

Jean-Luc E. Cartron is an adjunct research assistant professor of biology at the University of New Mexico. He is the editor or coauthor of several books, including a biography of his grandfather, a prominent member of the Resistance in western France during World War II.


"So Close to Freedom sheds a new light on an area of World War II that is challenged by limited documentation and historical resources. More so, this books goes beyond the interest of historians. Service members who want to add to their knowledge of survival, evasion, resistance, and escape will find this an essential addition exemplifying the need for a cool head, nerves of steel, and a little luck."—Ronald T. Staver, Military Review

"So Close to Freedom is a good read, well written, about a small part of the large, and complex history of the Resistance, as will prove rewarding reading for anyone interested in the Resistance or escape and evasion."—A. A. Nofi, Strategy Page

“Hundreds of Allied evaders achieved freedom thanks to the selfless dedication, courage, and sacrifice—often at mortal cost—of those who put together and managed all that was needed. This is the basis for Jean-Luc Cartron’s impeccably researched book. It deserves to take its place among the finest historical accounts of that tragic time.”—Evelyn Le Chene, author of Silent Heroes: The Bravery and Devotion of Animals in War

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Foreword by Roger Stanton 



Author’s Note

List of Abbreviations

1. A Perilous Hide-and-Seek

2. For King and Country

3. The Route Past Luchon

4. On the Run

5. Too Many

6. April Attempt

7. Hero or Villain?

8. Aftermath of a Betrayal

9. Maddy De Deken

10. The Woodcutter

11. Escapes and Hardships

12. The Road Blockade

13. Separate Fates

Appendix 1: Allied Evaders, Escapers, Resistance Fighters, and Engelandvaarders Who Attempted to Cross the Pyrenees into Spain, April 19–22, 1944

Appendix 2: The Escape Line Organizations

Appendix 3: Known Prisoners Who Escaped from the Train Bound for Neuengamme, June 5, 1944

Appendix 4: The Arrest and Deportation of Jacqueline Houry

Appendix 5: Evaders Helped by “Françoise” Organization in 1944 in Toulouse and Surrounding Area

Timeline of Key Events, 1944



Selected Bibliography


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