May 23, 2014

Remembering Arlie Blood on this Memorial Day

By Sharon Rice, Editor, The Friday Flyer

Arlie Blood is pictured with his wife Lucille while participating in a past Fiesta Day Veterans Brigade. Sadly, Canyon Lake no longer will have the honor of Arlie's presence at Fiesta Day and Veterans Day.

Arlie is pictured at last year's Veterans Day Ceremony with his aviator teddy bear.

Arlie's book, "Only Angels Have Wings," can be purchased at Amazon.com.


Memorial Day is first of all a day to remember the sacrifices made by the men and women who have fought and died while serving their country. Canyon Lakers also take it as a chance to recognize all veterans of military service by inviting them to participate in the Fiesta Day Parade.

In the past, one of those veterans making an appearance in the parade was Col. Arlie Blood (Ret.) and his wife Lucille. Sadly this year, the parade will go on without him, as Arlie passed away just over a week ago on May 14 at the age of 98.

Arlie's was a long and eventful life. In 1997, he published a book called, “Only Angels Have Wings," filled with interesting anecdotes from his life story. On occasion, The Friday Flyer has shared some of those stories; none so thrilling as his adventures as a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot shot down over France during WWII.

Arlie told of how he was rescued by a farmer’s family, and how he joined the French Resistance movement and helped fight the Germans by bombing trains and bridges.

While fighting alongside the rural guerrilla bands of French Resistance fighters, known as “Maquis” for the thick shrubs in which members hid, Arlie made many friends by the code names of Churchill, Roosevelt, Patton, Ike and Barnabé, among others.

Disaster struck one day when Arlie and two Frenchmen were stopped at a German barricade and a search of their car turned up their concealed ammunition and the American’s Air Force uniform.

The ordeal climaxed with Arlie's face and hands against a church wall in front of a firing squad. Arlie’s quick thinking saved him, but his French friends were shot and buried in graves they themselves had dug a short distance from the church.

After turning towards his captors and announcing in what he said was his sternest voice that he was an American officer, a German officer offered him the opportunity to change back into his uniform and answer his questions, or wait to be interrogated by the S.S. who would treat him as a spy and shoot him since he was captured in civilian clothing.

Arlie took the first option and, after several days of intense interrogation, was transferred to a prisoner of war camp in Rennes, France, where he was assigned to a barracks that housed several fellow airmen.

On July 4, 1944, the entire camp of 1,500 prisoners was put on a boxcar train to Germany. In Arlie’s boxcar, several of the prisoners managed to claw a hole through the bottom of their car without detection. Two paratroopers gave them lessons on how to dive safely from the moving car and Arlie was among 21 prisoners to escape into the night.

Arlie and two friends managed to stay together and began a hair-raising trip across the French countryside. The story is filled with humor as he describes the sheer gall of their tactics in making their way to the Allied territory.

In Tours, France, for example, they persuaded the local townspeople to run ahead of them shouting, “Viva la American. Viva la liberation.” By the time the three Americans walked into the town square at Tours, they had a vanguard of close to a thousand people, all shouting and singing. According to Arlie, it so frightened the occupying Germans that they hastily left their warm coffee and burning cigarettes behind for the POW escapees to enjoy.

Through other escapades, Arlie eventually made his way back to Paris and Great Britain, then to Santa Monica for some R&R with Lucille, followed by a career with the U.S. Air Force and eventual employment with Northrop Grumman Corporation.

Copies of Arlie's book, “Only Angels Have Wings," can be obtained at Amazon.com.