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Obituary for E.C. "Easy" Freeman

E.C. "Easy" Freeman was a WWII bomber pilot, a German concentration camp survivor, a POW, and an engineer in the Titan, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs; but most of all, he was a beloved father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

Easy was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, on June 8th, 1922. He graduated from Greensboro High School and Guilford College.

During WWII, Easy joined the Army Air Corps and was assigned to pilot the Martin B-26 Marauder, a medium bomber. On his fourth mission over German-occupied France, on the way to bomb a bridge in south Rouen, both engines were heavily damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Holding the plane steady while the rest of his crew bailed-out, Easy was the last to go. 

Through the help of a local farmer, he managed to connect with the French Underground, and went to live on the farm of a French family named Martin. To this day, the Freeman Family remains friends with the Martin Family. After the D-Day invasion and a close-call with a German patrol in the Martin's village, Easy left their farm and traveled to Paris, where he hoped to be liberated sooner. 

Instead, he ran into a double-agent who turned him over to the Gestapo. Easy was arrested and imprisoned at Fresnes Prison, outside of Paris. After weeks of imprisonment, Easy and other Allied airmen at Fresnes were evacuated just days before the city's liberation by Allied forces. There were 168 Allied airmen in this group. Forced into a train of boxcars along with French Resistance fighters. Their destination was the infamous Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

Labeled "terror flieger" ("Terror Flyers") by the Germans, they were denied their rights under the Geneva Convention. Easy and the other airmen were thrown into Buchenwald's general population. They survived by organizing themselves into a cohesive military unit, with a courageous New Zealander named Phil Lamason as their commanding officer. 

Two of their men would ultimately die of illness in Buchenwald, but Easy and the rest made it out alive when the German Luftwaffe lobbied for their release. They were transferred to Stalag Luft III, a POW camp in Poland; the famous "Great Escape" had occurred there just six months prior. Easy went to work on a new escape tunnel being constructed under the theater, helping to shuttle dirt to the outside. Before another escape attempt could be made, they were evacuated from their camp in Poland and forced on a 62-mile march into the German winter. They were eventually liberated by Patton's 3rd Army in a camp outside of Munich.

A documentary about the 168 Allied airmen of Buchenwald, starring Easy and six others from the group, was produced in 2011, titled "Lost Airmen of Buchenwald."

Upon his return home from the war, Easy married his high school sweetheart, Betty Pope. He remained in the Air Force, and was stationed in Paris and Munich as a counter-intelligence officer in the early days of the Cold War. At one point, he was called out to his base in the middle of the night to assist a member of the Czech royal family who was secretly evacuating his family from their Russian-occupied country. Easy also went to work finding the double-agent in Paris who had betrayed him and most of the 168 Buchenwald airmen. The double-agent was ultimately arrested, tried and executed. Easy also flew during the early days of the Berlin Airlift, before returning to the US.

Back home, Easy earned a masters degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Florida. He was a lifelong fan of the Gators. While still in the Air Force, Easy was an engineer on the F-86D Sabre, the X-15 "space plane," and the Titan ICBM Program. After retiring from a 20-year career in the USAF in the early 1960s, Easy went to work as an engineer and project manager for North American-Rockwell, where he worked on the Apollo Program in Downey, CA and in Cape Canaveral. One of his projects was working on the team that designed the giant "crawler-transporter" that carried the Saturn rockets, and later the Space Shuttle, to their launch sites. In the 1970s and 80s, he worked on the Space Shuttle Program. Easy was based at Vandenberg AFB in California when he retired in the late 1980s. 

In retirement, he enjoyed attending the Olympics, competing in league bowling, cross-country driving trips, and spending time with his family. He moved to Niceville, FL in 2007, after living in Santa Maria, CA for nearly 30 years. He was the first of three generations of USAF Lieutenant Colonels, with his son and grandson both achieving the rank. Rarely seen without his pipe, Easy passed away peacefully on August 2nd, 2012, at the age of 90. He is survived by his son, Lt. Col. Michael Freeman (Ret.), three grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. 

Memorial services will be held at 3PM on August 17th at Twin Cities Funeral Home, 1405 John Sims PKWY, Niceville, FL. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Cancer Society. The Freeman Family would like to express their thanks and love to Easy's caregivers over the last few years, Debbie and Mort Okun.
Expressions of sympathy may be viewed or submitted online at www.Twincitiescremationsfunerals.com