• Plage Bonaparte à Plouha (Côtes d'Armor) - Haut-lieu de la Résistance

  • Sacy-le-Grand (Oise) - Mémorial en souvenir du F/O H. H. MacKenzie (RCAF)

  • Supermarine LF Mk.Vb Spitfire EP120 - G-LFVB - (The Fighter Collection)

  • Le Cardonnois (Somme) - Stèle à la mémoire de l'équipage du Boeing B-17 #42-31325, 452nd Bomb Group

  • B-17G-85-VE 44-8846 - F-AZDX - (FTV)

 

1st to 3rd September 2017

 

Campremy (Oise)

 

Visit of a delegation of the "Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency"

 

Copyright © 2017 - Association des Sauveteurs d'Aviateurs Alliés - All rights reserved -

                                                                                                               En français france

 

Four years after their first visit, we had once more the great honour of receiving and accompanying a delegation of the “Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency”. The noble mission of this American organization, mandated by the Pentagon in Washington D.C., is to deploy research teams of historians and scientists to try to find the remains of more than 82,000 soldiers, airmen, sailors and the Marine Corps, still missing during various conflicts. "No one left behind" is the promise made by the Department of Defense to recover those who are today still missing.

DPAA

Whether during the Second World War, the Cold War, in Korea, Vietnam or Iraq, none of these American servicemen is abandoned and forgotten.

About 16 million Americans served throughout the Second World War. More than 400,000 of them were killed in action. Approximately 73,000 are still without a grave, including 20,000 missing airmen, mainly in Europe and during the Pacific War.

The mission of this research team composed of two historians, a forensic archaeologist and an interpreter was again concerned with the case of S/Sgt. James H. Coleman.

Campremy

Josh Fennell, Historian (on left) and his team

A ball turret gunner aboard the Flying Fortress of the 306th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, which crashed near Campremy on 11th February 1944, S/Sgt. Coleman was killed at his post during an attack by German fighters over our area. He was a native of Indiana, then 27 years old.

S/Sgt. James H. COLEMAN

  S/Sgt. James H. Coleman

The few bones fragments of his body found in the dislocated wreckage of the aircraft were buried by the Germans in the cemetery of Beauvais-Marissel.

Exhumed in April 1945 by a Commission of the American Army, the remains of S/Sgt. Coleman did not allow to be formally identified. They were subsequently reinterred in the Epinal American cemetery. Still to this day, S/Sgt. Coleman remains among the unidentified soldiers.

According to the survey carried out by the American organization, the four-engined aircraft hit the neighbouring field, crossed the road before ending up by disintegrating. More than 73 years later, many pieces of small debris from the plane are still scattered over a wide area.                                                                                                                                                                          

For three days, with the necessary authorizations, the American delegation headed by Josh Fennell thus methodically measured and marked the ground into squares. The area was then explored by means of detectors, in search of the slightest clue or object likely to have belonged to the missing airman (pieces of clothing, buttons, dogtag...)

Campremy

The perimeter of the area of search was quickly marked with numerous small red, yellow and white flags indicating the location of debris of significant importance.

A parachute harness buckle, buttons and pieces of cloth were found and carefully picked up by the researchers. Once back in the United States and analyzed, these important discoveries would perhaps be assured of being uniforms and parachute silk.

Campremy

The discovery of the parachute buckle further confirmed, if it were necessary, that S/Sgt. Coleman had unfortunately not evacuated the aircraft, unlike the other nine crew members.

Campremy

The exceptional presence and the reason of the coming of this American research team into our area interested not only the local written press but also, to our surprise, the regional television "France 3 Picardie".

Campremy

Josh Fennell with the TV reporters of "France 3 Picardie"

 

The TV report

The information, thus broadcast, has not failed to attract the curiosity of some inhabitants of the region, simply intrigued and appreciative to learn about this willpower of the American government in wanting to find their soldiers at all costs.

These three days of research made it possible to define with greater precision the perimeter where it would certainly be possible to find the remains of S/Sgt. Coleman. The area was mapped and each location where important items were found was accurately noted.

Campremy

The results of these days of research were transmitted to the headquarters of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. A program for more thorough excavations, employing much more substantial means, is likely to be established in the near future. The DNA of any discoveries of S/Sgt. Coleman’s bones or teeth, analyzed scientifically and compared with the descendants of his family members, could then allow the airman to rest in a grave bearing his name.

In the days that followed, the investigations of this American delegation on the paths of memory continued in other crash sites, in Picardy and Normandy.

 

 

6th and 7th August 2017

 

Ully-Saint-Georges, Clermont (Oise)

 

Visit of Jane COOPER,

granddaughter of 2nd Lt. Jarvis H. COOPER

 

 

Copyright © 2017 - Association des Sauveteurs d'Aviateurs Alliés - All rights reserved -

                                                                                                                En français france

 

 

Jane Cooper, a young lawyer from New York, and her husband Jesse, who were making their first trip to France, visited us in the first days of August. Very attached to History, Jane came to discover the places that had marked a part of the life of her grandfather, 2nd Lt. Jarvis H. Cooper, during the winter 1943/1944.

2nd Lt. Jarvis H. Cooper was a navigator aboard the Flying fortress "Judy" of the 379th Bomb Group shot down on 30th December 1943, near the village of Ully-Saint-Georges, resulting in the death of four of the ten crew members of the aircraft.

2nd Lt Jarvis H. Cooper

2nd Lt. Jarvis H. Cooper

2nd Lt. Cooper was among the survivors. He was immediately rescued near the hamlet of Bonvillers, near Cauvigny, before being directed to Neuilly-en-Thelle. The continuation of his escape in the department of Oise will see him pass to Crouy-en-Thelle, Clermont, Noailles, Montjavoult and Chaumont-en-Vexin, taken in charge by the "Alsace" escape network directed by Gilbert Thibault in Auneuil.

He then stayed in Paris. At the beginning of May 1944, while being taken to the Spanish border, 2nd Lt. Cooper and his pilot, 2nd Lt. Glenn Camp, were taken prisoner on a train near Bayonne. Both ended the war at Stalag Luft I in Barth, Germany, until their liberation in early May 1945 by the Soviet Army.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It was at Ully-Saint-Georges that we accompanied Jane and Jesse. The inhabitants of the village, some of whom witnessed the crash of the bomber, as well as our friends of the Association "N'Oublie Pas 44" and their vintage military vehicles, had assembled near the memorial paying tribute to the airmen. A reception was organized in all conviviality by the municipality. Meanwhile, an aircraft from the Beauvais-Tillé Flying Club, piloted by our friend Bruno, flew over the village in tribute to the American airmen.

Ully-Saint-Georges

 Moment of emotion for Jane in front of the memorial.

After laying flowers at the foot of the memorial, Yvon Corvellec, deputy mayor, took the stand. Very honored to welcome once more the family of one of these American airmen, he pronounced a few words translated simultaneously into English : "...Jane's presence goes straight to our heart and gives us pleasure because it gives us the opportunity to pay a sincere tribute to the courageous American airmen who like Jarvis Cooper and all those whose names are forever engraved on this memorial, risked and sometimes gave their lives so that the democracies triumph over Nazi barbarism ... This visit also allows us to evoke memory and to thank the French ... and they were not so many ... who did not resign themselves and took all risks to endure our threatened freedom. The small ceremony, solemn and warm, which unites us today, associates, within the same tribute, these American and French heroes, known or anonymous and thus allows us, to fulfill not only our necessary duty of memory but also to celebrate, at our modest level, the unfailing friendship between our two countries. "

Ully-Saint-Georges

Very moved and not able to hold back her tears, Jane, with a lot of gratitude, thanked the municipality as well as the inhabitants of the village and all the people who had taken many risks to rescue her grandfather, stressing that she would probably not be present on this day without their bravery.

Ully-Saint-Georges

Souvenir photos near the memorial

Ully-Saint-Georges

After having been invited to share a drink in the premises of the town hall, the time had come to take leave of our friends of Ully-Saint-Georges. The rest of our visit was to continue in Clermont.

Ully-Saint-Georges - Plymouth

Departure from Ully-Saint-Georges aboard a "Plymouth".

It was indeed in this town in the heart of the Oise department that we accompanied Jane. She was able to go to the home of the Legrand-Sauvage family, where her grandfather spent three weeks with his pilot and four other American airmen during the month of January 1944.

Odette Sauvage - Gaston Legrand  Clermont
                                              Odette Sauvage and Gaston Legrand                                             Jane in front of the house, on the heights of 

                                                                                                                                                           the town, where her grandfather was taken in.

The day of 6th August is a date that is always remembered in Clermont. On 6th August 1944, in the early hours of the morning, the Resistant Jean Corroyer fell under German bullets near his home after being denounced. Arrested and deported, his wife and his son never returned from the Nazi extermination camps.

Jean Corroyer was a former merchant navy officer, radio and deputy of Georges Fleury in the Resistance. As every year, a ceremony was organized to pay tribute to him and to his family by the Association des Anciens FFI et leurs Amis, chaired by Patrick Fleury, and the town of Clermont.

Jean Corroyer  Clermont

The procession composed of flag bearers, municipal officials, members of the Associations accompanied by Jane and Jesse and by the population gathered in front of the Town Hall before heading to the place of commemoration.

Stele Jean Corroyer

Laying of wreaths

After the laying of wreaths in front of the commemorative plaque, Patrick Fleury, took the stand to recall the journey and the role in the Resistance of Jean Corroyer alongside his grandfather, Georges Fleury.

Patrick Fleury  Clermont - Jean Corroyer

                          Patrick Fleury                                                                         Jane Cooper and Dominique Lecomte

Referring to the duty of memory, he declared "...let the younger generations know that certain behaviours are intolerable, under penalty of losing the fundamental rights which are the strength of our Republic ..."

Alongside Jane and on behalf of the Association of Rescuers of Allied Airmen, Dominique Lecomte then retraced the course of 2nd Lt. Jarvis Cooper which had led him to stay in the town during his escape. A tribute was also paid to all the Resistance of Clermont and its region who, in infallible devotion, had taken so many risks to remove from the occupant these men fallen from the sky. "...This tribute to Jean Corroyer and the exceptional presence of Jane today, allow us not to forget the ties that united the combatants of the shadows with the combatants of the air. They were fighting for the same ideal, so that France would recover its freedom... "

This ceremony in memory of the Resistance in Clermont, concluded by the Chant des Partisans (song of the Resistance) and the national anthem, was once again a moment of great emotion, especially for our American visitors. Jane confided that, like so many other Allied airmen, her grandfather had never forgotten the sacrifices made by all those brave Frenchmen who had saved his life at the risk of theirs. 2nd Lt. Jarvis Cooper died in 1996, but in 1977, on a trip to France with his wife, he managed to find and personally thank some of his helpers.

All of the audience was then invited to Town Hall for the traditional drink.

The day after that memorable day, we accompanied Jane and Jesse to the crash site near the village of Ully-Saint-Georges.

Ully-Saint-Georges

In the steep woods, a cross and an American flag marks the exact spot where the B-17 "Judy" had finished its fly on 30th December 1943. Among the vegetation and to her great amazement Jane discovered that many small debris aluminum or of Plexiglas of the aircraft still recall today the drama that had taken place there, 73 years ago.

Ully-Saint-Georges

Multiple small metal pieces of the bomber on board which
was his grandfather were preciously taken as a souvenir by Jane.

Unfortunately, the time passed too fast and the moment had come for our American friends to leave us. Very touched by the warm welcome they received during their visit, Jane and Jesse promised to come back to visit us in the near future. In the meantime, the rest of their trip would take them to the South-West of France for a few days before their return to New York.

 

 

4th and 5th May 2017

 

Campremy, Agnetz, Clermont, Montataire (Oise)

 

Visit of the children of S/Sgt. Leonard F. Bergeron

 

              

                                                                                                            Copyright © 2017 - Association des Sauveteurs d'Aviateurs Alliés - All rights reserved -

                                                                                                            En français france

 

 

At the beginning of May, our Association had the great pleasure of welcoming the three sons of S/Sgt. Leonard F. Bergeron, a gunner aboard a Flying Fortress of the 306th Bomb Group shot down on 11th February, 1944 in our region on the way back from a bombing mission over Germany. Dennis and Stephen, accompanied by their wives Pamela and Sandra and Donald Bergeron, who came especially from Florida and Connecticut, wished to discover part of the route and places where their father was rescued and taken in in February-March 1944 in our region.

This pilgrimage began on the crash site of the aircraft near the villages of Campremy and Wavignies. As well as being at the same place where the four-engined aircraft had finished its flight 73 years ago, the emotion was accentuated by the presence alongside this American family of the descendants of the Pouly, Bouchard, Legrand-Sauvage and Fleury families. These families helped S/Sgt. Bergeron at the time in the Clermont area. This moving meeting was followed by a team of reporters from the regional television France 3 Picardie who did us the honour of accompanying us for a large part of the day.

Crashsite1  Crashsite2

                                                                                                                           The three sons of S/Sgt. Bergeron with the Bouchard family

Crashsite3  Crashsite4

                       Donald Bergeron interviewed by the TV reporters

Details of the circumstances of the aircraft crash were described. During the fall of the bomber, the body of the ball turret gunner was never found. In September 2013, we received a delegation from the Missing Personnel Office of the United States Department of Defense to investigate the crash site in an attempt to trace the remains of S/Sgt. James H. Coleman, the only crew member who tragically lost his life. A panel showing multiple small metal debris of the bomber was also presented to the children of S/Sgt. Bergeron.

The second stage of the visit took us to Gicourt, a hamlet near the village of Agnetz, on the spot where Pierre Pouly's former threshing company was located. It was in this house that S/Sgt. Bergeron and two of his companions, T/Sgt. Hewitt and S/Sgt. Golden, were temporarily housed on the evening of 11th February, 1944. A particularly touching moment for Jean Pierre Pouly who now resides in the South of France. His native house, in spite of transformations, still has the same general aspect. Although he was three years old in February 1944, he had no memory of the rescue of the three airmen by his parents, but remembered that his father sometimes spoke of them after the war.

Gicourt 3  Gicourt 2

This house, many years ago converted into a restaurant, offered us the opportunity of having lunch there. This meal, on the spot where the S/Sgt. Bergeron was hidden, was an opportunity for families to exchange and share many photos and memories.

JPPouly  Repas

                                                   Jean Pierre Pouly

The rest of the visit continued in the hamlet of Wariville, near Litz. It was on the outskirts of this important agricultural farm that S/Sgt. Leonard F. Bergeron and his two companions had landed by parachute. Collected by Pierre Pouly, a threshing contractor, and his workmen, the three airmen were quickly hidden in a haystack until the evening before being taken to Gicourt.

Warmly welcomed by the owner of the place, the sons of S/Sgt. Bergeron felt a great emotion in finding themselves on the spot where their father had touched and trampled the soil of France for the first time.

Wariville1  Wariville2

At the Wariville farm

Wariville3

Dennis, Donald and Stephen Bergeron

The visit then extended into Clermont downtown, in front of the ex-houses of Dr. Roger Bouchard and Legrand-Sauvage family. S/Sgt. Bergeron and several crew members stayed for a week in the town in February 1944 before continuing their escape.

MaisonBouchard  MaisonLegrand

                                       The house of Dr. Bouchard                                                  In front the house of the Legrand-Sauvage family

This magnificent day ended at the town hall where an official reception was organized by the municipality of Clermont in honour of the visit of this American family.

Warmly welcomed by the Mayor, Mr. Lionel Ollivier, on behalf of his municipality he expressed his pride in welcoming the children of S/Sgt. Leonard Bergeron and all the descendants of the families of Clermont and of its region who had participated not only in the rescue of the airman but also of so many others. In addition to the Pouly, Bouchard, Legrand-Sauvage and Fleury families, Mr Didier Redaud, son of Dr. Gaston Redaud, honoured us with his presence. His parents had hosted the pilot and co-pilot of the aircraft at the time: 1st Lt. Geno Di Betta and 2nd Lt. Earl J. Wolf.

maireClermont

Lionel Ollivier, Mayor of Clermont

ArletteBouchard

Mrs Arlette Baudet

The journey of S/Sgt. Bergeron was retraced and recapitulated by Dominique Lecomte before giving the floor to Mrs. Arlette Baudet, the daughter of Dr. Roger Bouchard who was also mayor of Clermont at the time. Recalling her memories, though very young in 1944, she remembers that a part of her house was requisitioned by the Germans. Her father forbade her to speak to them. She also recalled that her father always remained very discreet with regard to his children about his activity during the war. On the point of being arrested some time after coming to the help of S/Sgt. Bergeron, he had to flee. When the Germans came to his home to justify his absence, her mother handed them a letter mentioning that her husband had abandoned her and her children!

After the Liberation, Dr. Bouchard took his children to the Normandy Landing beaches. Visiting the numerous cemeteries, he reminded them of the sacrifice of all these young soldiers who were killed far from their homelands for our Freedom.

Patrick Fleury, Georges Fleury’s grandson and President of the Association des Anciens FFI et leurs Amis, then took the floor to evoke the duty of memory so important today. He paid tribute to all the families who did not hesitate to lodge and to guide the Allied airmen despite all the risks during the Occupation. His grandparents lodged a multitude of airmen, including S/Sgt. Bergeron for a short time, before organizing the continuation of their escape.

PatrickFleury  StephenBergeron

                                                   Patrick Fleury                                                                                   Stephen Bergeron

Speaking on behalf of his family, Stephen Bergeron was very honoured to be received in Clermont and thanked all the people who participated in the day in memory of his father. It was with a great emotion that his brothers and he could walk in the footsteps of their father throughout this magnificent day. Their father had never forgotten the people of Clermont and of France who had saved his life and had allowed him to return home safely. Leonard Bergeron never spoke of his experience in combat but never failed to express a deep gratitude to all the people of the French Resistance who had allowed him to escape capture or death. Stephen said his father would have been very proud to know that we do not forget.

To close this ceremony and in memory of their visit to Clermont, the municipality awarded Dennis, Donald and Stephen Bergeron the Medal of the town.

Medaille1  Mdaille

Jeep1  Jeep2

Donald Bergeron aboard one of the vehicles of the Association "N'Oublie Pas 44"

 

 

The next day, before leaving for Normandy, the Bergeron family had wished to go to Montataire. During their forced stay in the department of Oise, S/Sgt. Bergeron and his co-pilot 2nd Lt. Earl J. Wolf, having left Clermont, were accommodated in Creil but went on Sundays to the home of the Dorez family for meals with other airmen. 73 years later, we were able to go to the place where photos had immortalized these moments in 1944.

Montataire 1  Montataire2 
                                             Montataire 1944                                                                          73 years later....at the same place
                                 S/Sgt. Bergeron is with the dog.

                               On the right : 2nd Lt. Earl J. Wolf

A few days earlier, in Paris, the Bergeron family had the honour of meeting Jacqueline, the daughter of the Dorez family. A witness of the stay of the airmen lodged by her parents (she is in the center of the photo, dressed in white), Jacqueline remembers very well this Canada-born American, named Leonard, who had the distinction of speaking French well.

Paris

Jacqueline with the Bergeron family

Aged 18 in 1944, Jacqueline remembers: "He was accommodated, with his co-pilot Wolf, at Mr and Mrs Stubert who lived in Creil and who were my brother-in-law's parents. On Sunday they came to our house in Montataire. They were happy to meet two other American airmen we were hosting, 2nd Lts. Lorenzi and Packer. During the meals, they told each other their adventures and joked a lot between them. Mr Stubert had a camera, so we were able to take pictures in the backyard despite the risks because the Germans were present in the town".

 

Leonard F. Bergeron had returned to France in 1971, notably to Clermont where he had met Odette and Gaston Legrand to thank them personally. In 1976, Odette and Gaston also went to visit him in Connecticut.

1971

1971 - Clermont - The Legrand-Sauvage and Bergeron families.

The years have passed. Leonard F. Bergeron died in 1991 and most of the direct witnesses who helped him have now disappeared. The visit of the children of S/Sgt. Bergeron during which they were able to meet the descendants of the helpers of their father perpetuates and transmits, beyond the generations, the memory of those who fought for an ideal of freedom.

 

 

20th and 21st May 2017

 

Leglantiers, Saint Just-en-Chaussee, Wavignies

Froissy, Crevecœur-le-Grand (Oise)

 

Visit of S/Sgt. Louis I. WATTS’s children

 

 

Copyright © 2017 - Association des Sauveteurs d'Aviateurs Alliés  - All rights reserved -
                                                                                                               In French france

 

 

During the month of May, we had the great honour and pleasure of welcoming seven members of the Watts family coming from Arkansas and North Carolina. Indeed Louis W. and Peggy Watts, Michael and Lynnette Watts, Vicki Olsen, as well as Louis M. and Anna Watts, honored us with their visit. Louis W., Michael and Vicki, are the children of S/Sgt. Louis I. Watts rescued in our area in 1944 while Louis M. is his grandson.

This visit would not have been possible, without the important work of research of our two friends Pascal Pollet and Franck Signorile, who initially established contact with the Watts family in the United States and retraced all the escape route of the crew, without the French families, (Begue, Boisselin, Desesquelles, Liebbe, Radziminski, Ropital), involved in the rescue of the airmen and without the excellent welcome organized by each of the municipalities concerned.

 

20th May

The first stage of this visit took us to the village square of Leglantiers. It was indeed on the outskirts of this village that the B-26 "Marauder" bomber with S/Sgt. Louis I. Watts on board had crashed on 10th May 1944 (see previous pages).

To the great surprise of the American family, were waiting for our friends of the Associations "N'Oublie Pas 44" and "Club du Loisir Historique" come with their vintage vehicles, were waiting for them. This surprising gathering was not without reminding the oldest members of the village of the time of the Liberation.

Leglantiers

Plymouth

 Superb "Plymouth" vintage

The long procession then took the direction of the crash site of the plane where everyone gathered.

Atthecrashsite
A panel of various small debris from the B-26 "Marauder" was presented to the Watts family.

Mr. Legros, who was aged seven in 1944, was present. He recalled his memories of this day of 10th May 1944 when he saw the damaged bomber fly over the village at a very low altitude and crash. "I did not see any parachutes and we all thought it was a German plane. The enemy troops arrived quickly on the scene ... We then learned that the aircraft was American ... "

Bruno Jurkiewicz, a native of Leglantiers, told us about the memories left by his mother. "That day she was on this little road. The plane crashed a few hundred meters from her. She really was very scared. She also thought it was a German plane ...! "

TemoinsBruno Jurkiewicz and Mr Legros with Louis, Michael and Vicki,children of S/Sgt. Louis I. Watts.

A purring was suddenly heard in the sky in the distance. In tribute to the American airmen, the crash site was overflown several times by our friend Bruno Maillard.

Avion  Vehicules

The long cohort of vehicles then took the direction of Saint-Just-en-Chaussee, the second stage of the visit.

Between the villages of Leglantiers and Ravenel, a short stop was made at the edge of a field where one of the three escapees of the "Marauder" had landed by parachute and had been rescued.

Champ

Louis M. Watts meditative at the edge of the field where his grandfather possibly landed.

At Saint Just-en-Chaussee, a first stop was made in front of the house where Jean Crouet lived. This home is the first identified place where S/Sgt. Louis Watts and Sgt. William Edge were accommodated, brought there by Dr. Edmond Caillard. On 12th May 1944, both airmen left Saint Just-en-Chaussee for Froissy, escorted by Marc Cuny. However, our visit to Froissy was planned for the next day.

FamilleWatts 

The whole Watts family in front of the home of Jean Crouet.

The engines restarted, we were preparing to go down to Rue de Paris, where the house of Yvonne Fossier and her companion Paul Begue was located.

Surprised to see as many American vehicles and GI's in the streets of the town, some people came to meet us. They introduced themselves as the descendants of a family that had hosted American airmen during the war. Imagine our astonishment and our great joy to learn that it was the daughters of Yvonne Fossier !! It was totally unexpected!

There are sometimes days when the expression "chance makes things right" turns out really true to its name, to the delight of all and especially the Watts family and the children of Yvonne Fossier. Indeed, their father, but also Joseph Houlihan and William Edge, were among the airmen taken in, despite all the risks, by this valiant family of Saint Just at the beginning of June 1944. A few days later Watts and Houlihan were transferred to Wavignies, again by Marc Cuny, while Sgt Edge remained there.

Henceforth all gathered in the courtyard where the (now disappeared) house of the Fossier-Begue family was located, we also had the great honour of meeting Lucien Bertin.

A young resistant, Lucien Bertin was 17 years old in 1944 and lived in Wavignies. By order of Georges Jauneau, chief of the Resistance of the sector, he had temporarily found refuge with Yvonne Fossier while his village seemed under the surveillance of the enemy.

Lucien Bertin was therefore a witness to the stay of the three American airmen in the early days of June 1944. A photograph was taken with discretion at the time with them in the courtyard of the house.

Begue  LucienBertin
                                                    Pascal Pollet and Paulette,                                                   Lucien Bertin

                                          one of the daughters of Yvonne Fossier

Having returned a few days later to his village, Lucien Bertin and his parents took part in the rescue by collecting and accommodating two British airmen, the only survivors of their bomber shot down near Wavignies.

This visit to the place of accommodation in Saint Just of S/Sgt. Louis I. Watts and his two crewmates in the company of their rescuers could not be completed without taking some "historical" photos. Substantially in the same place, the cliché of 1944 was reproduced with the descendants of both the airman Louis Watts and some of his rescuers. A moment of great emotion for all and especially for Lucien Bertin who, 73 years later, rubbed shoulders with the descendants of one of the airmen he had met.

StJust

Lucien Bertin with the Watts and Begue families.

At the beginning of the afternoon, the visit continued in Wavignies. In the rue Vincenot where the castle was once destroyed by the Germans, we were warmly welcomed by the Mayor, Mr André Renaux, his town council and the people of the village.

Wavignies

Mr Renaux reading the various documents relating to the rescue of the airmen.

A reminder of the important role of the Wavignies Resistance group was mentioned. Many Allied airmen were lodged by various families in the village. Louis Watts and Joseph Houlihan accompanied by an American fighter pilot, 2nd Lt. Harry Hunter, stayed from 7th to 28th June 1944 at Antoinette Dhuyvetter’s home. A few days after their departure, the Germans surrounded the village, making numerous arrests with dramatic consequences.

GenevieveLeBerre

Our friend Genevieve Le Berre, guide of airmen of the "Burgundy" escape network had joined us.

Our visit continued with a quick visit of the house where Antoinette Dhuyvetter lived. Although the site was extensively renovated, it was with great interest that the Watts family discovered this place where their father had been housed for three weeks, 73 years ago.

Wavignies2

All the audience then gathered around the war memorial where a ceremony was held. A tribute was paid by the Mayor and our Association to the numerous resistants and helpers of airmen of the village who died for France, followed by the American and French national anthems.

Monument

Wreaths laid at the war memorial

This day was to end with an official reception at the village hall. During his speech and on behalf of the municipality, Mr. André Renaux expressed his pride and his great emotion in welcoming the members of the Watts family. "... Today, the presence of this American family strongly marks the duty of memory that we must pass on to our children and grandchildren ..."

SpeechWavignies

The journey of the airman was then retraced, notably his stay at Wavignies in June 1944, before concluding with the words "We shall never forget that the United States of America was on the side of France when it was attacked and invaded. We will always have a debt to them. "

Very emotionally, the children and the grandson of the S/Sgt. Watts were then presented with the medal of the village in memory of their visit.

After a few words of thanks from Louis W. Watts on behalf of his family and also very proud that his father and his family were honored, this reception ended with the traditional drinks in a very friendly atmosphere.

SpeechWavignies2

 

Video by the municipality of Wavignies

 

 

21st May

For this new day, the destination was Froissy. The visit began with a visit to Eugène Ropital's former saddlery where Louis Watts and Joseph Houlihan were housed for three weeks in May 1944. Warmly welcomed by the owners of the house, the Watts family, surrounded by the descendants of the Ropital, Boisselin and Radziminski families, could see the old barn and the hiding-place on the floor where the airmen were hidden.

Froissy1

The Ropital and Watts families.

The visit continued a few hundred meters away, in the ex-house of Jean Boisselin where William Edge had been lodged. Former “novelties shop", the building has since been renovated but it was moving for all, especially for the Boisselin family, to rediscover the places of their childhood.

ChezBoisselin

Souvenir photo in the garden of the house with the Boisselin and Ropital families.

Mrs. Sabbagh, the mayor of the village, and her entire municipality, had organized an official reception in the honour of the visit of this American family to the places where their father and grandfather had been collected, despite all the risks, by members of the local Resistance.

After evocating the journey of Louis Watts and his crewmates, Mrs. Catherine Sabbagh continued with these words: "Today is a great day! We celebrate together these glorious times when your father carried bombs under the wings of his plane to stop the German invasion. But in fact, he was not only carrying bombs, he brought Peace and Brotherhood. We will never forget it! ... "

SpeechFroissy

Mrs Sabbagh, mayor of Froissy

After the national anthems, the municipality of Froissy gave the Watts family pictures of the village where the airmen had been housed.

On behalf of her entire family, Vicki, Louis Watts's daughter, warmly thanked the entire municipality as well as all the people present, very delighted to have the opportunity to thank all the French families who had rescued her father. "... Our father loved the people of France and he passed on this affection to his children ... He spoke little of the war, but spoke often, and fondly of the brave men and women of the Resistance who risked their lives to harbour him and thousands of other Allied soldiers... He loved the ‘Marseillaise’ so much that we had it played at his funeral in 1984…

This warm reception was concluded by the traditional drinks and some souvenir-photos.

SpeechVicki  CadeauxFroissy

Militaires

Gunner

Before heading towards Crevecœur-le-Grand, a stop was made in the village of Puits-la-Vallee where the stay of the airmen Louis Watts and Joseph Houlihan was evoked.

Dodge

PuitslaVallee

Puits-la-Vallee

Crevecœur-le-Grand was the final stage of the visit of the Watts family. A very moving meeting was organized in the courtyard of the former "Garage Moderne" with Jean-Mary Liebbe.

Anchored in his mind, the memories of Jean-Mary Liebbe, 8 years old at the time, were all the more precious moments. Very modest but also very proud to meet the children of one of the airmen taken in by his parents in July 1944, he testified to the very active role of his family in the Resistance during this terrible period of the Occupation during which it was so risky to come to the aid of the liberators fallen from the sky.

Liebbe

Jean-Mary Liebbe

At the foot of the imposing town hall, adorned with American colors, the Watts family was then welcomed by the municipality of Crevecœur-le-Grand, directed by its Mayor Mr André Coët. Many regional and departmental representatives honored us with their presence.

As a welcome, the youth Municipal Council also marked its presence by deploying a friendly "Welcome".

Welcome

The official reception was held upstairs, in the magnificent room Francois the First converted into a wedding hall. Staying at Crevecoeur, the King of France slept there in 1520.

In his speech, the mayor, Mr. André Coët, retraced the escape route of S/Sgt. Louis I. Watts, which led him to stay in Crevecœur-le-Grand. He also paid tribute to the many inhabitants of this town who did not hesitate to risk their lives by collecting Allied airmen throughout the conflict. The German repression was then implacable.

Mr. Olivier Dassault, member of Parliament and grandson of the famous aircraft manufacturer, reminded us of the ties and solid friendship that have always united the United States and France in the difficult periods of History. Learning that the Watts family was mostly coming from Little Rock, he did not fail to mention that a branch of the Dassault Aviation Group is located in this city of Arkansas.

SpeechCrevecoeur  Dassault

                           Mr André Coët assisted by Mrs Garault for the translation.                                              Olivier Dassault

The elected representatives then shared the honour of handing over to the whole Watts family the medal of the town of Crevecœur, a symbol of gratitude to their father and grandfather.

VickiDassault

Vicki receiving the medal of the town from the hands of Olivier Dassault.

After words of thanks from the Watts family, a diploma from the Governor of Arkansas, expressing his gratitude to the people of Crevecoeur who had come to the assistance of S/Sgt. Louis Watts, was offered to the municipality.

Diplome

The Governor's Diploma offerd to the town of Crevecoeur

Everyone was then invited to the reception hall. As a welcome, the choir "Saint Nicolas" sang a few songs from the classical and patriotic repertoire as well as some American tunes to the delight of our guests.

This magnificent day ended once again with the traditional drinks.

Chorale

The choir "Saint Nicolas"

ReceptionCrevecoeur

This unforgettable visit was very moving for the Watts family. They were able to retrace, during these two days, the path that had led their father and grandfather towards Liberty. The numerous meetings allowed them to thank with deep gratitude the descendants of the families of our region who came to the aid of the airman in 1944.

 

 

30th October 2016

Mello (Oise)

 

Visit of Joy ETIENNE

niece of T/Sgt. John H. LEAHY

445th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force

                                                                                                           
                                                                                                           Copyright © 2016 - Association des Sauveteurs d'Aviateurs Alliés - All rights reserved -

                                                                                                           En français france

 

 T/Sgt. John H. Leahy   T/Sgt. John H. Leahy

Sunday 30th October. On this beautiful sunny fall day, the municipality of Mello and our Association paid tribute to the crew of the B-24 “Liberator" bomber "Square Dance" of the 445th Bomb Group which was shot down by flak on the heights of the village on 27th June 1944 during a bombing mission over the marshalling yards of Petit Therain, near Creil (Oise, France).

Mello - The castle

The castle of Mello

In this village, dominated by its magnificent castle, we had the great honour of welcoming Mrs. Joy Etienne and her husband, who came from Seattle, Washington, (on their own initiative, Joy and her husband had already discreetly visited Mello last year). Her uncle, T/Sgt. John H. Leahy, from Chicago, was a radio operator aboard the aircraft. He was one of the four crew members who lost his life in action during this tragic mission.

Welcomed by Mrs. Gauvin, Mayor of the village and her councillors, all those present were invited to gather around the memorial decked with American flags. At the base of this structure, a marble plaque recalls the sacrifice of Lts. Arlee Reno and Walter Strychasz, T/Sgt. John Leahy and S/Sgt. Walter Schum, crew members of the "Square Dance" as well as 2nd Lt. Joseph Stone, an American fighter pilot, all of whom fell for our Freedom.

Mello - Tribute to the airmen
Tribute to the crew at the war memorial
 
Mello - The plaque at the war memorial

The plaque which bears the names of the five American airmen.

After words of welcome, the ceremony began with a speech by Mrs. Gauvin.
"71 years ago ended the worst tragedy of the 20th century, probably the worst in the history of mankind. The French people found the way to hope and France that of its History. In the streets of our towns and in our countryside a great joy was spreading. A joy only matched in intensity by the pain and the tears that had marked the six years of suffering that was coming to an end. The pain and the tears of an occupied people which had taken away its freedom. The pain and the tears that had punctuated the daily lives of families, here and elsewhere, amputated by the loss of a father, a brother, a son or an uncle.

An uncle, like that of Joy, Sergeant John Harold Leahy, 32, a radio-operator, who would lose his life at Mello ... "

Mello - Speech of Mrs. Gauvin

Speech of Mrs Gauvin, Mayor of Mello

Mrs. Gauvin then spoke with great emotion about the tragedy which occurred above the village on 27th June 1944 and the fate of each of the ten members of the bomber crew. Her speech ended with these words :

"Those of us, here, have not experienced this war, so we have a duty not to forget. We must continue to honour, to remember and to testify. But we must also convey a message of peace by maintaining our vigilance and constantly acting in compliance with these principles. This is our History, the History of France ... The next few years promise to be decisive for the future of our country and the whole world. We must ceaselessly hold high the republican and democratic values that our elders have bequeathed us ...”

Mrs. Joy Etienne then took the floor and traced with passion and emotion the past of her uncle, T/Sgt. John Harold Leahy. Born in 1911, he was the second son of a family of four living in a working class area of Chicago. An epidemic fever carried off his younger sister Hazel in 1926 at the age of 14. A few months later, his father died.

“…John, who went by the name ‘Bill’ after a movie hero, was a sickly boy. The fever weakened his heart, too. It affected his ability to play sports and he tried several times to join the military… He did not consider himself weak. Both brothers, Walter and ‘Bill’ were business men together and had a small business on LaSalle Street in the financial district of Chicago…”

Mello - Speech of Mrs Joy Etienne

Joy retracing her uncle's life

John H. Leahy married in the early 30s the daughter of the neighbourhood baker. The couple had no children.

"... The family read two or three newspapers daily. They could see the war coming… On 15th September 1941 the Army doctors listened to Bill's heart and accepted him as a volunteer. But the doctors knew Bill had to have a job that was not too physically taxing. A radio operator was good because he could sit down on the long flights. He learned to fire a gun. He also learned first aid”.

T/Sgt. John H. Leahy, 445th Bomb Group

Chicago – 27th November 1943 - John H. Leahy and his wife Helen

After several months of training, John H. Leahy was assigned to the 445th Bomb Group. He left the United States and joined the airbase at Tibenham, Norfolk, in December 1943. After that the dangerous bombing missions over occupied territories began. In his letters home, he always reassured his family, saying that all was well and that he would soon be back home.

“…The Hollywood movie star Jimmy Stewart was a pilot on the same aerodrome. This fact has been important in finding out where my uncle was because my family never knew. The family only knew that Bill had been killed in action in France. The 27th June 1944 was my uncle’s 35th mission. He was going to return home to become a radio-operator instructor qualified for the new replacements if he had landed at Tibenham, England... I feel very honoured today that our village and you remember this group of courageous airmen and all your heroes... Please don't ever forget. The greatest gift we have is Freedom”.

This evocation of the life of T/Sgt. John H. Leahy by his niece was simultaneously translated by our friend Mauricette Gallego, born in Maysel, a neighbouring municipality of Mello, a few months before the crash of the plane and therefore very attached to the history of this aircraft for many years !

This ceremony continued with a laying of wreaths followed by a respectful minute of silence and the national anthems.

All present were then invited to a drinks reception.

IMG 1689

 Laying of wreaths

IMG 1704
 Joy and Mrs. Gauvin surrounding Mrs Genevieve Le Berre,

convoyeuse of airmen within the "Burgundy" escape network, who did us the honour of attending this tribute.

IMG 1711

 A moment of fraternity !

The next day was spent visiting the place where the B-24 "Square Dance" fell. The site, now so peaceful where nature has taken over again, shows nothing of the tragedy which occurred 72 years ago except for a small stone monument erected many years ago. Small bunches of flowers were laid in front of the monument interlaced with Joy’s multitude of small Stars and Stripes flags. Then followed an emotional minute of silence in memory of the crew of the bomber.

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 IMG 7085

 The stele on the crash site

 

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