• 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)

 

31st August 2014

 

Cramoisy (Oise)

 

Tribute to 2nd Lt. Jerome J. ZIERLEIN

 
 
474th Fighter Group
 
428th Fighter Squadron
 
9th Air Force
                                                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                               Copyright © 2014 - Association des Sauveteurs d'Aviateurs Alliés - All rights reserved -
                                                                                                               En français france 
                                                                                                              

 

On Sunday 31st August 2014, the municipality of Cramoisy (Oise) paid a moving tribute to 2nd Lt. Jerome J. Zierlein, a young American fighter pilot shot down in aerial combat over the village a few days before the Liberation which was commemorated at the same time. A special ceremony to which the ASAA was invited.

 

Zierlein70 years ago, on 25th August 1944, while Paris was celebrating its Liberation, 23 pilots of P-38 "Lightning", belonging to the 428th and 429th Squadron of the 474th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force, took off from their base in Neuilly-la-Foret (Calvados). Their mission: to attack German airfields in the area of Laon and Reims.

Intercepted above the Oise department by a force of thirty German fighters Messerschmitt-109 and Focke-Wulf-190 of JG76 and JG26 in the triangle Creil-Clermont-Beauvais, a dogfight of a period of twenty minutes ensued. In spite of their numerical superiority many German fighters were lost.

For the 474th Fighter Group, eleven P-38 "Lightning" were shot down during this Friday 25th August mission which become, with a loss rate of around 50%, Black Friday.

Among these pilots, seven managed to get out of their aircraft. 2nd Lts Capron, Jarvis and Leahy were collected and hidden by the population. 2nd Lt. Spiker and Koch and 1st Lt. Patterson and Austin were captured after landing by parachute. These two managed to escape afterwards. Capt Holcomb, 1st Lt Stone, 2nd Lts. Packard and Zierlein were killed.

According to witnesses, in order to avoid crashing into the village of Cramoisy 2nd Lt. Zierlein managed to straighten out his powerless aircraft before baling out. Being at too low an altitude, his parachute did not have time to open and the body of the young 23-year old Texan pilot was found near the Bois de la Garenne, not far from the place where his plane crashed.

 

Quickly arriving at the scene, the Germans took the body of the pilot to the hospital of Creil where his death was recorded. He was buried in the town cemetery.

A few days later, on 31st August, the Creil region was liberated by the American Army.

The remains of 2nd Lt. Jerome J. Zierlein were repatriated after the war to the United States. He now rests in the San Jacinto Memorial Park, Houston, Texas.

- - - - - - - - - -

On this morning of 31st August 2014, 70 years to the day after its Liberation, hundreds of people came to the ordinary quiet village where flags of the allied countries decorated the streets. The crowd gathered in front of the village hall before heading for the War memorial where the memory of 2nd Lt. Jerome J. Zierlein was to be honoured in the presence of members of his family who came especially from Houston, Texas. Also present, accompanied by his wife, was the son of 2nd Lt. James E. Leahy, companion in arms of 2nd Lt. Zierlein, who was rescued in Mouy by the Breton family until the Liberation.

American military vehicles headed opened the long procession followed by a brass band, a Pipe Band and flag bearers.

Jeeps

Drapeaux

Civil and military authorities, a detachment of the French Air Base of Creil ... everyone then gathered all around the small village square dominated by a large portrait of 2nd Lt. Zierlein.

The name of 2nd Lt. Zierlein, now engraved on the War memorial of the village, was unveiled and the French flag solemnly presented to his family.

Dvoilement

Remise du drapeau

The flag presented to the Zierlein family

Many wreaths were successively layed at the foot of the War memorial by the municipality and representatives of various associations.

Gerbe du maire    Gerbe de lASAA
Laying of wreaths by the mayor and, among others, by the Association des Sauveteurs d'Aviateurs Alliés
 

Face au monument

The bugle-call was followed by a respectful minute of silence and then the national anthems of Canada, Great Britain, United States and France were played by the Band of St. Maximin.

Hymnes nationaux

Children of the village then read, in turn, the always too long list of names engraved on the memorial, victims fallen in battle for France and Freedom in the two World Wars and in other conflicts.

Lecture

Then followed the speeches. The mayor, Mr. Jean Claude Darsonville, said that the department of Oise lived 1264 days under Nazi occupation. The population of Cramoisy lived in constant fear of the Allied bombings of German facilities nearby, such as V1 rockets installations in Saint Leu d’Esserent. Bombings which thankfully spared the village. He pointed out that more than 250 Allied aircraft had been shot down in the department. Many of their crew lost their lives. Among these aircraft, the Halifax III MZ628 of Royal Canadian Air Force, 431 Squadron, shot down on 18th July 1944 near the village. No member of the Anglo-Canadian crew survived.

Before evocating the circumstances of the Liberation of the village by the American Army, the mayor also recalled the great air battle of 25th August 1944 which took place in the skies over the region. A battle between German fighters with aircraft of 474th Fighter Group in which 2nd Lt. Jerome J. Zierlein’s plane was shot down.

Discours maire
 Speech by Mr. Jean Claude Darsonville, Mayor of Cramoisy
 

2nd Lt. Zierlein’s nieces, speaking in French, were also keen to express their deep gratitude to the municipality and thanks to all present for this tribute to their uncle.

Discours amricaines
 Allison and Catherine, 2nd Lt. Zierlein's nieces

 

The floor was successively passed to Senator Philippe Marini, the MP Michel Francaix and Vice-Chairman of the General Council Alain Blanchard who presented the Medal of the Department to the American family.

Medaille

The whole audience was then invited to return to the village hall for the traditional reception. An exhibition organized by the municipality traced the history of the aerial combat of 25th August 1944, also recalling the tragic fate of the crew of the Halifax bomber shot down the previous month. The whole presentation was embellished with various equipment and mannequins representing pilots of the USAAF and RAF set up by our friend Jean Philippe.

 

Mairie

 

Expo 1

Recovered shortly after the crash, one of the propeller blades of 2nd Lt. Zierlein's P-38 was displayed. 
 

Expo 2

 

A beautiful day of tribute to this young pilot which will remain etched in our memories.

Special thanks to our excellent reporter and friend Pyperpote whose photos illustrate much of this article.

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Conception, développement et formation,

Pyperpote -

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