• 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)

 

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.

 

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