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Hoddy
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Yesterday, my neighbour told me that he could remember that on June 6th 1944 lots of American aeroplanes flew low down the Dordogne valley.

I'm pretty sure that this can't be true, but I wonder if he is confusing this with another event, he was after all very young at the time. Does anyone have any ideas ?

Hoddy
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Was it at night or daytime?

There were night flights around then which dropped off SOE agents among others. Also supplies of weapons etc for the resistance. I think this started before the 6th and continued for some time.

Not sure if they were American planes but it's likely that some were as there was a big influx of US planes from ?1943 to make up for the losses of British planes in the early years of the war.

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It was during the day on June 6th.

I know about the drops to the resistance. I've ben lucky enough to have dinner with a man who was a communist in those days and explained how his group used to delight in getting to the British drop-offs, which weren't for them, before the approved groups.

Also those drops were not the large numbers that my neighbour is talking about.

Thanks for your ideas.
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[quote user="woolybanana"]I think they were British planes, Hoddy, carrying the first settlers to come to the Dordogne to get cheap property!!![/quote]

Very likely [:D]

But seriously, it's very unlikely that American planes came so far south on that day. The place and date of the invasion was kept so secret. And all the air activity took place in the north.

Hoddy - I think your friend's memory has let him down.

It's interesting though that he seems to think of their saviours as American - the British effort isn't appreciated.

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Do you really think that the French would ever give credit to the British for saving their artses? It would be just so embarrassing.

Particularly as many of them blamed the Brits for deserting them and running away at Dunkirk, and for not dropping them further down the coast so they could continue the fight; fat bloody chance! Just another ferry service, wasn't it!
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A couple of years ago I happened to remark to the not-so-young lady (originally from Alsace) in our local Wine Coop that I had forgotten that May 8th was a holiday.

She patiently explained to me that it was always a holiday, as France had had a war with Germany, and that was the day it ended.

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Thanks for the replies. I know for sure that it didn't happen on June 6th because I've read Das Reich by Max Hasting and I've not heard it mentioned by anyone else.

What I was wondering was if something like it had happened on a different day. It looks as though it's a completely false memory, my neighbour was only eight at the time.
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My Dad was a bomb aimer and although he never talked much about the war I do remember him telling me that he dropped masses of Mars Bars and chocolate to the Resistance, I don't know if it was as far south as the Dordogne though, I doubt it.

He also said that he dropped lots and lots of counterfeit Reichmarks and gold bullion in 'secret'.  It was a dead giveaway that it was gold as it was the only time they would have an armed escort on board!

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It's quite possible they were American planes - especially if he saw them during daylight.

In the weeks leading up to D-Day the RAF and the USAAF hammered communication and transport links so as to make it difficult for the Germans to get men and supplies to Normandy (and, as a ruse, Calaise and Norway).

When the USAAF struck deep into France or Germany they would have fighter escort that would fly part of the way and then rotate back as the next group came to take their places. The pilots then had licence to hit targets of opportunity on the way back, which often meant flying on the deck looking out for trains, motor cars, airfields, columns of troops and so on. These fighter support aircraft were both USAAF and RAF - usually Mustangs, Spitfires and Thunderbolts (although after the invasion the latter were usually kept for ground attack work in support of the allied armies).

I seem to remember the Germans also had a fleet of Condor anti-shipping aircraft at Merignac and no doubt assorted fighters. It would make sense to attack these aircraft on the ground so they could not be moved north to attack the invasion fleet. This may explain the presence of American aircraft in the Dordogne valley.
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A very rational explanation of what may have occurred, if I may say so.

We shouldn't just dismiss the gentleman's memory because it doesn't seem to fit (but that's no criticism of anybody).

It must have been mayhem around that time and with effective aerial superiority, the Allies were able to roam at will.
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From what I have learned about the one bombing raid made on my village the yanks seemed to like safety in numbers and what the guy remembered on that day was probably just another squadron of bombers and their fighter support on their way to a raid elsewhere.

This is what they sent out to bomb one small undefended factory:

97BG and 301BG together despatch 43 B-17s to bomb the Avion Portez aircraft factory ar Meaulte, France; 97BG also despatches 6 B-17s to attack the German airfield Longuenesse at St. Omer, France which is intended as a diversion to the main attack at Meaulte, France. The diversion is escorted by 23 Spitfires from the newly formed 4th Fighter Group. In addition, 12 DB-7 (A-20) from 15th Bomb Squadron attack a ship at the docks of Le Harve, France.

I'm unsure of the relevance of the last bit, were I to be overflown by a similar amount of aircraft especially as a child I would remember it vividly, date as well, for life.

People in my village still talk bitterly of the cowardly British (funny how they forgot it was an American squadron) who they claim deliberately bombed the village to avoid the anti-aircraft defences at the factory which I dont think they were any of.

To me sending 43 bombers for one small factory meant it was a hard target to hit (I have seen aerial reconnaisance photos and it was superbly camoflaged) and I have also seen the photos taken in the aftermath, the bombs are spread around a wide area, dropped all around my property without destroying it, must have ripped off the roof and blown out all the Windows though, from the dispersal it was very Lucky indeed that only one landed on the adjacent cité ouvrièr.

And killed in action on that raid was someone that shares my name, spooky or what.

When people are being at their nastiest and confront me about that raid I take pleasure in explaining the difference between Americans and les sales Anglaises, and point out that they may tell me I am the only foreigner in their village but I take comfort in the fact that 1350 British Commonwealth soldiers are buried in just one of the two CWGC cemeteries here who gave their lives for the liberty of France and our village and who even today outnumber the inhabitants by 300.

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Post from Harry Ree copied and pasted from the previous link:

"South Western France was within the normal range of the USAAF

heavy bombers.The targets were the various airfields in the South West

France but the priorities were against German industrial targets and

those in Northern France and North West France,U Boat bases as far south

as La Palice and the road and rail communications associated with the

planned Normandy invasion.

 

As regards the 6 June 1944,the heavy bombers of the 8th Air Force

were engaged safeguarding the bridgehead by bombing enemy support

pushing into the bridgehead and those enemy within the

bridgehead.Interestingly the 8th Air Force fighter units,P 38,P47 and

P51types over 1700 aircraft in all were deployed patrolling and securing

the bridgehead on D Day.Priorities for the invasion would prevent air

operations down to South Western France and I cannot find any USAAF

operations in this area on this date.

 

It looks as if there were two major bombing operations in the South

Western France,against airfields as previously stated which could have

resulted in USAAF aircraft overflying the Dordogne.

 

The first was on 5 March 1944 when B 24s carried out raids on

Bergerac airfield,Cognac (Chateaubernard) airfield and Mont de Marsan

airfield.

(There is a small stone memorial on one of the Monbazillac vineyard

roads to a Frenchman who was killed on the day...it's about 3 miles as

the crow flys from the airfield.)

 

The second raid recorded was on 27 March1944  by a force of B17s and B

24s and the target airfields were Bordeaux Merignac airfield ,La

Rochelle airfield, Biarritz airfield and Mont de Marsan

 

There was also operations mounted against Merignac by the RAF.....a No 151 Squadron Mosquito fighter bomber was lost in early August ... the crew are interred in Perigueux N. Communal Cemetery. Not known where it came to grief."

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Thanks for the interesting replies, in particular to PatF’s contact, which coincides more with what I thought than any of the others. Perhaps I should say that my general knowledge about bombing raids is probably higher than many because my father worked at a bomber station throughout the war. It was the lack of possible local targets that made me doubt it and the fact that they were flying east to west (should have said that in my original post).

Additionally, I have checked “Das Reich” again and there is no comment about allied bombers on June 6th or June the 8th when the Germans passed through here on their way north.

Thanks to Harry Ree I’m wondering if it could have been the attack on Cognac and Bergerac, although we are not on the route from Cognac to Bergerac as the crow flies it might be as the bomber flies.

Like many others here I get upset that the British role in both world wars is largely unrecognised. I’ve toyed with the idea of wearing one of my great-uncles medals especially the Croix de Guerre which he won in WW1 to one of the commemoration ceremonies round here.

The jewish resistant who I mentioned in an earlier post has been working hard for ages to get the role played by Spanish republicans in these parts acknowledged. He is a very old man, but is at last having some success and a few plaques have gone up in memory of the Spaniards who died around these parts. They even managed to find the widow of one of them.

Thanks again to all.

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Hoddy - like you my father served in WW2. He was in the Royal Navy, and I have his medals from the Atlantic and the Med. etc. That's why I joined the WW2 forum.

This Harry Ree seems to be an expert historian of the times, with a special interest in France.

I've sent you a pm.

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Thanks G.

As an aside, my dad was a Mosquito night fighter pilot in Italy at the time of D-Day. He told me on the last day of the war in Europe he flew up and down the south coast of France tasked with intercepting aircraft that might try and escape to North Africa with high ranking Germans aboard. It was a quiet night for him. Not so for the other crews who were getting drunk back at the mess.
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