Evreux and Alencon

Earlier this year my husband Walter and I planned a trip to France with the intention of visiting Evreux where my family was stationed in the late 50’s and early 60’s.  We also wanted to find the memorial to my dad, Captain Edward Vianco, and the other 14 members of the crew who died in a C-130 crash outside of Alencon in March 1962.  I knew that a re-dedication ceremony was held three years prior but was unable to attend at that time.  As I was researching the history and location of the memorial monument, I found the website for the 317 Veterans Group and its leader, Bill Lloyd.  Bill kindly invited us to attend the reunion in Evreux on May 5-9.  Our trip was then centered on those dates.  Bill posted my contact information online, and I received a phone call from Roger Leach, our family’s escort from Evreux to Texas in 1962.  To hear from him after 53 years was extraordinary.  I also got a call from Arne Ellermets, who piloted one of the six planes that went on the training mission that fateful day in 1962.  He described the events in detail, something I had never known.  I received an email from Ed Merck, a navigator who know my dad and had flown with him.


In Evreux we met the reunion participants and Patrice Le Mao, who helped organize the week’s events.  I heard stories of the day of the crash from several men who were either on one of the planes or back at the base.   I am so grateful to know more facts than I had ever heard before.  The next day, Walter and I drove to Village in the Forest, aka La Madeleine, and found my house.  We explored the neighborhood and the forest where I had ridden my bike and played with all the other kids who lived there. 


On May 7, we loaded on a motor coach and toured the Evreux Air Base.  We were guests of the Base Commander, Colonel Fabrice Feola.  I was honored to help lay flowers at the memorial to those who died while serving in Evreux.  We were also treated to a wonderful lunch hosted by the commander and the French Air Force.  Even though I was seven in 1962, I remembered several of the locations we visited including the Officers’ Club and the Base Chapel.   


On VE Day, May 8, we drove to St. Nicholas du Bois, where I was asked by Mayor Gerard LeMoine to attend the ceremony at the local church.  This tiny village is located near where the crash occurred, and the townspeople had helped with the search and recovery effort in 1962.  We were invited to a reception after church where they raised a toast to me and my family.   A lovely young mom who lived on a farm nearby was recruited to act as a translator.  Mayor LeMoine gave me a copy of the local newspaper from March 1962 that included articles and photographs of the recovery. 


After the reception Mayor and Mrs. LeMoine drove us to the site of the monument in the woods.  The area had been recently mowed and showed signs of continued maintenance by the forest service.  Whenever the workers find a small piece of metal believed to be a part of the plane, they place it on the memorial.  I was greatly moved by the generosity of spirit shown by these wonderful people, and I will be forever humbled by the love and respect they showed to me and my husband.


We had used Trip Advisor to find lodgings in Alencon and decided on Chateau de Sarceaux, located just outside of the town.  The family of the Marquis and Marquise Gicquel des Touches, our hosts, has lived in the chateau for generations.  When I told the story of the plane crash and the reason for our visit, Herve, the Marquis, told me that he remembered that March date distinctly because he was a young boy sleeping in the upstairs bedroom and the loud boom awakened him.  Jacqueline, the Marquise, played the piano at the rededication ceremony in 2012.  What a remarkable coincidence!


This trip will forever be in my mind and heart.  Thank you to all who helped to make it happen.


Gayle Vianco Lacy