Evreux Air Base
Memorial in French National Forest Rededicated, June 2012
A memorial honoring the 13 Evreux Airmen and 2 Army Specialists who lost their lives when their C-130A (55-0020) crashed on March 8th, 1962 was rediscovered in March 2008 deep in the Ecouves National Forest. Very little was known about this memorial, only that it existed, and the 317th Veterans Group had been searching for its location for a long time. It was lost in time until 2008.
In June 2012 the memorial was rededicated with full military honors. In attendance were family members of the deceased Airmen, veterans of the 317th, French Air Force airmen from Evreux Air Base and people from the village of St Nicolas des Bois.
All the veterans were driven to the memorial site from Evreux, a 3 hour drive, in 13 private cars by French volunteers who donated their time and gas to get the veterans to the ceremony. The region had heavy rain fall in the days prior to the ceremony and the Forest Department brought in a heavy scraper to smooth out the fire lanes so they were passable in the cars. Otherwise there would have been a long walk to the memorial site. Mr. Lionel Huchette, Director of the Ecouves National Forest, had the concrete base of the memorial power washed and the area around the memorial policed before the rededication. The memorial looked like it was just installed.
The Mayor of St Nicolas des Bois, Mr. Gerard Lemoine, had the Forest Department transport the Town Hall’s chairs to the site. They also installed a large flag pole at the site with the US and French flags. The Mayor searched the region for a battery powered sound system and found one in another town. He picked it up and installed it using the Forest Department’s tractor for power.
Lt. Col. Termeniere, French Air Force, Deputy Commander of the Anjou Squadron represented the Evreux Base Commander along with the French Air Force Honor Guard, the Mayor of St Nicolas des Bois, Mr. Gerard Lemoine, represented the village, Mr. Lionel Huchette, Director of the Ecouves National Forest represented the French National Forest Department and Mrs. Patti McRae, daughter of Major William J. Wilson, Jr. represented the family members.
The ceremony was conducted by Bill Lloyd, President of the 317th Veterans Group and Col. Patrice Le Mao, (FAF Retired) who translated the speeches into French. Wreaths were laid at the memorial by Patti McRae and her husband, David, Jo Lynn Hardin-Vaughan, wife of 1st Lt. Stanley C. Hardin and her son Steve Hardin. Lt. Col. Termeniere and Mayor Lemoine also placed wreaths at the memorial. Mrs. McRae gave a moving speech about what the rededication of the memorial meant to her after all these years. She published an article in her local newspaper on Veterans Day, 2012.
You can read her article by Clicking Here
With the playing of the National Anthems of the US and France the formal ceremony was concluded. All the attendees then travelled to the Town Hall for a reception with the people of St Nicolas des Bois. The walls were filled with photos, newspaper articles about the crash and testimonies about the events they remembered from that tragic day. Awards were presented to the Mayor and Mr. Huchette thanking them for all their assistance in the day’s activities.
You can view photos of the ceremony by CLICKING HERE You can view the dedication speech by CLICKING HERE
You can view photos of the memorial by CLICKING HERE http://www.panoramio.com/photo/85419652 Then click on “More Photos By Bill Lloyd” (if you leave any comments at the photo site please include your email address)
The Forest Department had signs made directing forest visitors to the memorial and has repaired the trail leading to it. Col. Le Mao and Marc Pichard visited the memorial in May 2013 and it remains in pristine condition with the surrounding area well maintained by the Forest Department.
French Air Force Major Jean Claude Leroux discovered the memorial located at the crash site in a clearing of a National Forest near Alencon, France in March 2008.
In July 2008 Bill Lloyd, Don Connor, Patrice Le Mao and Jean Zabukovic went looking for the memorial using a map provided by Major Leroux.
After a lot of four wheel driving down forest pathways, it was found. Patrice had brought along cleaning materials and gave the large plaque a through cleaning. Bill, Don, Jean and Patrice had a feeling of accomplishment after visiting the memorial and paying their respects. It was probably the first time in many decades that American AF veterans had visited the memorial.
When and who dedicated the memorial at the crash site?
Our friends in Evreux, Patrice Le Mao and Eliane Montuchet, started to research on who placed the memorial and when. They had a meeting at the memorial site in early 2009. At the meeting was a local French Policeman, the Editor of the local newspaper, several locals that assisted with the recovery efforts and the Director of the National Forest. The Director of the National Forest had paperwork showing that the American Legion Paris Post #1 signed the original contract for the long-term lease of the land where the memorial is placed. By French law any memorial placed on Government land has to be leased.
The Air Force Historical Agency was contacted about ownership of the memorial. They could find no reference to it in their 322nd Air Division or 317th TCW records. The USAFE Command History Office, Ramstein AB, Germany was also contacted. They could find no reports of the memorial in the 322nd Air division records.
The contract lease of the land had expired in 2001, however the Forest Department, out of respect, had been keeping the area clear of the ever encroaching trees and shrubs. After meetings in Paris with the American Legion Paris Post #1 in July 2010, and with the assistance of MGen Chuck Wilson and the Legion Post Commander, Carl Hale, a new lease contract was executed with the National Forest Department in May 2011. The 317th Veterans Group signed a subcontract with the American Legion Paris Post #1 assuming all responsibilities for the terms of the contract including the funding of the 9 year lease agreement. With the executed contract in place, planning for the 2012 (60th anniversary of the crash) rededication ceremony started,
Jean-Marie Foubert is the Editor of the Alencon “L’Orne Hebdo” newspaper published an article seeking information about the crash and the memorial in 2011. More information was obtained from the local French citizens that was eventually put on display at the Town Hall after the rededication ceremony. He also published a book (in French) in 2008 about the history and interesting sites of the Ecouves Forest. It is titled “Ecouves, La belle au bois normand”. Two pages are devoted to the crash site and memorial.
With the assistance of Vicki Key all the families of the deceased Airmen were located except for one family. None of the families were aware of the memorial and information about the memorial was provided to them.
One of the 317th VG members, Clyde Cummings, was on the all volunteer group of Airmen from the base that constructed the foundation for the memorial in 1963. He reported a piece of the aircraft with its tail number, 55-0020, was imbedded in the concrete foundation. He remembers the local villagers bringing fresh bread, wine and cheese to the construction site every day they were there.
Stars and Stripes March 1962:
Evreux AB Pays Respect to Deceased Crewmen At Protestant-Catholic Memorial Services
The officers and enlisted men of Evreux Air Base paid respect at Protestant-Catholic memorial services last Monday to the 15 crewman who died March 8 when their C-130 crashed near Alencon, France
The services began at 4 p.m. with a processional of an Army-Air Force honor guard. Requiem Mass for the deceased was celebrated by Chaplain (Maj.) Henry Bielski.
Following the Catholic services, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) John T. Evans and Capt. Arthur E. Erickson conducted a Protestant memorial service, with readings from the Old and New Testatments.
While memorial services were conducted at the base chapel, an aircraft dropped a wreath on the crash site. A formation of eight C-130s, with the number two position left open in honor of the deceased, flew over the base chapel as services concluded there at 5 p.m.
To express their sympathy, French government and religious officials attended the memorial services.
The fifteen crewmen killed in the crash included five Air Force officers, eight airmen and two Army enlisted men. Their airplane was reported missing the evening of March 8. It was last heard from while flying a mission with five other Hercules that were returning to Evreux Air Base from a paradrop near Bouard, France.
The four-engine transport was found late the following morning in the Ecouve forest near Alencon by French civilian and U.S. rescue personnel. The crash site is about 80 miles southwest of Evreux Air Base.
French police began a search early on the morning of March 9 after a forest ranger reported he had found debris near one of the highest points in the wooded area.
The photo below was taken in 2008 soon after the discovery of the crash site memorial was discovered.
Pictured in the photo (L-R) is Mr. Jean Zabukovec, Col. Patrice Le Mao, FAF, 317th Veteran Mr. Don Connor, and 317th Veterans Group President, Bill Lloyd.
Pictured at the memorial site are (L-R) Mr. Jean Zabukovic, Col. Patrice Le Mao(FAF Ret), Mr. Don Connor and 317th VG President Mr. Bill Lloyd. For More information Click Here