Evreux Veterans Day Reunion
26 June 1999
The Evreux Reunion was a never to be forgotten experience that was enjoyed by all who attended. There were 70 veterans and wives in attendance representing all the major squadrons that were assigned to Evreux Air Base. From the C-119 era in the early 1950s was the 465th TCW, the 780th and 781st. From the C-130 era was the 317th CAMS, the 39th and 40th TCS. The medical, supply and accounting offices were also represented.
Friday evening June 25th, we attended a Big Band concert which featured the multi-national SHAPE Ambassador Band from SHAPE in Belgium. The French Air Force also had a big band which featured a crooner who charmed the ladies with his good looks and singing ability. Saturday at 11AM we met with the Mayor of Evreux at the city hall. He spoke to us about the economic impact the city felt when the USAF left the base permanently in 1967. Over 500 French civilians who were employed at the base lost their jobs and the spending of over 3,000 US servicemen and their families was lost. The city has since recovered and experienced a great economic boom in the 1980s. The city has grown so much that it was difficult for an old vet to get oriented. I did locate a couple of old haunts, the cafe Bouillon and the hotel LaBiche. I did not have enough time to try to find any others. Evreux is still a very beautiful town and the old landmarks such as the Hotel de Ville and the Cathedral remain the same.
After the Mayor's welcoming speech, the veteran's responded by giving him a "Certificate of Thanks" for the town's hospitality over the years; it was signed by all the veterans in attendance. French Air Force buses took us from the Mayor's reception to the Base, where a memorial ceremony was held for a US serviceman who lost his life during the construction of the trailor park on the base in 1955. Afterwards, we attended a luncheon at the officer's mess. The decorations there were splendid. There were many pictures of the base taken in the 50's and 60's on display as well as models of a USAF C-119 and C-130A. The base commander Col. Pavillet gave us a warm welcome and awarded 3 nice plaques to individuals who helped with the reunion. MGen Chuck Wilson of the 465th, Maj. Dale Huhmann of the Air Attache's office and Jim Timmons of the 317th were the recipients.
After lunch we boarded buses for a tour of the base. We were treated to exciting demonstrations by the French Air Force Commandos, which included parachute jumps, hand to hand combat and attack dog demonstrations. We toured the transport squadron aircraft, which is the C-160 Transall. This airplane is very similar to the C-130 except that it has 2 engines. The C-160 flight simulator was quite a thrill. The video presentation provides such a realistic moving view of the terrain and sky out of the cockpit windows that you could swear you were airborne. The old trailer park is no longer there, but an old trailer 1950s vintage was found and restored for display. Some of the folks who lived in them were among our group and it was an emotional experience to go into the trailer and reminisce how life was on base over 40 years ago. The base chapel was another place that brought back a flood of memories for some. We had some couples that were married there on our tour. A lot of the old buildings are still there, painted green instead of the white we remembered. The barracks, base operations, the big maintenance hanger, the marguerites are all still there.
The tour ended at 6PM and we returned to our hotels for some rest before the evening activities. We returned to the base at 8:30PM and were treated to cocktails and a delicious lobster dinner. There were 250 people in attendance, the French Air Force had invited the civilians who worked at the base in the 50's and 60's as well as other guests. After dinner there was a very moving flag ceremony. When the American national anthem was played all the vets sang out the "Star Spangled Banner" 'with all their hearts. The French did the same when their national anthem was played. The Shape Ambassadors Band played dance music till well after midnight, when a disc jockey took over till the wee hours of the morning. Everyone there had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The next day Sunday started at 1:30 PM with a bus ride through the French Country side to "Champ de Bataille" a beautiful old chateau; where we toured the beautiful gardens with their fragrant flowers and the chateau's rooms filled with interesting antiques.
I just want to say, I feel, hope and wish that this reunion is not the final chapter, but rather the renewal of our ties with Evreux.