histoire d'une forteresse volante abbattue à Saint-Colomban, près de Nantes, le 4 juillet 1943
1943 - 2004
July 3,4,5, 2004
# 42-5053
crash on July 4, 1943
in St-Colomban
Focke Wulf
into grand-lieu lake
10 young
american boys
B17 technical
Ralph D. McKee
(his escape)
Pilot escape
thanks to
american families
French witness

Marcel BiretMarcel Biret - 2001 (aged 86)
"I hid a paratrooper in Loterie"

I was in my village of Loterie (a hamlet in St Philbert de Grand Lieu 25 km south of Nantes), while I saw a paratrooper come down. With Célestin DUGAST, who we were sheltering, we immediately cycled towards the hamlet of Le Forcin where he seemed to have landed.
We looked for him, but nothing! Suddenly, near Le Forcin close to the river, I lift my head and see a chute hanging in an ash tree. I look around the tree and see this young 21-year old paratrooper in a beautiful flying uniform.(1) I ask Célestin to take the American at once to Loterie on my bike. Then I set about hiding the parachute. I had difficulty in cutting the parachute ropes to remove the parachute from the tree. With Samuel BOURSIN who was there, we hid it in a pine grove, just before the Germans arrived in a jeep.
Phew, that was close!
During the night, I came back to get the parachute and I hid it in the trunk of an oak tree. The paratrooper was hidden in the attic of the house and was given food.
I remember he cut his beautiful leather boots to make them look like shoes. He stayed in the house for about a week. The Germans often came by but didn't notice anything.
One day four people came by on their bikes. Bernard PAPIN (the butcher's son) who knew a little bit of English came to talk with the paratrooper. And it was M. CHATAIGNER(2) , the tax inspector, who organised the American's escape. I hid him in a hay cart to drive him to the marsh.
After the war, I received a certificate of thanks from the American people for my bravery. By mistake, my father's name was mentioned on it instead of mine. Alas, it appears that this American was most probably killed in the South of France on another mission(3). On this 4 July 1943, two other paratroopers were captured by the Germans. They had come down in the hamlet of La Garoterie, and one of them had sustained leg injuries when he'd landed on a vineyard stake.

(1) Read Ralph McKee's escape
(2) Read Jean Chataigner personnal memory
(3) Not true. Ralph is still alive in year 2001!


Marcel Biret