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Les aviateurs du Lucky Lady
Les aviateurs du Lucky Lady

25 Mai 1944


vendredi 22 février 2002 par Evelyne Marsura

Le trajet des avions
Le 464eme Bomber Group a perdu ce jour-là plusieurs B-24

Ce matin du 25 Mai 1944, sur la base de Gioia del Colle en Italie, le Lucky Lady, un B-24 Liberator du 464ème Bomber Group de la 15ème Air Force s’élève dans le ciel italien pour sa neuvième mission.
Objectif : Bombardement du noud ferroviaire de Badan à Grigny (Rhône)

Mais, ce 25 mai 1944, l’équipage du Lucky lady est porté disparu au retour sur la base italienne.

Les premiers avions de la formation atteignent leur objectif et larguent les premières bombes à 12 h56. Les épais panaches de fumées qui s’élèvent du sol ne trompent pas quant à l’étendue de la zone touchée.

Le triage après le bombardement

A 14 heures, la formation de la 15eme A.F. survole à nouveau la Côte d’Azur. La chasse et la Flak allemandes s’ébranlent en direction des avions. Le Lucky Lady est atteint à l’avant et prend feu. L’avion n’ira pas plus loin. Il s’écrase au nord-est d’Agay. A l’intérieur, six hommes sont mortellement blessés.

Des témoins ont vu quatre parachutes quitter le bombardier en flammes juste avant qu’il ne pique du nez et disparaisse du ciel . Philippe Castellano, auteur de "Liberator" [1] précise : " L’appareil n’est alors plus qu’une boule de feu qu’apparemment le pilote essaie de contrôler pour tenter de laisser se parachuter les trois membres de l’équipage encore en vie à bord, qui doivent sans aucun doute être, eux aussi, blessés et gravement brûlés... Un parachute s’ouvre... il est en flammes ! Un autre se met en vrille et l’aviateur qui y est suspendu, descendant à toute vitesse, disparaît dans la forêt. Les deux autres s’ouvrent et d’après certains témoignages, il semblerait qu’un chasseur allemand se soit approché d’un aviateur et lui ait tiré dessus. Le quatrième homme atterrit sauf, mais grièvement brûlé. Il s’agit du pilote, le sous-lieutenant Trotter qui est immédiatement capturé par les soldats allemands et dirigé vers l’hôpital militaire de Draguignan."

Morts trop jeunes, au retour d’une mission au-dessus de Givors...

Les 10 hommes du "Lucky Lady" Serial # 41-29382

En haut de gauche à droite : Oakley E. Casey, mitrailleur, William O. Trotter, pilote , Harry E. Lovelle, navigateur , Hempile, co-pilote **, Leonard L. Meyer, bombardier En bas de gauche à droite : Dale W. Jones, mitrailleur, Paul J. Hamlin, mitrailleur, Robert A. Jenior, mitrailleur, Robert T.Grissett, mécanicien, John E.Beck, mitrailleur, ** Hempile n’était pas de cette mission. Il était remplacé par Robert F.Mac Carty, disparu au-dessus d’Agay (France)

William O.Trotter . Témoignage d’Eddie Grunenwald

William O.Trotter
23 ans, seul rescapé du Lucky Lady, décédé à l’hôpital de Dijon le 25 août 1944 des suites de ses blessures. (Coll Famille Trotter via Philippe Castellano ) 

Cette lettre a été envoyée à la femme du navigateur Harry E Lovelle, décédé ce 25 Mai 1944 avec l’équipage du Lucky Lady, par Eddie Grunenwald, pilote du "Free delivery" capturé le 5 Juillet 1944 et hospitalisé en même temps que William Trotter, seul rescapé du Lucky Lady.

September 4, 1945

Dear Mrs Lovelle,

Have just received your letter today and know how much trouble you must have gone to in trying to get information and how you ever found my address must have been a job. However I cannot tell you much as we are never alone to be able to talk freely of details because of Germans around us. I was also so depressed about my own crew with our accident that I didn’t feel like talking with others of these things at the time, so here is the little that I know.

I left the hospital of Toulon and went to hospital in Lyon, France, July 28 where I met Lt.Trotter. There was another American Bombardier with us by the name of Spring [2] whom I’ve lost touch of also.

Bill Trotter told me of his ship being hit by the gas gauges and fuel transfer system on the flight deck, and catching fire. The radio was inoperative so he was unable to talk to any of the crew . The ship was all ablaze and in bad shape so his only choice was to get out fast and he climbed out of the top hatch which is in the flight deck just a couple feet behind the pilot seats. He told me the plane exploded very shortly after. He saw no other parachutes in the air and believed himself to be the only survivor. He was badly burned but his face and hands had already healed excepting for red and brown discoloration scars. His worst burns were from his waist down to behind his heels. They were third degrees burns, very slow to heal, and made it impossible for him to walk. The Germans made special pads for him so he could lie on his back or side and change around without damaging the burned places. He got along pretty well excepting for the times when they insisted on bending his knees to keep them from getting stiff and immobile. I was able to walk around, so I helped change his pads and dressings, and because I could speak some German acted as interpreter in trying to get bandages fixed as he wanted them. Two days later the three of us were moved out of that nice hospital into some sort of a dungeon affair and didn’t get the usual expected food and doctor’s care. Up in the hospital they had nurses who gave us cigarettes, fruit juice, and many other nice attentions. I suppose the efforts of the invasion and bravery of the Free-French by that time made them very worried about losing us. At any rate they put us on a first-class train out of Lyon via Dijon, France, where the railroads were so badly blown out for a mile that we would have to walk it to go any further. Trotter couldn’t walk, nor could Lt. Spring who had his foot amputated. I had nothing wrong with my feet so had to go on. We all took each other’s addresses and were going to write to each other. The Germans took my addresses away in the search when entering the hospital at Paris.

Lts. Trotter and Spring had both expected to get home before I would because of the repatriation deal for which they were eligible. Lt Woel told me of Lt. Trotter’s death but I have heard nothing of Lt. Spring since. If he is alive then my address was stolen from him too by the Germans, as he had promised to write to my wife as soon as he got back to the states. If Lt. Spring is alive he would know more of Bill and your husband’s plight than I because they stayed together at Dijon, France hospital.

I am getting plastic surgery here at the hospital for burns from my accident, there is a good Red Cross staff and I’ll try to locate Spring through them and the War Department for you if possible.

I don’t remember Spring’s first name or his outfit but he was flying from Italy ( I think 449th Group) and was shot down on or about July 11, 1944, at Toulon, France and had a foot amputated. If this information will locate him I’ll let you know and write to him also.

If you wish, you may forward this letter on to Bill’s next of kin or tell the folks the little news I have - however you wish - as I don’t think I’ve broken army regulations in writing this.

One other thing I would like to say in case you think a lot of the awful suffering in a burning plane. I want to quote from my own experience in exactly the same kind of an accident. My plane caught fire the same way, I passed out from smoke and flames, ship exploded and I awakened in remains and bailed out. Things happen so fast in a plane and you are thinking of so many things that you never realize little if any pain before you pass out. Everything happens one way or the other before you know it and its definitely not like these horror pictures we see in the movies. Excuse me for being abrupt, I don’t intend to be funny, gallant, or hurt your feelings in any way, but am just picturing you having similar thoughts as my folks had. Trotter said the same thing, he didn’t realize he was badly hurt until he hit the ground and tried to walk . His wrist watch had burned right off his arm and left a white circle where band and watch were covering his wrist, the rest had healed leaving skin brown. He used to joke about it and say, “when the army asks me what I did with their hack watch I’ll show them my war scar and the pretty white band.”

Please accept my sympathies and hopes that we get to hear better and more definitive news soon,


notes :

[1] Philippe Castellano, "Liberator. Epopées tragiques dans les alpes maritimes et l’Est varois"

[2] Spring est le Sous-Lieutenant Merril T.Spring du 461st BG, descendu au-dessus de Brignoles le 12 Juillet 1944. Amputé du pied droit, il est mort de septicémie. (précisions de Philippe Castellano)


Autour de Lyon
La Seconde Guerre en Rhône-Alpes
Givors 1944
Les combats du Pont Rompu - Août 1944
La Première Armée Française à Mornant ( Rhône)
A Saint-Galmier, les 2 et 3 septembre 1944
Le bombardement de Saint-Etienne
Résistance intérieure
Les camps, la déportation
Autres témoignages
Leçons de mémoire(s)
Voyage de la mémoire à Auschwitz
Les étrangers dans la résistance
En République Tchèque
Le camp de Stutthof en Pologne
Le Concours National de la Résistance et de la Déportation
Autour de "La Vie est belle"
Témoins en classe
Autour de la Seconde guerre mondiale
Déportation et camps
Les Tsiganes
Les lois françaises
La vie quotidienne pendant la guerre
  Ils chantaient sous les balles...


.Sous les bombes de Caen : Philippe Bauduin
.En marge du « Fusillé souriant... » : le destin de Georges BLIND.
.Gabriel Veniat, secouriste de la Croix Rouge
.Les prisonniers de guerre allemands
.Les brancardiers de la Croix Rouge - 1944
.Carnets de guerre et de captivité 1939-1945
...Retour à la rubrique



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