Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Collateral Damage

            On the way home from Îl de Ré we spent a couple of days in Bergerac. Our b&b was close to the tiny village of Monbazillac and we spent some time exploring the area. After a visit to a chateau and some wine tasting, we continued on Cynthia's mission to locate and photograph every interesting building, object, scene and vista in France. As we drove west from Monbazillac, along the D14E, which isn't much wider than a 2CV, I noticed what looked like a small grave maker just off the pavement. We stopped and Cynthia got a quick picture of what was indeed a stone marker that read, "Roger HURMIC 1908-1944 TUÉ le 5.3.1944 LORS DU BOMBARDEMENT de ROUMANIERE P.P.L". ("Roger Hurmic 1908-1944 killed March 5, 1944 during the bombardement of Roumaniere P.P.L." Roumanière is the airport at Bergerac I have no idea what the initials P.P.L stand for and if anyone reading this knows, I'd appreciate you leaving me a comment.)

            In other parts of France, I've seen monuments and markers, placed at the spots where civilians died during World War II at the hands of the Germans, and something like this was always one of several and associated with some larger monument that elaborated on the circumstances. In fact, a couple of hundred yards east of here is a patriotic memorial for two innocent young men shot by Germans as they passed through in August of 1944. As you can see in the photo below (a not so hot Google Maps screenshot), this is out in the middle of vineyards, almost certainly as it was in 1944, and Roumanière is 2 or 3 miles away, as the crow flies.
            When we got home I tried to find out exactly what happened to Roger Hurmic but an internet search of his name turned up nothing, even in French. I did find out that the Luftwaffe used Roumanière as a fighter base and the Bergerac city website mentions that the airport was bombed by Americans on March 5, 1944 and again on the 18th by the British. 
            Then I found, a website devoted to the 303 Bomb Group, a part of the U.S. Eighth Air Force during World War II, where there is a link entitled, "This day in 303rd Bomb Group History." For March 5, 1944, it reads: "STRATEGIC OPERATIONS 8th AF: Mission 248: 219 B-24s are dispatched to hit airfields at Mont De Marsan, Cayeux and Bordeaux/Merignac, France but bad cloud conditions force a target change and multiple aborts; 62 hit Bergerac Airfield,..."
            During the first Gulf War, in 1991, we all got to see videos of "smart" bombs landing right on the crosshairs and cruise missiles going right in a window. In World War  II they were lucky if they got within 1,000 feet of a target.  In fact, by 1943,  the Army figured "only 16 percent of the bombs fell within 1,000 feet of the aiming point." So 62 B24s, which usually carried a dozen 500 lbs bombs, would have dropped around 744 of them on Bergerac that day, 625 of which would have come down somewhere other than the airport. Considering all that, 3 miles isn't all that far, so it looks to me like poor Roger Hurmic was particularly unlucky that day and became one of the tens of thousand of French civilians killed in Allied bombings. Collateral Damage.

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