VE Day at Orleans - 440th Troop Carrier Group

 

Near the town of Orleans , France, the French Air Force had built an airfield for their air force. The field was put into use is ....

The airfield became in use for the Germans after they seized it in June 1940. The Germans used the airfield during the war until the area was liberated in August 1944.

USAAF IX Engineering Command 832d, 833dd and 877th Engineer Aviation Battalions began clearing the base of mines and destroyed Luftwaffe aircraft and repairing operational facilities for use by American aircraft. Subsequently, Bricy became a USAAF Ninth Air Force combat airfield, designated as "A-50" about 24 August, only a few days after its capture from German forces.

 

The 440th Troop Carrier Group entered the scene on 2 November 1944. From this base the 440th TCG was involved in the resupply missions to Bastogne and the Rhine mission, operation Varsity. Beside these well known missions, numerous resupply missions were flown to the front lines, bringing in supplies as gasoline, food and ammunition, and taking out wounded.

 

On 7 May 1945 the act of military surrender was signed at Reims, France. This was the end of World War 2 in Europe.

George Theis was a glider pilot in the 440th Troop Carrier Group. He wrote:

On VE night, I was in Paris at the Grand Hotel. I was a volunteer in our dance band, the 440th TCG Serenaders. I played the lead alto saxophone in the dance band.  While we were playing that night before the war was officially ended, we were prepared to play the Victory Polka.  When we got the sign that the war had ended we started to play that song, but were interrupted and stopped playing when we were told that is was a false report.  A few minutes later, we were given the OK once again that the war was over and we played that song while everybody started celebrating.  I remember after the music was over and we had packed our musical instruments, we joined the party and what a party it was.  All over Paris was one huge party.

 

Joan of Arc Festival - Orleans

 

In the time of Joan of Arc, France was in war with England. English forces seiged the town of Orleans on 12 October 1428.

Under command of Joan of Arc ( a 17 year old girl  from a farming family) the seige was broken at 7 May 1429.

A year later Joand of Arc was captured and in 1431 she was executed by burning. A national hero and icon was born.

 

Every year the Joan of Arc festival is held at Orleans to celebrate the liberation of the city. This was held in the first week of May.

During the German occupation the festivals were cancelled. May 1945 would be the first time since the occupation that the fastival was held.

 

With Victory Day  and the Joan of Arc Festival, the first week on May 1945 was a special one to be at Orleans.

The 440th Troop Carrier Group history “DZ Europe” describe the scenes:

Orchestras played in the streets for four days and nights and there were street dances in every street. Wine flowed like water, fireworks ulimated the sky at night and a hot sun and fine weather beamed upon the hours long parades by  day. In two of these parades, elements of the Group and the 440th band participated, receiving showers of applause and stirring cordiality from the assembled throngs along the road ways.

 

The 440th  Troop Carrier Group Serenades. Standing extreme left is Band Master Major Robert Hansen. Siting in the middle front row is F/O George Theis, taday’s National Treasurer of the Glider Pilot Association. (Mr. G. Theis)

Top left: Men of the 440th Troop Carrier Group leave their base to take part of the parades at Orleans.

 

Top; the 440th TCG Band operates in the streets of Orleans, May 1945.

 

Left: During the parade a modern Joan of Arc rides through the street of Orleans. This is still be done today during the fastival.

(All  photos through Mr. W. Waggoner)

Airborne Troop Carrier - Miscellaneous