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Address of General Jean-Luc Brousse
At the Monument, Me'ze France
Navy Lt. William Nathan Arbuckle

Sunday, August 20th, 1944
Me'ze Remembers
Lieutenant of the US Navy, William Nathan Arbuckle

It is important to show the scene of the death of Lt. Arbuckle.

We are on the hill of the Costes Way.

The village of Me'ze lies on our left side.

In front of us
The main road (no. 113) from Me'ze to Montagnac
The little vale of the brook Aigues Vaques underbrush by the damp vegetation growing on its caulis. This brook flows under the main road, No. 113.

On the road the crossroads (the four ways) and the direction towards Montagnac, Beziers and Toulouse.

We are on Sunday, August 20th, 1944 - i.e. D + 5. The Allied Forces, within the framework of the military operation, ANVIL-DRAGOON, landed in the Provence five days ago. On that Sunday in the Mediterranean Sea, the Lion Gulf, six Grumann F6F-5 "Hellcats" belonging to the squadron VF-74 take off from the aircraft carrier USS Kasaan Bay (CVE-69) for a strafing flight (roads and railway lines between Arles and Toulouse. The pilots who are all American are:
Navy Lt. John H. SHROFF, Flight Leader
Navy Lt. G. Hogan
Navy Lt. W. N. Arbuckle
Navy Lt. John M. Thomas
Navy Ensign Thomas F. Kendrick
Navy Ensign Charles W. S. Hulland

Near Montpellier they destroy a wagon of ammunition, which explodes. A piece of metal hits a Hellcat. The pilots attack some elements of the German army on the main road, (no. 113) in the vicinity of Balaruc: convoy of troops, cargo trucks, and tank lorries.

The weather is dreadful, the clouds low, the ceiling only 200 meters. They must fly very low, down to 15 meters from the ground.

Under the brisk fire of light and middle-sized anti-aircraft guns, the Hellcats fly to and fro four times, put a lot of Germans out of action and destroy heavy vehicles.

Then Lt. Hogan whose plane had been hit near Montpelier asks the leader to check his plane, which at that time was flying close to Lt. Arbuckle. It is 10:45 a.m. The leader decides to order Hogan to fly back to the aircraft carrier, together with Kendrick whose plane had been slightly damaged.

After the two Hellcats had flown away, the leader realizes that the plane of Arbuckle has disappeared. Calls on the radio but no answer. For ten minutes the three remaining pilots make searches and see nothing. The leader decides to carry on his mission towards the northwest.

Sunday August 20th, 1944. In order not to be encircled by the Allied troops, the retreating German units withdraw eastwards via the main road (no. 113) running across the village of Me'ze and edged with big dense (?) trees. They move in order, at regular intervals between vehicles so that the rate of casualties should be low in case of an air attack. They progress at a slow pace because the access to the village is barred by obstacles to control everybody.

All of a sudden, Paul AGUT sees five or six planes in a row at the main road and peppering the German column on several occasions as they are flying to and fro. He squats down between the stumps not to be seen and keeps looking. Jean Marie MORENO and his father take shelter under a culvert.

In Me'ze it is sheer panic. The inhabitants take shelter. The German soldiers who are levying horses to make for the (?) of their vehicles leave the horses in the street and take shelter, too. Paul SERVILLE, the grandfather of Loretta DELMAT, can, thus, recover some horses he knew, his own one included and hides them in the yard of the hospital.

After some strafing, the planes fly away.

At that time a single plane, coming from approximately west - southwest direction flies very low, strafing the German column. The German soldiers apparently do not fire back and take shelter, too. As soon as he hears the machine gun fire, Joseph ARMENTIER takes shelter behind a wall of the JOUINES farmhouse. There he comes upon a German soldier who has come to take shelter. Paul AGUT sees the plane flying nearer the main road; it looks like a normal flight, no smoke, no apparent damage. Suddenly the plane cuts the top of a plane tree near the bridge of Aigues Vaques and crashes down in the vineyard of ALAUZET and catches fire. When the fire subsides the German soldier, close to Joseph ARMENTIER goes out of his shelter towards the main road.

Joseph ARMENTIER follows him as if they were together. They walk across the vineyard of MORENO. On the road vehicles are burning. Joseph walks across past a group of German soldiers tending a wounded man with a big hole in his thigh. He keeps walking and goes back home.

At the exit of the church, after the religious sermon - it is 11:00 - someone tells Edward ALAUZET, "a plane has crashed into your vineyard". His father dissuades him to go and see immediately, for he fears, rightly, the threatening attitude of the German units.

The next day, the inhabitants of Me'ze go and see the plane. Joseph ARMENTIER comes back, with Jean OLOMBEL, Edward ALAUZET, sees the fuselage in the vineyard of his father, the front part turned toward the northwest. The engine lies ten meters from the fuselage. The wings have vanished.. The propeller has broken off into the slope above the way. Other pieces are in the vineyard of MORENO above the way. The body of the pilot is in his seat in the cockpit. It is slightly out of the cockpit and one arm is raised. It is roasted by the heat of the fire. Some people ascertain that he was killed when the plane hit the ground, and before the explosion.

Gaby ARJO (age 21) who had come to retrieve weapons or ammunition, together with some of his friends, decide to carry the body of the pilot to the FINOT farmhouse nearby, close to the Combe Bridge on the road from Marseilles to Loupoan. When we go back to Me'ze presently, we shall see the FINOT farmhouse, in front of which an American jeep is stationed.

Mrs. LINGRY, who had come with her husband to see the plane finds a curl - bracelet engraved "William Nathan" at the foot of a stump. She brings it back to Mr. FRANSON, the baker in the street of the Massaloop brother, who is said to belong to the underground movement.

In the following hours, the body is carried to Me'ze. The identity disc found on it bears the inscription "William Nathan Arbuckle, 3003786 t -5/43 USN - A"

On the same day, on Sunday August 20th, 1944, three inhabitants of Me'ze are shot by the German soldiers: Henri BROUZET, Seraphin PORTE, Frenand REYNES.

Two days after, on Tuesday August 22nd 1944, the population of Me'ze attends the funerals. The school boys are present, singing whom Moise ARJO and Jean Marie MORENO. Suzanne PALACIN, who had just celebrated her 17th birthday the Saturday before, remembers the four bodies carried on the big cart of Louis VIALA and the cart post, during the religious service. The coffin of Lt. Arbuckle is covered with the Star-Spangled Banner, which is also displayed on the square of the town hall. The procession proceeds to the cemetery where the burial takes place.. On the grave of Lt. Arbuckle the mayor, Thomas BESSIERE ordered the following words to be engraved:

"Here lies William Nathan Arbuckle, an American air man killed in action in the sky of Me'ze, on August 20th, 1944, for our liberation. We shall never forget him."

During the whole ceremony American planes are flying overhead.

In 1946 the remains of Lt. Arbuckle were exhumed and carried to the American Cemetery of Champhuel (Marze) where they were buried on August 7th. Then, on July 15th 1948, they were carried and buried to the American Cemetery of Dinoze' in the vicinity of Epinol (Voges).

What happened to the Hellcat no. 58333 piloted by Lt. Arbuckle?

The remnants of the plane were left for some time in the vineyard of ALAUZET. Then the landowner decided to remove the wreck. It was cut into pieces and carried on a sledge - with the help of his son, Edward, to a hole which the Germans had ordered the inhabitants of Me'ze to dig (an imposed drudgery). This hole was used to set up a gun. The hole was filled again after. Today, the plane is still there, close to the field, under the reeds, a few yards under the ground. After the plane crashed, some inhabitants of Me'ze came to recover some parts of the wreck. Some of them still have them.

This document was written from official documents of the US Navy and the information collected by Mr. Marcel Ertel, from the registry office of the town of Me'ze (Herault), from the archives of the parish of Saint Hilaire (Me'ze) and the testimonies of the inhabitants of Me'ze.

Thank you, Mr. Jean Douay, Castelnau-le-Lez, France for the English translation Of General Brousse's address……….Ethel Taylor

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