Address of General Jean-Luc Brousse
At the Monument, Me'ze
Navy Lt. William Nathan Arbuckle
Sunday, August 20th, 1944
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
The village of Me'ze lies on our left side.
front of us
The main road (no. 113) from Me'ze to Montagnac
little vale of the brook Aigues Vaques underbrush by the damp vegetation
growing on its caulis. This brook flows under the main road, No.
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.
Navy Lt. W. N. Arbuckle
Navy Lt. John M. Thomas
Thomas F. Kendrick
Navy Ensign Charles W. S.
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
The weather is dreadful, the clouds low, the ceiling only
200 meters. They must fly very low, down to 15 meters from the
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
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.
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.
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.
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"
the same day, on Sunday August 20th, 1944, three inhabitants of Me'ze are
shot by the German soldiers: Henri BROUZET, Seraphin PORTE, Frenand
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."
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
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
Mr. Jean Douay, Castelnau-le-Lez, France for the English translation Of
General Brousse's address……….Ethel Taylor
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