Who are we ?
Boeing B-17G-70-BO 43-37816 c/n 8794, 305th BG - 40th Combat Bombardment Wing © USAF - domaine public - public domain
Between 1940 and 1945, more than 200 crashes were recorded in "Ile et Vilaine" department (35) including around hundred German aircrafts. In the department of Côtes-d'Armor (22), 199 including 1 French, 102 Germans, 62 English and 34 Americans. Other Breton departments were also concerned and still keep long-lived tracks.
Many dogfights took place in the Brittany sky, sometimes uneven when combined with the explosions of the shells of the antiaircraft batteries " the FLAK ". Sometimes, these waves of 1,000 bombers were flying forward through these clouds of murderous steel which remind us these past charges of thousand soldiers who went forward in the front of the enemy with the fear screwed in the stomach. Moving forward and thinking that only the chance would make the difference. Fate, lottery, it is not the day, words, thoughts which trotted in the head of the survivors !!
Brittany suffered a lot from these bombardments due to the presence of various harbors which were transformed into submarine bases. B-17s which came back from their missions over St Nazaire or Lorient crossed again the Brittany peninsula. Those which were severly hit were often shot down by German fighters. On the ground as well as in the sea, from the south top the north, their calcined carcasses were spread.
But fighters also had to face several dramas, allied as well as enemy fighters were shot down during air attacks or dogfights.
After crashes of aircrafts of any nationalities, the Germans recovered all the pieces whic remained at the surface of the ground. All these parts were melted again and had a second life in the German war machinery. That is why it is very rare to find a fuselage during the excavations.
THE ABSA 39/45
The mission of the "Association Bretonne du Souvenir Aérien" (Breton association of the air memory), created in 2004 by its Honorary President, Daniel Dahiot, and whose current president is Benoît Paquet, is to do researches on the Second World War aerial history, to find sometimes wrecks, to trace the history and to inform families. An excavation allowed the ABSA to discover a pilot still on board his aircraft, resting for more than 70 years ten meters in underground and who has been missing in action for a long time.
With more than 35 members, our goal is to create one day a permanent exhibition space, ideally by grouping together with other regional associations, somewhere in Brittany or Loire-Atlantique, to pay tribute to these airmen by exhibiting all our aircrafts parts, the diorama and the information panels which explains to the public all these single stories.
THE ABSA TEAM
Women and men fascinated by the history and who pay tribute in the heroism of these airmen who came to fight over the French territory. Some of them died, other were prisoners. The luckiest met on their way some courageous people or Resistance networks which sent them back in England to keep fighting. In a twist of irony, some airmen fighted again and never came back ; the cruel fate of the victim. Brittany was an important place of all these air combats and became the source of the investigations of our historians and their actions. But the ABSA does not forget all these residents whose destiny crossed that of these air combatants. They sometimes paid a high price for their support to these airmen fallen on enemy territory. Villagers and Resistance fighters sometimes denounced by neighbors who believed their were taking on duty towards Vichy or who just had a desire for vengeance. The Resistance fighters were shot, the villagers were deported and just a few of them came back, sometimes so exhausted that they did not survive.
Ouest-France - 30th-31st May, 2015
What make these enthusiastic historians, looking for the truth, handling the pick on an excavations site or investigating in the international archives to look for the hidden lives of these airmen.
The actions to recover an aircraft, to discover its history and to contact and meet the families. Time, patience and organization are required.
1 The investigators go in the field, visit each farm, door to door, collect the testimonies and double check the informations. Most of these witnesses were children during the war.
2 They review local, departmental, national or international archives.
3 They review the records of cemeteries (East cemetery in Rennes orother cemeteries such as Dinard).
4 They collect for each pilot or crew member "Names, ranks, units and function aboard the aircraft". These informations can be found on the police records.
5 Internet : review of the German, British, American, Canadian databases. The ABSA has contacts in all these countries. By successive cross-checking, the members of the ABSA put a name on the missing person.
6 They operate excavations on the sites of crashes with authorizations of the Prefecture and with the help of mine clearance teams. It is still possible to find bombs under the wings or near the crash location.
7 Commemorations : they are organized to pay tribute to the missing airmen in the presence of families. Sometimes, a piece found on the site is offered to the relations. The association organizes commemorations with the support of the city councils concerned by these events, in the presence of families. Some pieces, such as an oxygen mask or a radio helmet, found on the investigation site, are given to family members, like a brother, a sister or a child of the airman.
The Buddenbaum family receiving the oxygen mask which belonged to Otto Buddenbaum, the pilot killed in the crash of his B-17.
The reliability and the seriousness of the members of the ABSA were rewarded by an official award of the medal of the Pentagon given by a delegation of the DPMO, whic came from Washington to pay tribute to an officer airman missing in action during the libeartion of the department of Ille-et-Vilaine. The Americans never abandon their people and always look after their missing soldiers. The ABSA is recognized for its values by the various nations which participated in the conflict of World War II.
As the "Guardians of Memory", the ABSA also has the duty to pass on to our children all this past marked unfortunately by the madness of the mankind. "Never again" is a promise which was rapidly forgotten.
Photo : Pierre Mahé explains to the children the story of the airmen ?
The excavations are operated with a lot of respect and emotion. Sometimes a silence comes when the pilot, who remained on board, is dug up 60 or 70 years later. It is a grave and the association has the duty, without any state of mind of desecration, to dig up all these invaluable objects, to allow the families to finally mourn their loved ones.
The ABSA refuses to work approximatively because the dramas that these airmen lived are not a novel with a happy end but a reality which we have to respect. The precision of our investigation is also a sign of respect towards these families that the members of the ABSA meet sometimes. Telling wrong facts, or generating the hope to know finally the truth are very important responsibilities.
The excavations are conducted with the prefectorial authorizations and the presence mine clearance teams. We do not operate illicit excavations which we consider as wrecks lootings or graves lootings in case of remains of a crew member. The parts we find are not trophies. Nothing belongs to us and we never try and sell pieces on the Internet. These parts belong to the history and everyone deserves a chance to know them.
Since its creation, the ABSA operated a dozen excavations, mostly in the department of Ille-et-Vilaine.
Some aircrafts that have been the subject of excavations by the ABSA 39/45
Avro Lancaster B I - s/n LL841 Code VN-O
Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle GT.Mk.I Srs.2 P1501
Consolidated B-24H-10-DT " Squat'N Droppit " s/n 41-28710
North American Mustang P-51 F-6C. #42-103224 Code ZM-?
Messerschmit Bf 109 G-6 - 4./JG 53
To increase our visibility, the ABSA 39/45 participates as often as possible to exhibitions during events such as air shows or exhibitions dedicated to the aviation. Friendly welcomed at Châteaubriant (44) by the city council, it is quite naturally that the ABSA 39/45 contributes to the various events organized by this dynamic city, such as for example in November, 2017, the week of the memory. It is each time for the team a lot of time and of energy to prepare, install and remove the booth, but always rewarded by a lot of pleasure to present to the visitors our works and investigations, and a lot of emotion when we meet veterans or their families.
Châteaubriant 2016 Robert Desplanques 2017