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A short story relating to World War Two and Eastern Airlines

During my career at Eastern Airlines, I met, and flew with two Captains that had bombed my hometown of Rouen in Normandy France where I lived during World War Two: Captain Tyse Hardin and Captain Bill Thompson. I called both of them a few years ago to confirm the dates of their missions when I was preparing the first part of my life's story for my Children. Both Tyse and Bill mission details are mentioned in this story, and are recorded in several USAAF documents.

A while back Tyse Hardin came to visit me at my house; he brought his logbooks, his albums and miscellaneous war souvenirs.
WHOA! Unbelievable; among Tyse's war souvenirs there was the safety pins of two of the bombs he dropped on Rouen; one for each mission, neatly attached to a tag, along with the other missions that he flew. (Each one of those tags showed the mission dates - the target - and a bomb safety pin attached to it.)
In his albums, there were pictures of the King and Queen of England greeting the crew of the "Memphis Belle" upon returning from their 25th mission. Tyse was right there. In fact in one of the documentary about the "Memphis Belle", there is a shot of Tyse's name on the mission briefing board, and a shot of him taking off in his B-17 named "MIZPAH". (Also known as: "The Bearded Beauty".)

During Tyse's visit, I also found out that his ancestors were from Rouen!
Moreover, I can also claim that in some ways, I first "met" Tyse on March 12 1943, long before anyone else at Eastern did; He was at 25000 feet, and I was on the ground running like hell for cover!
I was only 11 years old then, but I sure have vivid memories of all the 100 plus bombings of my hometown.

The very first B-17 bombing mission flown in Europe was over Rouen, and in fact, Paul Tibbets (of Hiroshima fame) was the aircraft Commander of one of the 12 B-17s on that mission.

All I can say to end my story is:

"I am sure glad that your bombs did not kill me Tyse, and I am equally glad that the Flak, or the Luftwaffe did not shoot you down, I would have missed meeting a great friend".

As we say in France:
"Mon Dieu, que le Monde est petit"
"Dear God, what a small World it is"

Photos qui accompagnent ce texte


March 12, 1943 - Railway Yards in Rouen, France (B-17s)
Mission details from "Air War Europa" page 110:
"Sixty-three VIII Bomber Command B-17s attack the Rouen - Sotteville marshalling yards against little or no opposition".
Notes from Tyse's logbook: P-47s and Spitfires escort. No flak. Saw one Focke-Wulf 190. Co-Pilot Cox. Dropped 5- 1,000 pounds bombs."


March 12, 1943 - Railway Yards in Rouen, France
Mission report from 8th Air Force records - 91st bomb group:
"The perfect mission. First time Spitfire escorts kept enemy fighters at arms length while group bombardiers executed their runs in peace. Inbound diversionary pattern then target was destroyed. 91st put up all 18 flyable forts."
From my personal notes: "I have in my possession a logbook page of one of the Spitfire pilot that participated in this escort mission."

March 28 1943 - Railway Yards in Rouen, France (B-17s & B-24s). Mission details from "Air War Europa" page 115: "Seventy VIII Bomber Command B-17s attack the Rouen - Sotteville marshalling yards with 209 tons of bombs, but all 23 B-24s dispatched are recalled due to bad weather. Losses are one B-17 downed and nine damaged, two crewman wounded, and 10 crewman missing
From my personal notes: "Although I cannot be absolutely certain, I believe I saw that airplane go down" since it was the first B-17 shot down over Rouen, and because that day we saw no parachutes, and we had a lull period with no heavy bombardments following that one until July."
Notes from Tyse's logbook: "No tail gun. Ball turret inop. Dropped 6- 1,000 pounds bombs. Coen shot down."
(Maybe the one I saw go down?)


Mission report from 8th Air Force records - 91st bomb group:
"March 28th, 1943 - Railroad Center at Rouen, France
Quinlan wounded, the tail of the Belle nearly severed again, two crewmen passed out (oxygen), light flak but intense fighter opposition. 8th AF recalled bombers but they destroyed the target anyway.
Quinlan credited with 2nd kill."

Michel LEVEILLARD (mars 2003)

Photos qui accompagnent ce texte

Retour à la première page des documents complémentaires



Rapport (en anglais) de la première mission des B-17 de la 8e Air Force (USAAF) sur Rouen en août 1942 avec deux photos ;

Trois photos des clavettes de sécurité des bombes tombées sur Rouen en mars 1943.


  Lien vers la collection de Frank MALIVOIR proposant des photos rares sur les bombardements de Rouen en 1944 ;

Lien vers un site très documenté sur la vie des hospices à Rouen durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale (au 20/06/2004, ce lien conduit bien sur le site de l'auteur du texte mais dont on ne trouve plus trace : nous le laissons le lien dans le cas où le texte réapparaîtrait...) ;

Lien vers une page de références bibiographiques sur la ville de Rouen pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale ;

Lien vers un site relatant l'histoire d'un équipage de Lancaster qui a bombardé Rouen dans la nuit du 18 au 19 avril 1944 (lien entré le 20/08/2002).

Autre ouvrage signalé par Michel LEVEILLARD :
Rouen et sa région pendant la guerre 1939 - 1945 par G. Pailhès / Defontaine Editeur à Rouen, s.d.

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