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Edouard Jumantier

Edouard Jumantier was born in 1892. He was arrested by the Nazis on June 24, 1944 after greeting an American airman that had landed in Epône. He was deported to Germany and died on March 6, 1945 in Neuengamme. It is suspected he was killed during an allied bombing. He is remembered as a patriot and a street of Epône is named after him. This is the street where he was living in 1944.

Odette told Marianne the following story: On June 24, 1944, at around 19.30, an airman landed in a field. Edouard Jumantier arrived on the spot before the Germans and shook hands with the airman. The two men then hugged and shook hands again. The Germans arrived, pushed Edouard Jumantier away and arrested  the airman. Edouard Jumantier insisted that he wanted to shake hands again with the airman. At this point, the Germans got seriously annoyed and arrested him.

   
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It's important to note that Odette didn't witness the scene and she is actually reporting the story told either by a direct witness or the story of somebody who heard it from a direct witness. It is therefore very likely that the story has been heavily distorted and what actually happened could be very different from what she told us.

Now that we were able to ID the airman on the photo taken in Elisabethville, it would be interesting to see if the historical evidence we have gathered could allow us to figure out the name of the airman who was greeted by Edouard Jumantier. We can immediately rule out 5 out of the 7 airmen:

- William Giffhorn: was not captured
- Freal Knox: was seen touching ground 300 meters from the crash site in Arnouville
- Wiliam Koenig: was not captured
- James Mellody: landed in a tree in Aubergenville
- Jerome Ornstein: landed in Odette's garden

We are therefore left with two possibilities: Ossian Arthur Seipel or Norman Charles Edwards.


Ossian Seipel

In his memoirs, Ossian Seipel wrote the following: "We passed an older Frenchman walking along the road, and he gave me the “V” sign with his right hand. I waved back to him just to let him know that it wouldn’t be too much longer till it was over. The major had the vehicle stop and the soldiers picked up the old man and took him with them in the truck."

Could this "older Frenchman" be Edouard Jumantier? Edouard Jumantier was 52 in 1944. This might seem too young to be described as "an older Frenchman". However, Ossian Seipel was only 23 in 1944 and I remember that when I was 23, I perceived anybody above 50 as "old" (my perception of "old" changed quite a bit since then...). Not to mention that at that time life was harsher than today and people seemed older than they do now.

The circumstances of the arrest of this Frenchman as described by Ossian Seipel seem very different from the story reported by Odette. However, as mentioned above, Odette didn't witness the arrest and by being transmitted from one person to the next, the V sign could very well have been transformed into a handshake. The handshake could then in turn have been transformed into a hug.

My Dad told me many stories about the war when I was younger. When I now tell him what I remember of his stories, he is shocked to hear how my memory distorted his stories over the span of two or three decades. The way I distorted my Dad stories is pretty much of the same magnitude as a V sign being distorted into a handshake or a hug...
 

Norman Edwards

Norman Edwards explains in a letter to historian Josselyne Lejeune Pichon that the chain of his dog tag broke when he was arrested by the Germans. The chain of a dog tag probably doesn't break that easily and this implies that his arrest was rather violent. Could the violent circumstances of his arrest be an indication that Norman Edwards is the airman that was greeted by Edouard Jumantier?

 

 

 

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