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1944 ~ 2011


APPEAL FOR WITNESSES


James Weldon Mellody in Elisabethville shortly after being arrested by the German army
This photo was taken on June 24, 1944 in Elisabethville, Aubergenville about 25 miles west of Paris. You can see six German soldiers with an American POW that they just arrested. Facing the soldiers, a French civilian makes a military salute to cheer up the POW and simultaneously tease the Germans. Click here to see or download the photo in higher resolution

Historical Research

 

Thanks to fantastic team work with several historians, we managed to ID the airman: Sgt James Weldon Mellody. His family visited Elisabethville on April 17, 2011 and walked in the steps of their veteran.

 

 

Click here to read about the details of the research done so far.
 


 

Appeal for witnesses

 

We are presently looking for the following information:

 

1) The name of the person who took the photo

 

2) Whether other photos were taken

 

3) Identification of the persons on the photo

 

If you have information regarding this event, please contact us using the form below.


 

Name:
 
Email :
 
   

Message:  

                                


 

The story as it was told to me by my grand-father and my father

 

My grand-parents on both sides were living in Elisatbethville during WWII. Elisabethville is a neighborhood of Aubergenville and is located 25 miles west of Paris. In 1944, the French living in Aubergenville saw allied airplanes flying in the direction of Paris. They were perfectly aligned, all flying at the same altitude. A short while afterwards, they saw the same airplanes flying in the opposite direction (towards the UK). They were in a complete mess, all flying at different altitudes etc. Two were on fire... then they saw a parachute popping out of one of the two bombers on fire... the French realized that the parachute was going to land close to the center of city. Dozens of French civilians rushed to greet the allied serviceman. My grand parents rushed out of the garden; my 8 year old Dad wanted to follow them. However, my grand pa said: "You stay at home; it could be dangerous". My Dad stayed in his garden watching the parachute falling towards Aubergenville-Elisabethville railway station and he was petrified at the idea he could become an orphan...

When the French arrived on the scene, the American was in a tree close to the railway station... and six Germans were waiting for him. He threw his knife and pistol to the ground. A German soldier picked up the weapons. Apparently, he was scared to get down from the tree. The French first thought he was scared because of the Nazi soldiers but they quickly realized that he was instead scared of the French! At first, the French couldn't figure out why he was scared of them. The most likely explanation is that the American was worried about possible resentment because of the allied bombings. However, in Aubergenville, there was absolutely no resentment whatsoever against the allies. The French were on the contrary excited to see their first American and they were hoping to many more very soon!

 

A French guy rushed out of a coffee shop with a glass of liquor and offered the glass to the American and said in English with a strong French accent: "The people is with you". The Germans abruptly pushed away the Frenchman and the American couldn't drink the liquor. However, he got the message, smiled and immediately relaxed. The Germans on the contrary were extremely nervous and annoyed by the growing crowd.

The American got off from the tree and surrendered to the Germans. The Germans and the American crossed the railway and then entered Place de l'Etoile. The French were following behind the soldiers.

As they were about to leave the Place de l'Etoile, a French civilian was facing the soldiers and made a military salute to cheer up the American and simultaneously tease the Germans. Somebody took a photo at the very moment.

Further on the way to the Standortkommandantur,  a French guy who was perfectly fluent in English asked the permission to speak to the POW. The Germans abruptly told him it was verboten; however, strangely enough, they let him offer a cigarette to the American.

At some point, the American figured out that he didn't really need the close protection of the Wehrmacht. He decided to walk faster. He was taller than the Germans and the Germans had a hard time following him and had to run... and the French civilians were running joyfully behind the Germans soldiers. At each intersection, the American would turn around and nod his head to ask the Germans which direction to follow and depending of the circumstances, they would bark (in German) "RECHTS!", "LINKS!" or "GERADE AUS!" (RIGHT! LEFT! or STRAIGHT AWAY!)


 

   

 

 

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