Sunday, December 15, 2013

English Translation of Charles Simonson's French Newscast Interview

I was able to have this fascinating newscast from 1996 translated into English. Charles Simonson of the 356th Fighter Squadron of the 354th Fighter Group was interviewed when he went back to the village where he was kept safe by the townspeople when he was shot down in August of 1944.

Here is the English Translation:

Last but not least, the story of an American pilot. After the 6th June the liberation advanced in the heartland of France - with a lot of drama, joy and extraordinary stories, and on 7th August 1944, the American pilot Charles Howard Simonson landed in emergency on Crulay near Aigles. Thanks to the inhabitants of the village he managed to survive. When the pilot returned to Crulai 53 years afterwards, it was no surprise to see him very moved during his visit of the place of his exploits.

Of course, 53 years after his crash the corn is growing again on this field. But the vegetation still doesn’t cover up everything. You just have to look out for traces on the ground, and suddenly the past is back. Pieces of plexiglass, parts of the cockpit of an American fighter bomber: The Mustang that was piloted by Lieutenant Charles Howard Simonson and that was brought down on 7th August 1944.

Charles Simonson's Mustang was shot by the air raid defenses on a raid over Chartres and was losing cooling liquid. There was only one solution: an emergency landing in this exact spot in the field.

Simonson: When I touched the trees my head was bending forward. I was still flying at maybe 50 or 100 feet. So I moved my seat (?) forward, but then I became unconscious. And then my left wing touched a tree somewhere over there. The plane pivoted and I was ejected.

That fact that he survived is partly due to luck, but mostly due to the braveness of the people of the village. They hid him in a barn, treated him and fed him for nine days. And even after more than half a century, he still remembers the names of those who helped him so bravely and selflessly: the families Cohut (?), Hérault (?), Pourrier (?) and the Dr. Marie.

Simonson: They did all this for a perfect stranger. I was just somebody who had fallen down from the sky, somebody they didn’t know. I am still baffled today because they took this risk. But they did.

On Monday, Charles Simonson will take the plane to go home to his big house in the Catskill Mountains north of the State of New York. But the man who fell from the sky is also at home here in Crulai, where everybody kindly calls him Charley.

Well, I am starting to get a little old. I have trouble walking, I have arthritis, so I decided to come back here this year. I can’t promise, but I would like to come back again. May be even many times.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Charlie Simonson was my cousin; I just attended his military grave site burial. His life story always fascinated me when I was growing up. He was a very brave flyer who was badly injured when his plane was shot down Aug 7,1944