Laval, France 2011. Relatives of fallen WWII air crews shot
down during week of D-Day invasion. Visits will intensity
in 2014, the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. I am third from right.
This form of travel from the United States to France is likely to spike in 2014. We could call it Warrior Tourism, i.e., relatives' visiting sites where American warriors died or fought in World War II.
Generic War Tourism is simply visiting battle sites and fortifications.
I have written about my own visit to Laval two years ago with more than a dozen relatives of crew members of two Halifax bombers that were shot down near Laval. My mother's brother Willem van Stockum was the flying captain of one of these two planes.
Not only will next year be the 70th anniversary of D-Day, but a four-foot-high sandstone monument is scheduled for unveiling at that time. From my family and friends I already know of a dozen people who expect to be attending.
Drs. Rex and Deborah Henderson, flanked
by Jean-Louis Cholet (L) and Jean-Luc Peslier.
They were guided to the place where Rex's father crashed - the bridge Alain - by Jean-Louis Cholet, head of the French Remembrance Mayenne and Jean-Luc Peslier president of the AMAA, a local aviators' association.
"I came twice in Laval but I had never saw the crash. Merci! I will remember their graves should bloom each May 8, to keep alive the memory of their faithfulness, " says Rex Henderson.
After bombing the aviation field Laval, the planes were hit four times by the German anti-aircraft gunners. Thomas Henderson, the pilot (27 years old) managed to drop his bombs through the wood door frame and attempted to make an emergency landing at Pont-Alain Road, Ahuillé, Saint-Berthevin. But the crash was inevitable. The eight crew members died. Their bodies lie at the military section of the Royal Air Force Cemetery Vaufleury Laval.
The sandstone monument, it is the brainchild of Jean-Louis Cholet who in 2009 installed such a monument . in the military square Vaufleury. to honor soldiers of the 1914-18 War buried in family tombs.
In partnership with the City of Laval, the French Remembrance (Souvenir Francais) decided to erect a monument with their names at the entrance to the military section. It has 29 names, including those of a woman and a man sitting in the ossuary. Its cost was € 3,800 shared 50 percent by the City of Laval and 50 percent by the French Remembrance. During WWI, 13,192 Mayenne residents were killed during the Great War out of a provincial population of 297,770 inhabitants.
The Mayenne Association for the Air Force (AMAA) is working with Cholet on the monument to the two fallen crews.