Around the 10th June SOE (Special Operations Executive) agents and Resistance groups in five areas of France were contacted and asked to confirm if land was suitable for such a drop and enough people would be available to secure the area and collect and transport away the containers.
- No flak within 20 kms of selected dropping points.
- All information on known German positions within a 70 km circumference around the proposed dropping point must be forwarded to the 3rd Air Division.
- The terrain had to measure at least 2000 square metres. Dropping points were to be identified by three massive bonfires 200 metres apart forming a triangle. Smoke from these fires should be visible from 8 kms. (Some pilots had reported that they had seen the smoke from 25 kms and in some locations the Maquis had also spread large squares of red sheets near the bonfires as additional identification).
- A wireless operator equipped with an S-phone UHF radio telephone must be present and permanently on hand and in contact with the 3rd Air Division at each dropping point.
- Individual messages for each drop zone would be transmitted by the BBC at 1930 hours and 2130 hours to confirm the parachute drop would be going ahead the following day.
|Loading containers at Holmewood Hall, Holme, Cambridgeshire|
The nine Bomb Groups taking part were as follows :
- 94th BG - Bury St. Edmunds / Rougham (Suffolk)
- 95th BG - Horham (Suffolk)
- 96th BG - Snetterton Heath (Suffolk)
- 100th BG - Thorpe Abbotts (Norfolk)
- 385th BG - Great Ashfield (Suffolk)
- 388th BG - Knettishall (Suffolk)
- 390th BG - Parham (Suffolk)
- 447th BG - Rattlesden (Suffolk)
- 452nd BG - Deopham Green (Norfolk)
|100th Bomb Group en route to the Corrèze (Photo - 100th Bomb Group Foundation)|
At this point in the interest of security, no date, time or size of drop was given. Each Maquis group were given an individual message to be broadcast the evening before the drop. Some of the messages would have a name, the amount of letters in the name would indicate the time at which the bonfires should be lit. The code being that each letter would represent 30 minutes starting from 0500 GMT.
At Digger Colonel Berger received the first message at 1930 GMT "La brouette rouge et verte appartient à…". The planes arrived at 0900 so we can only presume that the name given in the later message would have had eight letters.
At Serrurier the following message was received "Les cannibales bouffent les esquimaux".
At Trainer the following message was received "Atorax grossit toujours".
|The 94th BG over the Vercors plateau|
At Ditcher the following message was received "Message important pour Tiburce et Jacquot, arriverons demain avec trente-six amis". "Tiburce" was Albert Brown-Bartroli an SOE "F" Section Officer born in Marseilles in 1915 and parachuted into France near Angers on 20th / 21st October 1943. His mother was English and his father Spanish. Joseph Litalien "Jacquot" was an American SOE wireless operator parachuted in to the region on 23rd May 1944.
|"Tiburce" (Photo courtesy of Michel Duparet)|
Within an hour of the first message all reception groups bar the group located in the Cantal (Serrurier) had responded that they were ready for the operation the following morning. Confirmation was received from Serrurier after midnight.
In the early hours of 14th July nine USAAF Bomb Groups at nine different air bases in East Anglia were preparing for the day's mission - Operation Cadillac / mission 8AF 472 - to fly 500 miles into France and drop more than 3,700 containers filled with arms, ammunition and other supplies to the Resistance in seven Locations :
Priority one :
- Trainer (Crayon) : Drome (Vercors Plateau) (Area code 5A) - Terrain : 1 km E. Vassieux-en-Vercors (near D76) - 9 kms S.S.W. La Chapelle-en-Vercors. (44º53'43" N. 05º22'34" E.)
- Serrurier : Cantal (Area code 3) near the village of Beaujaret and Jauriac (near D61) - 14 kms S.S.W. Mauriac / 3.5 kms S.S.E. Pleaux. (45º06'30" N. 02º15'09" E.)
- Ditcher : Saône-et-Loire (Area code 10) - Terrain : La Grange Sercy - 1 km W. Ameugny / Taizé (near D188) 4.5 kms E. Salornay. (46º31'03" N. 04º39'33" E.)
- Trammond : Cantal near the border of Corrèze (Area code 4) - Terrain : Puy Quinsac - (near D145) Inbetween La Besse and Rolière. W. of Rilhac-Xaintrie - 4.75 kms N.W. Pleaux. (45º09'02" N. 02º10'09" E.)
- Digger : Corrèze (Area code 7) - Terrain : Le plateau des Chansèves - Moustoulat, W. Monceaux-sur-Dordogne (near D83E1) - 7 kms W.S.W. Argentat. (45º05'05" N. 01º51'20" E.)
- Footman-Lilas : Lot (Area code 8)- Terrain : La Maresque, Loubressac (near D14) - 12 kms S.E. Vayrac / 11 kms N.E. Gramat. (44º51'45" N. 01º47'26" E.)
- Salesman-Stationer : Haute Vienne (Area code 9) - Terrain near La Forêt Haute / St. Gilles les forêts (D39) - 6 kms S.W. Domps. (45º57'16" N. 01º50'58" E.)
At 1am (GMT) all crew members attended the briefing on the day's mission. Then the Navigators and Radio Operators attended a specialised briefing. The crew got into their flight gear and boarded trucks that took them to their planes. The following is an extract from "Red, white and blue parachutes" by Louis Quijada (100th BG) :
It seemed strange, that morning, for me to look into the bomb bay and not see bombs hanging there. Instead, there were twelve cylindrical containers, each one attached to a parachute. I waved at the guys in the back as we took off and they waved back and smiled, all of us figuring that this was going to be one real nice milk run (an easy and safe mission). What I didn't know at the time was that this was going to be one of the most interesting and enduring experiences of my life.
At 3.30am three squadrons of B-17 Flying Fortresses at each of the nine bases prepared for take off. One by one with a 30 to 60 second interval the B-17s took to the sky all following a strict formation. The high squadrons took off first, followed by the lead and then the low squadrons, roughly 12 in each squadron. The weather that side of the Channel was not good and the planes had to climb through several thousand feet of cloud.
The 349 B-17s taking part in the operation got into formation and proceeded westwards towards Reading. They then headed to the appointed "coast out" over Selsy Bill just south of Chichester in West Sussex climbing to an altitude of 15,000 feet. With all aircraft safely en route the 29 "spare" B-17s returned to their respective bases. The 320 remaining B-17s crossed the Channel and into France in between Caen and Le Havre.
Meanwhile as dawn broke over France on what would be a beautiful sunny day, hundreds of French patriots, at each location, were preparing trucks, horses, carts and any means of transport they could lay their hands on to help transport the containers away from the dropping point later that morning. Security posts and manpower was being organised, in some locations trees were cut and left to bar roads that the Germans might use. Each container weighed in at more than 150 kg and would take at least four men to lift each one. It is reported that more than 500 men took part at "Footman-Lilas" where more than 60 tonnes of arms were dropped.
At Digger all was in place for the expected parachute drops at 9am but at 7am the noise of a plane could be heard, insignificant at first but getting louder. False alarm, it was a German plane, a "Mouchard" making its daily surveillance over the area. It could see nothing as all had been camouflaged. From 8.30am the bonfires started to be lit to guide the American pilots in. A mixture of petrol and oil was used to light the fires and green wood put on top to make sure as much smoke as possible would be created.
|Photo taken from the air showing the bonfires and parachutes|
on the ground at Loubressac
(Photo - 95th Bomb Group Memorials Foundation)
Back in the air the 320 B-17s were heading down to Nogent-le-Rotrou (to the east of Alençon) and on to Blois where the formation then split into two - the 96th BG, 100th BG, 388th BG, 390th BG, 447th BG and 452nd BG heading down to the west of Limoges and the 94th BG, 95th BG, 385th BG and 3 B-17s of the 447th BG heading to Vichy where the 95th then turned east towards their dropping point in the Saône-et-Loire. The remaining BGs continued on to their dropping point on the Vercors plateau.
After Limoges 34 B-17s of the 447th BG and 12 B-17s of the 452nd BG continued south flying over the Dordogne, passing on their right, Nontron and Périgueux. As they passed over Belvès they turned east to their dropping point at Footman in the Lot.
37 B-17s of the 96th BG continued south east to their dropping point at Serrurier in the Cantal, 35 B-17s of the 100th BG to Digger in the Corrèze, 388 B-17s of the 388th BG to Trammond in the Cantal near the border of the Corrèze. 35 B-17s of the 390th BG turn east to Salesman-Stationer in the Haute Vienne.
As the planes approached their dropping points each of its three squadrons dropped to an altitude of 500, 1000 and 1500 feet.
Richard Goff, aged 19 at the time and the youngest crew member of the B17 "Gold Brick" (100th BG) recalled many years later his experiences as his plane came near its dropping point at Moustoulat in the Corrèze. "At first we thought we were on a bombing mission but we began to ask ourselves why we were flying at such a low altitude. At 500 feet a B17 could be shot down by a machine gun. Then we saw all the resistants on the ground shouting and waving their arms in the air, we could even hear them ! A chill went down my spine. It was great to think that these were our allies and not our enemy. I was just a lad amongst others but I felt indestructible ! I will remember this day for the rest of my life, it was the most fantastic mission I ever made."
|The crew of "Gold Brick" in July 1944 at Thorpe Abbotts|
Amongst them, Richard Goff and John Eschbasch
|The 100th BG making their drop at Moustoulat|
(Photo - 100th Bomb Group Foundation)
Twelve fighter planes ensured the safety of the drop at Moustoulat and once all the parachutes had been dropped the fighter planes returned over the terrain giving those below a little show performing acrobatics . Clare Harnden, one of the crew of a B-17 making the drop turned to a colleague and said that one day he'd come back here. In 1994, fifty years later, he kept his word and returned with eleven crew members from the 100th BG who had taken part in the drop. They were given a heroes welcome from all the local villages and towns (link).
Three days after the parachute drop London received the message from Digger "Daylight operation very successful and took place without a hitch."
|Clearing the parachutes at Moustoulat|
At Trammond a little after 9am many B-17s were seen on the horizon, the men on the ground let out shouts of "Les voila ! Les voila !". Their excitement was short lived as the planes were destined for Serrurier and continued over them. But then immediately following they could see a second formation, 36 B-17s of the 388th BG accompanied by fighter planes. A red light was seen flashing from one of the planes signalling that the men on the ground had been seen. The fighter planes performed acrobatics and were happy to fire their guns to add to the spectacle. Everyone on the ground was ecstatic. As the parachutes fell some of those who had never seen the spectacle before ran and took shelter in the woods, others who had taken part in drops before stood their ground. As the planes left its crew could clearly be seen waving and giving the thumbs up to those below.
|Vassieux-en-Vercors (Photo - Robert Bennes "Bob")|
At Surrurier many of the containers fell just outside of the terrain, some landing in trees and on telephone poles. Everyone on the ground set to work immediately to collect all the containers and get them to the D61, a nearby road which crosses the terrain from Pleaux to Enchanet. The containers are loaded onto horse drawn carts that get to the road where they are then loaded on to trucks. At 11am the first consignment is ready and on its way to the Maquis Allard at Néronne. At midday a second consignment, this time for the north of the barrage d'Aigle. And finally at 1pm a third consignment to the same destination to be kept as stock. The rest of the afternoon is used to clear the land of parachutes and is carried out by locals and the Maquis Thollon.
The next day London receives a message from the organisers at Serrurier "Daytime parachute drop absolute success. Containers received with joy without name".
|Parachute drop at Vassieux-en-Vercors (Trainer/Crayon)|
72 planes took part and the majority of the containers fell within the target area. However, it was not possible to collect the containers in daylight as the area immediately came under attack by the Luftwaffe once the B-17s and US fighter planes had left. The Germans also attacked Vassieux from the air and bombing continued until late in the afternoon. The Germans returned a week later destroying the church and 140 of the 150 houses in the village (link).
The time taken for all the planes to make their drop at Vercors had been exceeded by 20 minutes and possibly as a consequence to this some of the B-17s had lost the protection of the US fighter planes. As some of the B-17s started to leave the area they were attacked by 10 to 15 enemy fighter planes (FW 190s) some of whom were shot down by the Americans. One of the German fighter planes went down at Chateauneuf-de-Galaure near Saint Donat, the pilot survived and was taken prisoner by the local Resistance. In reprisals the Germans shot five people at Chateauneuf.
Several of the US B17s had been hit and one of the 447th BG at the back of the formation was not able to get back to its base in England and landed on a Normandy beach-head, along with another B-17. The 447th BG plane was piloted by Lt. Hyder, all his crew survived the crash landing and the plane was salvaged on August 9th 1944.
|Vassieux-en-Vercors (Photo - Robert Bennes "Bob")|
|The groupe Vény at Loubressac|
Finally a little before 9am the first squadron of twelve B17s of the 95th BG flew over and released its cargo of twelve parachutes each, in this drop the parachutes were white and green. On the horizon one could then see the next squadron and then another, the final drop were parachutes in blue, white and red.
|Clearing away the parachutes at la Grange Sercy (Photo : Maurice PIERRE / courtesy of Michel Duparet)|
In total 423 containers were dropped weighing in at nearly 50 tonnes. The terrain was a little exposed so it was necessary to work fast to get all the containers to the trucks. The work was carried out by resistants and locals alike all in the spirit of celebration. By midday all the containers had been loaded onto the carts and transported to the trucks and by early afternoon the land had returned again to its normal calm.
|Unloading containers from the carts at a road near to La Grange Sercy|
with Lorry waiting in background (Photo : Maurice PIERRE / courtesy of Michel Duparet)
|Containers loaded at la Grange Sercy (Photo : Maurice PIERRE / courtesy of Michel Duparet)|
The following are the dropping points for each Bomb Group, the number of aircraft involved and the quantity of containers dropped :
- 94th BG (Group letter A) 33 B-17s dropped 385 containers at Trainer (Crayon)
- 95th BG (Group letter B) 35 B-17s dropped 408 containers at Footman-Lilas
- 96th BG (Group letter C) 37 B-17s dropped 413 containers at Serrurier
- 100th BG (Group letter D) 35 B-17s dropped 419 containers at Digger
- 385th BG (Group letter G) 36 B-17s dropped 441 containers at Trainer (Crayon)
- 388th BG (Group letter H) 36 B-17s dropped 431 containers at Trammond
- 390th BG (Group letter J) 36 B-17s dropped 409 containers at Salesman-Stationer
- 447th BG (Group letter K) 36 B-17s dropped 423 containers at Ditcher and 3 B-17s dropped 36 containers at Trainer (Crayon)
- 452nd BG (Group letter L) 23 B-17s dropped 276 containers at Serrurier and 12 B-17s dropped 150 containers at Footman-Lilas
Pleaux (15) - on the terrain Serrurier, 3kms south of Pleaux on route D61 after the village of l'Herm direction Enchanel.
|Monument at Pleaux |
(Photo - Bernard Bardi from the site Xaintrie Passions)
Moustoulat (19) - Monument situated at the junction of the D83E1 towards St. Hilaire Taurieux / Moustoulat and the D83.
|Monument at Moustoulat (photo 2009)|
Loubressac (46) - at La Maresque, route de Bretenoux at Thégra. The monument was inaugurated 21st July 1946. Each year a ceremony is held at the monument (link). There is also a plaque on the wall of the Mairie in the town which commemorates the groupe Vény and the Allies who organised the parachute drop.
|Monument at La Maresque - Loubressac (photo 2004)|
Night time drops to the Resistance continued and two large scale daylight drops were carried out again by the 3rd Air Division USAAF in August and September :
Operation Buick on the 1st August 1944. Drops were made to the Maquis in the Jura mountains, Savoie, Haute Savoie and Saône-et-Loire. All BGs involved in Cadillac took part with the exception of the 100th BG.
192 B-17s dropped 2,281 containers to the terrains Ditcher (4.5 kms E. Salornay), Marksman/Echallon (6.25 km E. Oyonnax), Ebonite (18km NE. Albertville) and Hippopotame (18 km E. Annecy).
As well as the containers seven US Marines (OSS) were dropped at Ebonite. One of the parachutes failed to open causing the death of Sergeant Charles Perry. He was buried in France with full military honours.
|1st August 1944 - Photo showing bonfires in the Jura mountains|
(Photo - 95th Bomb Group Memorials Foundation)
|Operation Buick - 1st August 1944 |
The plateau des Glières
|Parachute drop at Vercors plateau 9th September 1944|
Within eight weeks after the parachute drop of 14th July 1944 every region involved had been liberated. The Germans surrendered at Brive-la-Gaillarde nearby to Moustoulat on Aug 15th with the German Commander saying that it was partly because they believed Allied Commandos had parachuted in on 14th July. The department of the Lot was liberated the 17th August 1944, the 22nd August 1944 the Corrèze was liberated. The village of Vassieux paid a heavy price for its involvement with the resistance and its location to the parachute drop, but on the 2nd September its region was liberated. The department of Saône-et-Loire was liberated the 10th September 1944.
|Michel Duparet aged 6 in 1944 wearing a shirt made from a parachute by his mother|
(photo courtesy of Michel Duparet)
This article has been in the making for the best part of a year and I'd like to thank the following people for their input and direction :
Phil Samponaro - 95th Bomb Group Memorials Foundation
Pierre-Yves Roubert - author of Le parachutage de Moustoulat : 14 juillet 1944
Tim Brett - Parham Airfield Museum
Nigel Perrin - SOE historian / author (link)
Henry Gambade - AS Vény
Michel Duparet, who aged 6 in 1944 witnessed the parachute drop in the Saône-et-Loire
Michael Faley, 100th BG historian - 100th Bomb Group Foundation (link)
Darrel Dvorak - son-in-law of Colonel Heflin Carpetbagger Commanding Officer
David Pratt - Bottisham Airfield Museum
Jackie and Fred Aling - 490th Bomb Group Memorial Project
Richard Gibson - 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum at Thorpe Abbotts, Norfolk (link)
Hubert Arrestier - the Maire of Monceaux-sur-Dordogne
Fab Fantin - grandson of resistant who took part at the parachute drop at Vercors (link)
Association de mémoire - Tempête sur les Alpes (link)
I have two more articles on Cadillac in the pipeline, one of all the witness accounts / temoignages that I can find (link), a second on the Containers themselves.
If anyone has any additional information, photos or documents concerning Cadillac I would be very happy to add to the article.
Without the following sources there would be no article !! :
The National Archives at Kew
Assembling the Mighty Eighth by Leslie A. Lennox, Lt./Col. USAF (ret) Pilot 336th Squadron published in July 2013 edition of 95th Bomb Group Memorials Foundation newsletter Volume 2 Issue 2
Une fête en bleu, blanc, rouge by Emmanuel Delfouloy - 1944 Libérés ! : Le Journal de Saone-et-Loire dimanche supplement 4th September 1994
The Mighty Eighth War Diary by Roger A. Freeman published in 1981 by Jane's Publishing Company
La girafe a un long cou by Jacques R.E. Poirier published in 1992 by Editions Fanlac / The Giraffe has a long Neck by Jacques R.E. Poirier published in 1995 by Leo Cooper
Ombres et Esperances en Quercy : Armée Secrète et Groupes Vény du Lot 1940 - 1945 published in 1980 by Editions Privat
Icare - revue de l'aviation française - no. 144 - 1993/1 trimestriel : Aviateurs et Résistants - Tome 2
Les Combats Victorieux by Dominique Lormier published in 2002 by Le Cherche Midi
Interview with Alberte and Marcel Grouille - Esprit Pays : Bulletin d'information de la Communauté de Communes du Pays d'Argentat - No. 5 March 2010 (link)
Articles concerning Operation Cadillac (link)