My/June 2014 Trip to Site of Dreux AB and D Day Area
by Glenn Burchard

Glenn has many more pictures of this trip and the 2012 trip in his picture folder. Click on each picture to go the orginal picture.

Dreux AB

traveled to the remains of Dreux AB in October of 2012, so on this trip in 2014 it was easy to see what had transpired in the interim. (Please see the recent pictures that have been posted. Some of the pics I took in 2012 are also posted in my picture folder if you want to compare.) As some of you have read in the blog, no buildings remain standing, except for the guard station at the main gate.

Main Gate 2014
Main Gate 2012

I had read that the energy company who owns most of the property was going to demolish the structures in 2014, but I thought there would still be a few standing. There are nothing but solar panels on the south taxiways and possibly some of the runway.

We drove in from the north/northeast on D11.1, and because of our earlier visit we knew when we should be able to see the base; right as passed through Chennevieres. As we drove into Dampierre sur Blevy we had seen nothing. Pretty much the same thing as we drove up Rue de la Base to the gate. Last time we snuck onto the base and got thrown off. We didn't try this time.

Theatre under tree, chapel to the right. Annexes separated from chapel and hole is where the steeple fell through

Note the solar panels and absence of buildings

While at the gate, that's where it sunk in that we're only left with our pictures and memories of more than roughly a half century ago. Some of you remember the tree that was near the Base Chapel. I don't recall there being any other decent sized trees on the base back in the day. It was in my 2012 photos and it is now the one remaining landmark that gives you some perspective of where things were.

We tried at least five different roads around the perimeter of the old base to see if we could get closer. Most of them were farmers' roads. We either couldn't get to the old Perimeter Rd, but when we did there was an 8-10 ft fence and vegetation obstructed our view. On our last attempt we drove on a dirt road for about .3 of a mile through a farmer's crops and got to the fence on the east side. About all we could see were the solar panels. Fortunately we did not get stuck on the road, and I don't think anyone spotted us. The wheat crops were almost as high as the car we were driving!

Chateau La Barre

Turning around we stopped briefly at the one story farmer's building. It doesn't look to be in use. Back in Dampierre, I took some photos for Ron Holland of where he used to live on D146 the road that runs perpendicular to Rue de la Base. Then we drove west to find chateau La Barre.

Chateau la Barre 2014

I took a couple of pics but it was inaccessible; and I was told that in so many words…somewhat firm but politely! It appears to be a 'lived in' chateau.

Theatre under tree, chapel to the right. Annexes separated from chapel and hole is where the steeple fell through
Then to Senonches. It's typical of a thriving little town in France. We grabbed some lunch at boulangerie and then found the off base housing area. It was remarkably well-maintained, and I've posted several pics. The area still remains on the outskirts of the city and there has really been no further growth to the east.

Driving back near the base we stopped at the chateau Dampierre sur Blevy. I must admit that I have absolutely no memory of it from the early 60's. I'm sure many of you do. You can pay to tour it; we did not. It's got a nice lake in front of it and that makes it picturesque. Dampierre itself probably hasn't changed much.

We then drove into Maillebois, parked at the town square and got something to drink at a bar/restaurant just off the square. In talking to the owner, he said he recalled several of the local ladies dating airmen from the base, and that five or six of them married airmen.

Headed back to D11.1 and went back northward. All in all, it was a day of nostalgia and melancholy for me. I hope some of the pics have been of interested to those who frequent our website.

We were staying in Vernon for several days, so we drove by Evreux coming and going. That base is being actively used by the French.

70th D-Day Anniversary

I began making reservations last October for a place to stay in the area. Even at that point things were pretty booked up, unless you really wanted to pay a lot. We ended up staying at a farm about 20 miles east of Caen, just north of a major auto route. It was very relaxing and owned by a French & English couple. We got there on the 4th and they let us know that almost all the places you would want to visit on June 6th were inaccessible and you needed to have a pass; because of the dignitaries attending events. Caen has a 'peripherique' (loop) around it and the northern half was closed off that day. So we rearranged our schedule and visited Arromanches, the American Cemetery and the Omaha Beach site on the 5th instead.

sized trees on the base back in the day.

I had read that we had left most of our vehicles in France after the war ended. There's almost a cult that focuses on preserving just about any kind of WWII vehicle you can think of. There were literally hundreds of them on the small roads in that area; and actually 40-50 miles inland there were a good number of them. Apparently the market for parts is fairly good so they can keep them running. It was pretty amazing. Every year they come out around D Day, but every 5 years it's really a big thing. In addition, many French men dress up in vintage American uniforms and the ladies in 1940's era garb.
Dreux Elementary School

We had to park a good distance away from the sites we wanted to see and walk to them (and back!). Arromanches was packed. There was a band a block off the beach, in uniforms, playing 40's music and people in 40's garb dancing to Glenn Miller. The tides were out when we were there so many remaining portions of the Mulberry bridge structure were visible.

The American Cemetery was packed, but you couldn't get to the grave sites (they were roped off) because they were preparing for Presidents Obama and Hollande to be there the next day for the ceremony. For those of you who have been there, the whole mall area, from the memorial statue to the chapel was a seating area. 10,000 people were in attendance the next day. So when we were there, they were setting up the stage and network crews were everywhere. There were several WWII vets in the area, mostly being interviewed. I posted pictures of a couple of them. Of course we walked down to the beach. It was a good feeling to stop and thank several WWII vets and current soldiers and airmen for their sacrifice and service.

On the 6th we went to Ste Mere Elise.

Church at Ste mere Elise

We had to get to it through back roads, but we made it. I did have to use my old B-52 Radar Navigator map reading skills a few times! Ste Mere Eglise is a small village. When we visited it in 2012 we drove right up to the square next to the church where the paratrooper's chute got caught. This time we had to park outside of town and walk in. There must have been 50,000 people there. There were high school and college bands from the US playing. The place was packed. Late in the afternoon they had an American parade with a slew of US vehicles, etc...It was postponed a couple of hours from when it was originally scheduled, so we left before it began. Those roads I'm sure were packed after the parade. We got back to where we were staying and the local news was showing how at 10pm the town was still emptying out (the parade was from about 5 to 630). We made a good call!

We hear so much about the French not liking the US much. In the two and a half weeks we were in France (I won't bore you with the rest of it) I never experienced any negative vibes; not even in Paris. I understand and speak a little French, but communicating was not much of a challenge. We built the trip around D Day on the calendar and I was very pleased that we got to catch some of the good will. I have to also say that I felt a twinge of pride that I was a part of being a force for good; especially after such a great sacrifice was made in WWII. Not so much as a dependent (maybe a little!) but as a B-52 crew member for 6 years. For those of you reading this who served at Dreux and other places; thanks for your service and preserving our freedom. For those of you who were dependents; thanks for being a key part in your parent's support system so that they could make their contributions.

Glenn Burchard

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