In the early days of 1945 there was a particularly frightening crisis in the 9th Air Force that only a few people were aware of, and to this day still have no knowledge of how it was solved? A special crew was formed in the 449th squadron composed of Capt. George Lane (pilot), Lt. Sherman Best (copilot), Lt. Arthur Perkins (navigator), Tech Sgt. Jose Sola (engineer), and Cpl. Martin (translator) to fly to Bordeaux and under extreme conditions, to accomplish a mission of the utmost importance and secrecy.
We proceeded from Beauvais, FR to Bordeaux without incident and landed on a runway pockmarked with bomb craters that had been placed there by the RAF and USAF in recent days. We were met by officers of the French Air Force and a civilian named Georges Pechaudre and were immediately brought to a hotel and bar which had been converted into the French Officer's Club and billet.
This presented a problem as the French were very rank conscious and enlisted men were not allowed in the "O" club. However, Yankee ingenuity being what it is, I gave my flight jacket to Sgt. Sola to cover his stripes and Art Perkins provided his flight jacket to Cpl. Martin for the same camouflage. During dinner the French Colonel seemed to be having a little difficulty trying to understand why the two American "lieutenants" would not remove their flight jackets while perspiration streamed down their faces.
After dinner we were escorted around Bordeaux by Mons. Pechaudre, who showed us all the local historical sites and explained that a pocket of Germans were still on an island in the harbor and occasionally dropped shells on the city, but for the most part we could ignore them. Also, after checking out a few bars, one of them called the Palm Beach Club and operated by a gentleman from Palm Beach who refused to allow us to pay for anything we desired in his establishment, we decided to look for a place to have a light snack before returning to our hotel rooms and preparing for our morning mission. Mons.
Pechaudre brought us to an inn that was crowded with French sailors sitting around drinking wine and smoking. As we ordered a bottle of wine and a couple of cold chickens, we suddenly found that the French Navy greatly admired American Airmen, or maybe it was the chickens on our table, for they gathered around and began singing American songs, eating our chicken and drinking our wine. Naturally, since we were obviously being treated as heroes, we had to replenish the chicken and wine as it disappeared because they thought we were great and we certainly didn't want to damage their opinion of us. I did notice, however, that when the came about an hour later, our admirers suddenly disappeared. In the course of events we had also picked up an honor guard of some black Moroccan troops who escorted us back to our hotel while protecting us from any harm that we might encounter along the way. The only danger that I found was the Moroccan who was trying to pick my pocket and unfortunately I found it necessary to break military law and strike an enlisted man, but since he never brought charges I escaped being court martialed.
After a good nights sleep we all awoke ready to take on our mission bright and early. Mons. Pechaudre arrived and proceeded to drive us around to the various areas we were there to inspect, and we checked out all possibilities and came to our final decisions which later were highly approved by our superiors and squadron mates.
You see, the problem was that the Officer's Club and the Airman's Club were about to run out of our favorite beverages, so we had contacted Mons. Pechaudre, a wine and liquor merchant in Bordeaux, and asked for his help. Help us he did-he took us to every warehouse in town and we sampled all of their wares for two days-exhausting as it was, we succeeded in loading our bomb bays with barrels of wine, cases of Calvados and Hennesy's 4 Star and proceeded back to Beauvais where we were again greeted as heroes by our squadron mates. I do remember being very ill following all that tasting, but it was worth it. However, I never did understand why the four of us were never decorated for such a dangerous undertaking.