Because the Allies fought their means inland from Normandy’s seashores in 1944, French fighters in Brittany distracted German forces by launching a guerrilla marketing campaign codenamed “Operation Dingson.”
SHORTLY AFTER DAWN on June 18, 1944, two Citroën Traction Avants, the chief black cars favored by the Gestapo, drove east alongside a slender nation lane towards the village of Saint-Marcel in Brittany, northwest France.
The German army policemen contained in the automobiles had no thought they have been approaching an unlimited French Resistance camp. The French fired two antitank shells on the Citroën, destroying one and killing its 4 occupants, and immobilizing the second. One German leaped from the broken car and escaped into the close by woods. The Battle of Saint-Marcel had begun.
The village of Saint-Marcel itself lies half a mile from the place the Germans have been ambushed. Near city is a museum—first opened in 1984 and not too long ago renovated at the price of $4.6 million—that commemorates the battle, however in any other case the realm’s rural panorama has modified little since 1944.
I stroll a couple of minutes west from the museum, alongside the identical street down which the 2 German automobiles drove, towards a farm referred to as La Nouette. I think about the French fighters hiding among the many cornfield to my left and hunkering down within the shallow grassy ditch to my proper, their hearts pumping because the Citroën’s engines grew louder.
The Frenchman who organized this preliminary ambush was Captain Pierre Marienne, a member of one of many two French regiments of the British Particular Air Service (SAS) Brigade. Marienne and 17 males had parachuted into Brittany shortly after midnight on D-Day, June 6, in an operation codenamed “Dingson.” Their mission was to contact the French Forces of the Inside (FFI, the identify of the French Resistance after February 1944) and set up two bases from which to launch a guerrilla marketing campaign towards the Germans in Brittany. Collectively, they have been to maintain as many Nazis as attainable occupied with a view to assist the Allies 150 miles northeast as they fought their means inland from Normandy’s seashores.
Two days earlier than their leap, on June 4, London had broadcast a coded radio message signaling the FFI to mobilize. Round 2,500 fighters reported for responsibility, congregating within the small farms and villages surrounding Saint-Marcel. The FFI chosen an appropriate drop zone, a small plateau nicknamed La Baleine (“the whale”) a couple of hundred yards west of La Nouette, and Allied plane started dropping tools, together with explosives, heavy weapons, and 4 Willys jeeps fitted with Vickers machine weapons.
I stride over some tough meadowland to achieve La Baleine. It was an excellent place for a drop zone, simply identifiable from the air and inconceivable for the Germans to strategy with out being seen by FFI lookouts posted among the many timber and hedgerows encircling it. As I gaze south, I see a stark granite monument dominating the countryside. Erected in 1951 to commemorate the battle, the monument encompasses a Cross of Lorraine—the image of the FFI—carved into the highest of the stonework, whereas a big plaque on the base honors the 42 Frenchmen killed within the battle and its aftermath and information the deaths of 560 enemy troops.