WW2 Commemorative Monuments
ASSOCIATION NORMANDY 44 - 90th US DIVISION

Monuments dedicated to
the 90th Infantry Division

Other Commerative
Monuments

"Our Monument"

Faces of the Monument

Le Mesnilbus • Manche
Monument at Le Mesnilbus

Monument at Le Mesnilbus
Mapping by MapQuest

Tribute to Robert Lee Duffy
of the 404th Fighter Group

A marvelous story

On July 27 1944, an American fighter plane crashed in flames in a field belonging to the Laurent family, in the hamlet of Scellerie...
The battle was raging and the inhabitants of Le Mesnilbus had several days past received the order to evacuate.
Returning from the exodus, they found the wreckage of the war strewn accross the countryside. But they had to pick up their lives, to repair the damage as best as they could... They had many worries !
A half century has quickly passed..., and now Michel Rainfroy, impassioned by the history of lost aircraft, has brought back from oblivion and the earth the American aircraft... a Thunderbolt P-47. Thanks to records of the American Army, they found it was a plane from the 404th Fighter Group.
Then they discovered the name of the pilot and with the help of the "Poop Sheet" of former American pilots, they found our pilot alive and well and living in Colorado ! That was Robert Lee Duffy who had successfully parachuted near the village of Cambernon.
This Memorial, erected in his honor, will keep alive the memory of the sacrifices of all the Fighters and of this page of local history.

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404th FIGHTER GROUP
Poop Sheet N° 11 • November 1992

 
Editor :
Bob Williams
600 Valley Forge Rd. E.
Neptune Beach
FL 32266
Correspondents :
506th Squadron
Mary Orzo
22-17 Ryan Ct.
Whitestone
NY 11357

507th Squadron
Fred Varn
801 Bayou Blvd. Sth
St. Petersburg
FL 33705

508th Squadron
John Freeman
404 S. West St.
Kempton
IN 46409

Headquarters
George Nichols
116 Allendale Pl.
Terre Haute
IN 46808
ROBERT LEE DUFFY ?
Recently, several 404thers received a query from M. A. "Scotty" Hirst regarding Robert Lee Duffy who was shot down on July 26, 1944 northeast of Coutances. Hirst is an American writer, now living in Germany, who has been doing a great deal of search on the airstrips in Normandy. The following is a compilation of information from his letters and the resulting replies.
In May 1992 a French group of amateur salvagers unearthed the wreckage of Bob Duffy's P-47 in the village of Le Mesnilbus. This is one of three groups which track down information on aircraft which crashed in Normandy, and they now have 19 to their credit. The recovery of downed Allied and German aircraft is a continuing effort.
French researchers established that it was Duffy's airplane through the tail number, 7488, and through serial numbers on various parts identification plates. They assumed that the pilot was killed, and was buried in the vicinity, since a search of cemeteries in Normandy did not list a grave for Duffy. The village planned to use the engine and four machine guns, some of the pieces found, to build a memorial, which would also include a plaque identifying Duffy. The village mayor wanted also to invite members of the Duffy family to the dedication, or at least to establish contact with them. He asked Hirst for help in locating them.

This excerpt from "Leap Off" was forwarded : "Bob Duffy just disappeared into thin air on the same flight. After Weller spotted the trucks and was climbing to get enough altitude for a dive-bombing run, the second element of the flight caught some light flak. 'Yank' Wydner, the element leader, broke into evasive action, then looked back for his wingman. He was gone. Nobody saw the plane go down or a parachute open. Months later the 507th Squadron Adjutant, Capt. Rolland McCartney, received a letter from Bob's aunt telling us he was safe, a Prisoner of War. He was recovered by American troops in Germany the next year, in April".

Apparently no one has been in contact with Duffy since that time. Andy Wilson queried the Department of Defense. The records indicated that Duffy had survived as a Prisoner of War, but they did not have a last known address for him or a next-of-kin. Fred Varn contacted POW organizations for any information they might have, and if anyone had any more information or a current address for Bob Duffy, or a family member, one was asked to please send it along. The French mayor and the salvage groups would appreciate any help one could give them.

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404th FIGHTER GROUP
Poop Sheet N° 12 • August 1993

 
Editor :
Bob Williams
600 Valley Forge Rd. E.
Neptune Beach
FL 32266
Correspondents :
506th Squadron
Mary Orzo
22-17 Ryan Ct.
Whitestone
NY 11357

507th Squadron
Fred Varn
801 Bayou Blvd. Sth
St. Petersburg
FL 33705

508th Squadron
John Freeman
404 S. West St.
Kempton
IN 46409

Headquarters
George Nichols
116 Allendale Pl.
Terre Haute
IN 46808
ROBERT LEE DUFFY LOCATED
In the last issue of the "Poop Sheet" there was a story asking about information on Bob Duffy, who got shot down July 26, 1944. Fortunately, Donald Dove's son-in-law knew Duffy, and passed him the word. Turns out that Duffy had been living in Denver for a number of years, and was still alive in aviation. Information that Bob had been located was passed along to Scotty Hirst in Europe and then to Jacques Monthulé, the mayor of Le Mesnilbus. The mayor was overjoyed and wrote Bob immediately to tell him of plans to use the wreckage of his P-47 as a memorial in the village. On February 1993 a picture of the engine which the salvage group had dug up was taken. The mayor sent it along and wrote on the back : "48 years underground in Normandy...!"
Here are excerpts from a letter Bob Duffy sent along telling us about what happened to him.
"...We were in a line abreast formation and Weller started a 90 degree turn - away from the second element. As Wydner and I crossed over, I took a direct hit from a 40mm. (I know it was a 40mm because I talked to the German who did it). The concussion knocked me silly for what I guess was a few seconds. When I came out of it and opened the canopy I lost my helmet and goggles. The bird was flying great but the cockpit was full of fire so I had to leave. I landed right in the middle of a German unit and was caught before I even got out of my parachute (actually Rufus Cox's parachute). I had no unusual or terrifying experiences as a POW except that the German unit I was with was surrounded so I really saw the ground war close-up for a couple of weeks.
Major Clay Tice, CO of the 507th, told me a day or so before that he had put me up for 1st Lt. Roland Dalberg, who was shot down a few months later told me that I was on the promotion orders with him. On my return to the States, I went to AAF Personnel in the Pentagon, and I was told that I was still a 2nd Lt. So I ended the war well behind most of my contemporaries.
I left the service after the war and after a short stint with the telephone company, I got my Instructor's rating, and instructed in light aircraft for about a year and a half, then went with TWA as a DC-3 copilot.
In August 1948 I was recalled to active duty and sent to Randolph Field as a T-6 instructor. They had openings for instructors at Perrin Field so we spent the next year and a half there, then went to the Aircraft Maintenance Officer's course at Chanute Field.
While in school the Korean Conflict broke out, so on graduation I reported to the 18th Maintenance Squadron in Korea. I eventually took over the Flight Test Section and flew combat missions with the 67th Fighter Bomber Squadron. We had F-51D's.
After Korea we spent 5 years in Washington D.C. where I was Flight Test Officer at Bolling AFB (Best flying job I ever had). In 1957 I attended the Nuclear Weapons Assembly Officers course at Lowry AFB and ended up in SAC as a "Bomb dump officer". That wasn't the official title, but it sure did fit. I did manage to keep flying as an IP on the C-47.
I went back to inactive reserve status in 1960 and went into the non-sched airline business. We had a contract to operate a scheduled airline operation for NASA. I spent the next three years flying the Mercury astronauts and engineers from Washington to Wallops Island, Langley AFB, Patrick AFB, and Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. I left that job as Chief Pilot to go with United Airlines as a Vickers Viscount instructor at the old Capitol Air Lines training center in Washington. Then when my turn came to check out in the B-727, we had to move to Denver and have been here ever since.
I never did make Captain with United, but did get captain's pay because of my status as a flight instructor. My seniority number was 60 numbers short of a captain's bid when forced retirement at age 60 caught up with me. So I retired from UAL and from the Air Force as a Major on the same day...
Marge and I are in good health, though I had a mild heart attack about 9 years ago. We have 2 daughters, 2 grandsons, 2 granddaughters, and 2 great granddaughters. One of our grandsons is a 2nd Lt. in the Air Force. We plan to celebrate our 50th Anniversary in September.
This bit about them finding my airplane has been pretty exciting for my family who all live here in the Denver area. We'll be looking forward to seeing all the 404th people at the reunion... Bob"
LE MESNILBUS
The mayor of the village of Le Mesnilbus was quite excited about erecting the "Memorial" using the wreckage of Bob Duffy's airplane. The village was participating in a program advertising rural vacations and lodging - everything from bed and breakfasts to hotels. The brochure that Monsieur Monthulé sent said that there were 30 in the village. The village planned a ceremony to dedicate the Duffy Memorial in 1994. If you were in the area, you were most welcomed, either at the ceremony or some other time. For information, contact : Mr Jacques Monthulé, Hotel Campain, Le Mesnilbus, 50490 Saint-Sauveur-Lendelin, France.

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404th FIGHTER GROUP
Poop Sheet N° 14 • November 1994

 
Editor :
Bob Williams
600 Valley Forge Rd. E.
Neptune Beach
FL 32266
Correspondents :
506th Squadron
Mary Orzo
22-17 Ryan Ct.
Whitestone
NY 11357

507th Squadron
Fred Varn
801 Bayou Blvd. Sth
St. Petersburg
FL 33705

508th Squadron
John Freeman
404 S. West St.
Kempton
IN 46409

Headquarters
George Nichols
116 Allendale Pl.
Terre Haute
IN 46808
DUFFY MEMORIAL AT LE MESNILBUS
In April 1994 Bob Duffy went to the village of Le Mesnilbus in Normandy to participate in the dedication of the memorial erected in his honor. He took his whole family, both daughters, his son-in-law, two granddaughters, and a crew from Denver's TV Channel 9.
Bob says of his trip : "The people of Le Mesnilbus really put on a party for us They had a small band, a parade of resistance fighters and a luncheon that was fantastic. We were also interviewed by Channel 3 TV from Caen. The family stayed at the home of Jacques Monthulé, the ex-mayor of Le Mesnilbus and we were treated royally".
The picture above shows the memorial. That is the real engine from Duffy's airplane. The tail is obviously a mock-up, but the Y-8 on the fuselage definitely identifies it as a 507th P-47. Bob said that they added a couple of machine guns from the wreckage after this picture was taken.
The placard at the right of the engine is in French, English and German. At the right of the English version there is a picture of Duffy.

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