Memorial Day weekend tribute to OSS commandos in south west France

A US Second World War military operation in southwest France is to be remembered the weekend before Memorial Day to mark the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a precursor to the CIA.

Memorial Day weekend tribute to OSS commandos in south west France
One of the two steles honoring the two OSS commandos killed in action in the Tarn in August 1944. Photo courtesy of Meredith Wheeler

During its short span, the OSS ran 13 important secret missions in France around D-Day, including one in the Tarn département that played a key role in the liberation of the country by preventing Nazi forces based there from reinforcing troops in Provence, under attack from invading Allied forces on the south coast.

Between May 27th and May 29th, a series of events will take place in Albi, Brassac, Boissezon, Le Vintrou and Lautrec to honour the bravery of OSS officers, who parachuted into the département to co-ordinate and lead resistance efforts in the area.

A new commemorative flag honouring the OSS’s role in France’s Liberation will be unveiled at the commemoration events.

An exhibition parachute jump will take place on the morning of Friday May 27th, three days before Memorial Day proper, with both French and American special forces, at the drop zone where the 15-man OSS team dropped by moonlight in August 1944.

Among those participating in the commemorative 2022 parachute drop is Marine Corp Military Attaché from the US Embassy in Paris, Colonel Ed Norris, USMC.

On Saturday, May 28th, floral tributes will be laid at the steles at Le Rialet and Betges honouring US soldiers and the French Resistance fighters who died opposing the Nazi occupation.

Relatives of one of those men are travelling from San Diego to attend the special ceremony.

The following day, an exhibition of US and French World War Two military vehicles will go on display in Lautrec.

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France’s martyr village: What happened at Oradour-sur-Glane?

Ceremonies have taken place in France to mark the 78th anniversary of the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane.

France's martyr village: What happened at Oradour-sur-Glane?

France’s Minister of Justice, Eric Dupond-Moretti, marked the occasion on Friday, visiting the village which was destroyed by the SS Das Reich division during the final days of World War II.  He stopped at the cemetery to leave a wreath at the monument to the martyrs. 

Ex president François Hollande also participated in official ceremonies remembering those killed in the nearby town of Tulle, two days before the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane. 

On June 10th, 1944 – just days after Allied forces had begun the D-Day landings in Normandy – Nazi forces stormed into the central south-western French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, setting fire to the town and killing 643 civilians.

The massacre was planned as ‘retribution’ for the actions of French communist resistance fighters, known as francs-tireurs partisans, who took up arms and successfully retook the city of Tulle from German soldiers. 

Oradour-sur-Glane remains as a village martyr and has never been rebuilt, the ruins maintained as they were left by the Nazis.

It was a decision by French President Charles de Gaulle, with the intention of showcasing the atrocities committed during World War II. If you walk through the village now, you will be struck by the reminders of the lives lost – old, burnt cars, rusty sewing machines on tables. 

On the site is also a memorial museum at the entrance of the “martyred village,” as well as a memorial site at its graveyard.