Posted by Administrator •
Sunday, May 30, 2010
This was copied and pasted from an online newsletter. The entire newsletter can be found here: http://www.20fwa.org/spring2007.pdf
Here is a portion of the video from the producer’s website http://www.doggreenproductions.com/Sacrifice.html
Below can be found towards the end of the newsletter, printed in 2007.
HISTORIAN REPORT FROM ART SEVIGNY
(77th FS 1944-1945) contacted me about a project the ABMC was working on. A new visitor center at the American Cemetery at Normandy is to be dedicated this June 6th (http://www.abmc.gov/home.php). As part of the new center a movie is being made to highlight five service men buried there. The idea is to project these service men as more than just names on a grave stone, to show they had lives before the war and a future that was cut short. Initially they were only going to have ground forces represented since, in their words, “the Army Air Force really wasn’t involved in D-Day”. Luckily the Air Force Historian set the record straight. I was asked if the 20th had anyone buried at Normandy who was lost during the Normandy Campaign. The 20th has one member buried there who was lost during the Normandy Campaign. 2nd Lt. Walter F. Perra was lost near the village of Les Corvees, France on 15 June 1944. Perra was strafing flak positions near the village of Dreux when one of the engines on his P-38 was hit. As near as can be determined he stayed with his bird long enough to avoid hitting the village. He bailed out at about 100 ft off the deck and was killed instantly on impact. The Germans stripped the body and removed all markings from the aircraft. Initially the local German commander would not allow the villagers to bury Lt Perra, but, after pleading, permission was given but without a coffin. Again, they pleaded. The Mayor stated, “He is not a dog. You wouldn’t bury your soldier that way.” The commander relented and a local villager built a coffin. Only children, with the exception of the Vicar, were allowed to attend the funeral. Local children were asked to gather flowers and meet at the church. A procession moved from the church to the grave about one hundred and fifty yards from the crash site at the edge of the woods. The villagers continued to maintain the grave of this unknown aviator until, on 11 November 1944, local villagers invited the commander of an American unit in the area to attend a ceremony at the grave in celebration of Armistice Day. After that US officials investigated the site and, after finding serial numbers on the aircraft’s engines, the identity of Lt. Perra was established. Part of the film project involves interviews with people who knew the Lt and any family members if they could be found. After a quick search of the web about 20 Perras in California (where he was from) were found. I phoned all on the list with no luck but left a few messages. Later in the day Mark Walter Perra, the nephew of Lt. Perra phoned me back. He had been trying for years to find out more about Lt Perra’s loss but found out very little. In addition, two of Walter’s brothers were still alive. In January we were down in Modesto, CA with 1Lts. Albert L. Gese and John D. MacArthur who both served with Lt Perra in the 77th. The producer filmed interviews with these two pilots about their time in the 77th and their memories of Lt Perra. A fly by with a P-38 was arranged and filmed to recreate a flyby Perra did of his family farm just before he shipped out to the 77th FS. The film at the visitor center will be a 15 minute orientation film, but a 1 ½ hour movie is planned to be shown on television.
I have been working on several projects to promote the history of the 20th.The first project that has been taking most of my time is with the American Battle Monuments Commission
(ABMC). Last year Leo Kerns