Sunday, 28 December 2014

7. 2e Lt/2nd Lt James F Burch, USAAF

Le porche de l'église
Saint Martin
de Biriatou
Au cours de la nuit du 23-24 décembre 1943, un groupe d’évadés (aviateurs et civils) conduit par les guides du réseau Comète se mit en route pour passer de la France occupée à l’Espagne franquiste en franchissant les Pyrénées à pied. 

C’était une marche épuisante et il fallait traverser la rivière Bidassoa qui était haute après plusieurs jours de pluie. Deux évadés - le comte Antoine d’Ursel (ancien chef de Comète de Belgique) et le sous-lieutenant James F Burch, USAAF, furent emportés par le courant et périrent noyés. 

Les Allemands récupérèrent leurs corps le lendemain qu’ils exposèrent un court moment dans le porche de l’église Saint Martin à Biriatou avant de les faire disparaitre. On n’a jamais retrouvé les corps. Le sous-lieutenant Jim Burch fut le seul aviateur à avoir perdu la vie alors qu’il était sous la protection de Comète.


During the night of 23-24th December 1943, a ten-strong mixed party of evaders (airmen and civilians) led by Comet Line guides set out on foot from occupied France to cross the Pyrenees into Francoist Spain. 

385th BG
549th BS
This was a gruelling hike and it involved a night crossing of the river Bidassoa which was running high after days of rain. Two evaders - Count Antoine d'Ursel (former chief, Comète Belgium) and 2nd Lt James F Burch, USAAF - were swept away and drowned. The Germans recovered their bodies the next day, and displayed them briefly in the porch of Saint Martin's church at Biriatou before removing them later. Their bodies have never been found. 2nd Lt Jim Burch was the only airman to have lost his life while in Comet's hands. 

Best in full screen HD..

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Goodafternoon,

Nice documentary!!

Funny to see my own painting in your documentary. (I had it painted and owe it) Probably got a copy through Shaneyfelt jr. In various publications I notice that a/c #42-3539 was named "Michigan Air Force". This is pertinently incorrect. Lt. Whitlow wrote in 1989: "Our aircraft remained unnamed". Again someone (...) made this up.... wishfull thinking so to say...
In your first crewpicture you swopped the names of Gilbert and Richards.

For extensive info regarding this crash and further events:
see: "Holten In oorlogstijd" 1984 by Hols and Steunenberg.

regds. Herman J. Steunenberg

Pipérade said...

Goede morgen Herman,
Thanks for your comments.. Much appreciated.
I'll see if I can correct the names in the video.
Lt Whitlow's son was here last April and he didn't mention anything about the aircraft name.. but then, often people wanted to forget the war so perhaps his father hadn't discussed it with him.