Pieces from the P-47 wreckage and bullets which were recovered. (Credits: Uwe Benkel)

P-47 Thunderbolt of the Free French Air Force to be recovered

Photo of Allard (Credits: Uwe Benkel)
Photo of Allard (Credits: Uwe Benkel)

On February, 14 1945 two U.S. P-47 „Thunderbolt“ aircraft from the Groupe de Chasse I/4 “Navarre”, an unit equipped with French pilots of the Free French Air Force (FFAF), took off from their airbase Dole-Tavaux. One of the pilots was 24-year old Capitaine Antoine Allard, born 1920 in Paris. The two aircraft were flying into Germany for a mission in the area of Baden-Baden (Black forest area) and noticed on their way back – whilst passing the region of Ottersweier – German troops on the ground. After spotting the troops, the pilots decided to attack them but when going down for a strike both aircraft collided in the air. The collision caused the two aircraft to crash.

Cpt. Antoine Allard’s P-47 Thunderbolt crashed straight into a hill just outside the small village of Haft, close to Ottersweier. The other plane crashed in the area but the pilot was able to bail out and taken prisoner.

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Allard's stone cross at the crash site. (Credits: Uwe Benkel)
Allard’s stone cross at the crash site. (Credits: Uwe Benkel)

Allard’s aircraft went about four to five meters (13-14 ft.) deep in the ground. Eyewitnesses from the village went to see the site and saw the crater. They still recall that the wreckage was burning, lots of smoke filling the air and ammunition was exploding. “It was like the hell opened his mouth”, said Bernhard Metzinger, who was 14 years old back then. Metzinger also remembered that one hand of the pilot was still holding the aircraft’s stick. However with no chance of recovering the aircraft and pilot, the hole was filled and closed.

A year after the crash, Allard’s mother came to see the where her son lost his life and people from the village placed a wooden cross with his name at the crash site. As of today, there is a cross made out of stone surrounded by small bushes. The owner of the property takes care of it since he was born, coincidentally the same day Allard crashed.

About three months ago, Uwe Benkel, got in contact with a French man named Francois Arvy who was stationed with the French army in Germany. He heard about the crash site and that the pilot was never recovered. After coming contact they made plans to recover the aircraft and bring this French soldier home after seventy years. Benkel contacted the Mayor of Ottersweier, Mr. Jürgen Pfetzer who also agreed. The recovery will take place today, 8 August.

Metzinger still remembers the crash as it was yesterday. (Credits: Uwe Benkel)
Metzinger still remembers the crash as it was yesterday. (Credits: Uwe Benkel)
Pieces from the P-47 wreckage and bullets which were recovered. (Credits: Uwe Benkel)
Pieces from the P-47 wreckage and bullets which were recovered. (Credits: Uwe Benkel)

Relatives of Allard were found in Paris, Toulouse and the Netherlands. Some of them will join the recovery which will gain a lot of interest. It’s also the first time that members of the German based „Arbeitsgruppe Vermisstenforschung“ (CSI Germany = Crash Site Investigation Germany) will recover a French Pilot. 

Uwe Benkel said: “We don`t make a difference what kind of nation the soldiers or pilots are. We will bring them back home to their families and also write the last chapter of families histories,“ adding, “The families need a place where they can remember their war dead. They need to have a place on a cemetery not in the fields or in the waters.”


Uwe Benkel and his team „Arbeitsgruppe Vermisstenforschung (CSI Germany) recovered 148 aircraft and 48 missing crew members and soldiers from World War II since 1989. You can contact him at [email protected] for more information or questions. The group doesn’t receive any support from the government, they can use any type of help and support.

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