He was one of the last three companions of the Liberation, Pierre Simonet died Thursday at 99 years old.
For Emmanuel Macron, “he was a hero: he might refuse this title, he possessed all the attributes: courage, moral strength, a sense of duty”. “The whole country will remember her courage, her tenacity and her modesty”, reacted the Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly and the Minister Delegate Geneviève Darrieussecq.
Student in mathematics in Bordeaux, he heard the call of General de Gaulle on the radio on June 17, 1940. The next day, I young man made the decision to go to England. On June 24, he jumped into the last cargo ship which, in the harbor of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, repatriated Polish troops and British residents to England.
Arrived in Liverpool, Pierre Simonet enlisted in the Free French Forces (FFL). He would like to choose aviation, but he is only 18 years old and this weapon only recruits volunteers who already have the pilot’s license. He was therefore assigned, because of his studies in mathematics, in the FFL artillery being created.
Quickly, he was sent to Africa and stationed with his unit in Cameroon until January 1941. He then left for Damascus where the 1st artillery regiment of the FFL was formed. Appointed brigadier, he is in charge of observation and communications.
It flies over enemy lines
Pierre Simonet will take part in the battles of Bir-Hakeim, El Alamein and Takrouna. Then from April 1944, he took part in the Italian campaign.
It was during this time that he realized his dream of becoming an aviator. He was then appointed “observer on light aircraft”. His role ? Aboard a small Piper, he will fly over enemy lines to collect intelligence by pointing out the locations of German artillery pieces and tanks.
In his biography published by the Order of the Liberation, we learn that during the campaign in Alsace, from January 7 to February 2, 1945, he will have a valuable role in demolishing several tanks and spotting two batteries.
“I suggest: what if we went under the Eiffel Tower? “
“In the campaigns of Italy and France, Second Lieutenant Simonet carried out a total of 137 war missions in 250 hours of flight, and was awarded four citations”, specifies the Order.
But it is undoubtedly his exploit, on May 8, 1945, the day of the Victory which will remain like a formidable symbol. On that day, the planes must land on the Issy-les-Moulineaux field. But “for us, the early rebels, we had to do something out of the ordinary,” he recalls in an interview in 2015.
An idea runs through his mind. “I suggest: what if we went under the Eiffel Tower? “. Banco! “The flight plan is organized: take the Trocadéro esplanade, the Pont d’Iéna, pass under the immense iron vault, fly over the Champ de Mars and straighten onto the military school. There is room to spare, ”he continues. A little dumbfounded, an American soldier will immortalize this passage in a photo. “It took more nerve than skill, we had not asked permission from any authority. “
Demobilized, Pierre Simonet, who was born in Hanoi where his father was a public works engineer, entered the National School of Overseas in 1946, which trained the administrators of the French colonial possessions.
He was assigned to Indochina, then followed courses at the Paris Statistical Institute before leaving for Cameroon, where he ended his career as an administrator of the Ntem region.
Cordier and Germain, the last two companions
In 1958, he entered the international civil service: he was sent by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to the Mekong basin. He then joined the UN, which sent him in 1959 and 1960 to Iran as an advisor in economic statistics.
He then joined the OECD and, in 1964, the International Monetary Fund which sent him to Haiti, El Salvador, the Comoros and Lesotho before retiring in 1985.
From now on, Daniel Cordier, who was secretary to Jean Moulin and celebrated his 100th birthday last August, as well as the legionary Hubert Germain remain the living witnesses of this page of history. It is planned that the last of the companions who will die out will be buried at Mont-Valérien.
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr