WWII vet, French milkmaid meet once again after 59 years
By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Staff Writer
World War II hero Bill Paty was reunited last month with the milkmaid he met in a French cow pasture on D-Day when he landed by parachute with the 101st Airborne far from his target.
Photo courtesy Bill Paty
Nearly 60 years after briefly meeting in a pasture in France, Bill Paty was reunited with Augustine Legrand. In 1944 Paty had parachuted into France as part of D-Day operations.
Photo courtesy Bill Paty
Paty said his outfit dropped near a nest of elite German parachute troops quartered in a farmhouse on June 6, 1944. A young French girl, Augustine Legrand, was milking a cow while shells screamed overhead. Paty crouched down beside her and asked in his best Punahou School French if there were any German troops nearby.
She pointed to the German soldiers, who then shot and captured Paty and took the girl in for questioning. She came close to being shot as a collaborator, and Paty went to a prison camp. He escaped three times. The third time he got away for good.
"Where we landed was eight miles from La Barquette Locks with Carentan, a French town the size of Hilo, in between," Paty said. "Two battalions of German troops were actively defending the town and the locks.
"I had always been crestfallen and ashamed for not reaching our objective. For 10 or 15 years after the war, I refused to attend our regimental reunions. I didn't want to read about it.
"On this trip, I finally came to accept it. As unhappy and disgusted as I was about being shot and captured, and failing in my objective, I had to accept that the likelihood of getting to La Parquette Locks was extremely doubtful. It ended a long hangover."
Also on this trip he visited the grave of a good friend, Capt. Loyal Bogart, who was captured and massacred. "He's buried under an apple tree in an American cemetery in Brittany," Paty said.
Legrand's family had Paty to dinner. She remembered very well the tall American officer with lampblack on his face. She told him the only thing that is different on the farm are the cows. The family arranged a champagne reception with the mayor of Carentan, who gave Paty a medal and said he "will never forget the American soldiers."
Paty said the citizens of Carentan have formed an active group that perpetuates the memory of the 101st and 82nd airborne regiments that liberated the town. The milkmaid's nephew arranged the reunion after finding Paty through the regimental roll.