On 24 August 1944, Captain Callet (Pilot) and Lieutenant Mantoux (Observer) conducted a historical mission aboard a Piper L-4: They dropped over the Paris Prefecture message announcing the arrival troops of General Leclerc, and thus the liberation of the capital.
The story of the driver (written by Renaud Leblond) and report this exceptional mission:
“It is by weather, August 24, around 1 pm, I get the most unexpected order of my career. I'm so in Rambouillet, hence, the same morning, tanks of the 2nd DB are reeling is to win at the faster the capital.
My eight aircraft – American Piper Cubs used for artillery fire adjustment – are grounded. Mired by heavy rain that continues to befall. Like me, my observer, lieutenant Etienne Mantoux, is deeply disappointed: tonight, or tomorrow at the latest, Leclerc tanks will enter Paris a hero, so that the Squadron, she stuck by the storm, will teach the victory without participating. We are really envious… When suddenly a dripping Jeep stops in front of the PC of the squadron.
A liaison officer for the artillery, Capt. Righini, down, then headed towards us. His voice is urgent: “The capital is raised, he said. It is the Prefecture of police, who is in charge and who suffers the main shock of the German forces. Agents are heroically, but ignore the meteoric progress of our tanks.
Envoys reached the Leclerc PC. They depicted the plight of those who fight in Paris and that it must, at all costs, reassure…” I understand immediately the mission: fly over Paris and let loose on the Prefecture a weighted message of lead. Four little words: “Hold on, we're coming.” Mantoux and I are inflated to block. Despite the bad weather. Despite, above all, the foolish risks looming: as the Pipers, my plane is not blind; It is slow and has no means of response. Moreover, the regulation is formal: a piper must never cross enemy lines.
Except in an emergency.
And, while the engine of the aircraft starts to roar, remember this sentence of the “out of the "Chant des Francs"”: “Hours of life flow… We will smile when he have to die.” On the track, the crews are gathered. They say farewell. Our plane leaped to the prairie band. The inch rise. We headed into the unknown…
The sky is clear. On the ground, our tanks, conspicuous with their pink panels, along the forward line of the fighting. They are now behind us. Stephen and I are surprisingly calm. To hide from the Germans, but also to guide me, I play with the clouds. In a kind of ecstasy, I repeat this sentence of Montherlant at the microphone: “Finally know what counts and what does not count. And stick to the light that we have delineated under the Sun of death.” But Etienne corrects me: “Yes Sir, but we stick to these light we? go? define under the Sun of death!”
When? There now, while the first, we discover Paris and forget all dangers. I recognize the Pantheon, then the Prefecture. Etienne confirms the objective. What do I do? I scream: “Attention, I'll bite!” The aircraft switches, turns and dips. I want to deceive the enemy. Simulate a fall. The altimeter is decreasing. Nothing, not a shot. We are soon to a few metres above the spires of Notre-Dame. I brutally straighten the appliance by initiating a circular turn around the Prefecture. Etienne explodes: “Message launched!” And then I saw the gold marker banner unfold like a dream…
General Leclerc welcomes us. It teaches us that the message has been received, understood and executed. I laugh a nervous laugh. As if I had lost the reason.”