Category Archives: FRANCE

Remains of missing World War II pilot from Benson identified in France

Remains of missing World War II pilot from Benson identified in France

The traces of a Western Minnesota pilot of World War II who was killed 75 years ago during the D-Day have been identified.

On Wednesday, the Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency announced the remains of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. William J. McGowan, 23, of Benson, was identified on May 13.

Remains of missing World War II pilot from Benson identified in France
U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. William J. McGowan is shown in an undated photo from the World War II era. Killed in a plane crash in France during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, his remains have been identified.

McGowan will be buried July 26 at the Normandy American Cemetery in France.

McGowan was a 391st Fighter Squadron member, 366th Fighter Group, 9th United States Air Force. Air force. On the day of the D day, when the P47 Thunderbolt crashed on a mission near the city of Saint-Lô, France, he was killed June 6, 1944.

In 1947, based on information from a French citizen, the American Graves Registration Command investigated a crash site near the village of Moon-sur-Elle that was possibly associated with McGowan’s loss.

An investigator traveled to the site and learned from witnesses that the aircraft burned for more than a full day after impact and it had been embedded deeply into the ground.

A Defense Department team removed wreckage from the impact crater but failed to locate McGowan’s remains. As a result, on Dec. 23, 1947, his remains were declared nonrecoverable.

In 2010, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Agency traveled to Moon-sur-Elle to interview witnesses and survey the crash site. During the survey, the team found numerous pieces of aircraft debris and recommended the site for excavation.

In July and August 2018, excavation of the site led to possible remains, which were sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis.

Dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence, were used to identify McGowan’s remains.

McGowan’s name is recorded on the Tablets of the Missing at the Normandy American Cemetery, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in Colleville-Sur-Mer, France.

A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently, there are 72,639 service members still unaccounted for from World War II with approximately 30,000 assessed as possibly recoverable.

Tests Suggest Ancient Romans Imported Wood from France

Tests Suggest Ancient Romans Imported Wood from France

The blocks of trees that went over a thousand meters from the French woods, where they grew, were buried at the foundations of an ancient Roman villa, a journey that probably involved floating along rivers and being transported across the sea.

Such new findings demonstrate how long-haul trade has helped build the Roman Empire.

Although the Roman Empire is now famous for monuments like the Colosseum and the Pantheon, for the most part, the ancient Romans largely built their empire using timber.

Soprintendenza Speciale Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio di Roma, Italy

The distinction in Latin between firewood (lignum) and construction timber (material) suggests the critical role timber had for the ancient Romans — timber was so important that the ancient Romans considered it as signifying matter or substance in the modern English sense of the word “material,” said study lead author Mauro Bernabei, a dendrochronologist (he studies tree rings) at Italy’s National Research Council’s Institute for BioEconomy.

The demand for wood for construction, shipbuilding, and fire led to the rapid depletion of the woodlands surrounding Rome and in much of the Apennine Mountains running up the length of Italy.

As such, Rome grew to rely on wood from abroad, but researchers have been unable to find many timber samples from the area that have survived the intervening millennia. “The finding of wood in archaeological excavations in Rome, and in Italy in general, is very, very rare,” Bernabei said.

However, scientists investigated 24 unusually well-preserved oak timber planks excavated from 2014 to 2016 during the construction of an underground railway line in central Rome.

These boards had been part of the foundations of a lavishly decorated portico that was part of a vast, wealthy patrician villa, they said.

The planks survived because they came from waterlogged earth. Wood is best preserved in conditions where destructive fungi do not grow well, such as when the wood is kept either very dry or, conversely, completely immersed in water, Bernabei explained. “The area where the samples were found was completely submerged by the wet mud of the Tiber River,” he said.

The researchers focused on growth rings in the planks. If you cut into the trunk of a tree, you can see that it is divided into rings that each represent a tree’s growth in a given year.

The researchers found that four of the planks came from trees that were more than 250 years old when they were cut down.

Growth rings reflect the environmental conditions a tree experiences over time in an area, so one can pinpoint where wood comes from by looking for trees with matching growth ring patterns.

The researchers measured the widths of the tree rings for each of their planks with an accuracy of 0.01 millimeters, and by comparing the planks with records of Mediterranean and central European oak growth rings, they found their planks likely came from the Jura mountains in northeastern France, more than 1,055 miles (1,700 kilometers) away from where they ultimately ended up.

“This is the first evidence of long-distance timber trading in the Roman Empire,” said Paolo Cherubini, a dendrochronologist and forest ecologist at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, who did not participate in this study.

The scientists also found that some of the planks included sapwood, the part of living wood where sap flows. By comparing the rings within the sapwood with rings from trees with known histories, they could determine that the trees the planks came from were probably felled between A.D. 40 and 60.

These findings shed new light on the “huge, impressive logistic machine” the ancient Romans were capable of, Bernabei said. “Just think — planks, around 4 meters long, were transported across Europe just to be placed underground in the foundations” of this portico, he said.

Given the length of the planks and the great distances they traveled, the researchers suggested that ancient Romans or those they traded with likely floated the timber down the Saône and Rhône rivers to what is now the city of Lyon in present-day France. It was then likely transported on ships across the Mediterranean Sea and then up the Tiber River to Rome.

“This research opens up a new view of the wooden material found in archaeological excavations,” Bernabei said. “The timber found in other important sites — Pompeii, Herculaneum — may be of foreign origin.”

France Returns to Senegal an 18th-Century Saber That It Looted During the Colonial Period

France Returns to Senegal an 18th-Century Saber That It Looted During the Colonial Period

As a symbolic gesture of France’s commitment in its dedication to restoring African cultural heritage, French Prime Minister Edouard Philip handed the historic sword to the President of Senegal Macky Sall.

Omar Saïdou Tall, a leading Muslim religious leader in the 19th century who fought French colonialists in the 1850s in a region of West Africa that is now Senegal.

Decades later, French troops seized its possessions including the sword.

Omar Saïdou Tall’s sword was seized by French troops

The act followed one year after a report by the French president Emmanuel Macron was published that recommends the return of African artifacts in French museums.

There are about 90,000 Sub-Saharan artifacts in French public collections, many of them looted or acquired during the colonial era. Senegal gained independence from France in 1960.

France has yet to make good on Macron’s pledges: nothing has as yet been definitively returned, and a promised conference on the subject has yet to materialise.

Permanent repatriations will also require a change in French law, which deems museum collections to be “inalienable.”

Today’s ceremony is, therefore “not strictly speaking restitution,” the French government said in a statement.

The sword, whose leather handle is trimmed with a base shaped like a bird’s beak, has already been on display in Senegal’s new Museum of Black Civilisations as a loan from the Musée de L’armée in Paris.

Nonetheless, Sall welcomed the return as “historic,” saying it signals “a new chapter in French-Senegalese relations.”

Why There Are Six Million Skeletons Stuffed Into The Tunnels Beneath Paris

Why There Are Six Million Skeletons Stuffed Into The Tunnels Beneath Paris

One of his mysterious entrances into the French capital Paris should you be closely looking for. But if you trip over it, it shows a dark and dank and narrow tunnel underground world with a fascinating history.

The bones of 6 million people known as the French Empire of the Dead a reality brought to life in the recent CNN movie-lie underneath the City of Light where 12 million people are living there.

The Paris catacombs are a 200-mile network of old caves, tunnels, and quarries – and much of it is filled with the skulls and bones of the dead.

Much of the catacombs are out of bounds to the public, making it illegal to explore unsupervised. But nevertheless, it is a powerful draw for a hardcore group of explorers with a thirst for adventure.

A tourist-friendly, the legal entrance can be found off Place Denfert-Rochereau in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, near the Montparnasse district.

Here, visitors from all over the world can descend into the city’s dark and dank bowels for a whistle-stop tour of a small section of the catacombs.

One visitor told CNN: ‘I think people are fascinated with death. They don’t know what it’s about and you see all these bones stacked up, and the people that have come before us, and it’s fascinating. We’re trying to find our past and it’s crazy and gruesome and fun all at the same time.’

Why There Are Six Million Skeletons Stuffed Into The Tunnels Beneath Paris
The macabre mosaics lining the walls of the underground network are the remains of 6million former Parisians

The well-worn trail might be enough to satisfy the tourists, but other Parisians like to go further – and deeper – to explore the network. The name given to the group of explorers who go into the cave network illegally and unsupervised is Cataphiles.

The top-secret groups go deep underground, using hidden entrances all over the city. And they sometimes stay for days at a time, equipped with headlamps and home-made maps.

Street names are etched into the walls to help explorers navigate their way around the underground version of the city and some groups have even been known to throw parties in the tunnels or drink wine.

For catacomb devotees, the silence experienced deep in tunnels cannot be replicated anywhere else.

Urban explorer Loic Antoine-Gambeaud told CNN: ‘I think it’s in the collective imagination. Everybody knows that there is something below Paris; that something goes on that’s mysterious. But I don’t think many people have even an idea of what the underground is like.’

Empire of the dead: While much of the 200-mile network is out of bounds, a small section is open to tourists

Those caught exploring unauthorized sections of the network could end up out of pocket. Police tasked with patrolling the tunnels have the power to hand out fines of 60 euros to anyone caught illegally roaming the network.

A by-product of the early development of Paris, the catacombs were subterranean quarries which were established as limestone was extracted deep underground to build the city above.

However, a number of streets collapsed as the quarries weakened parts of the city’s foundations. Repairs and reinforcements were made and the network went through several transformations throughout history.

However, it wasn’t until the 18th century that the catacombs became known as the Empire of the Dead when they became the solution to overcrowding in the city’s cemeteries.

The number of dead bodies buried in Paris’s cemeteries and beneath its churches was so great that they began breaking through the walls of people’s cellars and causing serious health concerns.

So the human remains were transferred to the underground quarries in the early 1780s. There are now more than 6million people underground.

Space was the perfect solution to ease overcrowding in cemeteries but it presented disadvantages elsewhere. It is the reason there are few tall buildings in Paris; large foundations cannot be built because the catacombs are directly under the city’s streets.

The tunnels also played their part in the Second World War. Parisian members of the French Resistance used the winding tunnels and German soldiers also set up an underground bunker in the catacombs, just below the 6th arrondissement.

A postman collected pebbles every day for 33 years and what he created is astounding

A postman collected pebbles every day for 33 years and what he created is astounding

There stands an impressive building deep in the heart of rural France. The Idéal du Facteur Palace is a sculpture piece adorned with carved animals and floral décor and stands at a height of 45 feet (14 meters) high and 85 feet (26 meters) long 

The Palace Idéal is a shrine to the wonder of nature, influenced by Hindu style and Gothic architecture.

But when you remember its history, this beautiful building is even more remarkable. The Palace Idéal was designed by an untrained postman and is made of pebbles that were collected every day.

Cheval’s Palais Idéal.

According to Business Insider, Ferdinand Fernando Cheval was born in 1836 and lived and worked in Châteauneuf de Galaure, a rural village in southeastern France.

He lived a simple and quiet life as a local postman, having left school at the age of 13. However, one day as he was making his daily mail rounds, he stumbled and tripped over a strangely shaped pebble.

Ferdinand Cheval

Fascinated by the properties of the stone, Cheval began to remember a long-forgotten dream of building his own palace. The unusual shape of the stone inspired him, and he returned later to the same spot, only to discover an entire hoard of similar strange rocks.

According to Business Insider, he was so impressed with the beautiful samples of local sandstone that he felt compelled to do something extraordinary with them.

The Palais Idéal, south side. Realized by the postman Ferdinand Cheval (Hauterives, France).

He remarked in his diary, “It was a stumbling block shape so bizarre that I put it in my pocket to admire at my ease. The next day I went back to the same place.

I found more stones, even more beautiful… I said to myself: since Nature is willing to do the sculpture, I will do the masonry and the architecture.”

For 33 years, Cheval collected pebbles and brought them back to his home. He often worked at night, by the light of an oil lamp, collecting stones in his wheelbarrow. Gradually, piece-by-piece, he began to construct a lavish structure, originally called ‘The Temple of Nature’. He bound together each of the stones painstakingly with mortar and lime to make cement.

The starting point – the unusually-shaped stone that Cheval tripped over.

The result was nothing short of a miracle. Cheval constructed an elaborate palace drawing on both European and Indian influences, adorned with sculpted animals, intricate pillars and columns, and a stunning terrace.

He drew inspiration from the images and postcards he found on the mail that he delivered every day, conjuring a pleasure palace that was inspired by a wide variety of cultures and architectural styles.

Cheval’s mausoleum.

Cheval’s success is all the more remarkable given that he had no formal training in any kind of masonry or architecture. According to Business Insider, he constructed the palace by himself, stone by stone, learning the skills he needed as he went along. As a result, the Palace is known as one of the finest examples of Naïve art in existence.

When the Palace finally opened to the public in 1907, Cheval was delighted. Although it was initially regarded as a bizarre curiosity, it soon began to attract wider attention, particularly from surrealist artists such as Andre Breton. It was even the subject of an essay by Anaïs Nin.

Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval.

Even when the Palace was finished, Cheval was not content to put down his wheelbarrow. He wished to be buried inside his epic structure, but French laws prevented him from making such a request in his will.

As a result, he decided to build his own mausoleum, using the same design and principles as he had employed in the construction of his lavish palace.

Cheval’s tomb stands a short distance from the palace and was completed just one year before his death at the age of 88. It is known as the ‘Tomb of Silence and Endless Rest’, and rivals the Palace Idéal in its elaborate design and creativity.

After a lifetime devoted to creating such marvelous monuments, endless rest is surely what this talented postman deserves.