Joan of Arc's New Sword
(Editor's Note: The story of the restoration of the statue of one of history's most famous warriors Jeanne d'Arc is briefly told on page 75, of DZ EUROPE: The Story of the 440th Troop Carrier Group. Orleans, France was home to the 440th through much of the combat. On June 6, 1945 the new sword of Joan was presented to the city of Orleans. The document and transcription that follows sheds some new light on that momentous occasion. The author is unknown at this time, it appears to be a French account of the story behind the maid of Orleans and her new sword. The photos and document were generously provided by the family of Charles W. Taylor.)
Joan of Arcís New Sword
Standing in the center of the Place du Martroi, in the heart of the city of Orleans is Foystierís beautiful bronze statue of Joan of Arc. The base of this, the very first statue ever made of the Heroine of France, has bas-relief panels, in bronze, by Dutray, and the whole structure stood for decades with only the weather making a change in its appearance.
Then the war came, and at first the statue was unharmed, but on the 23rd of May, 1944, the bronze sword was blown out of Janís hand by a bomb fragment and other fragments damaged other parts of the statue and the bas-reliefs. But the same day a schoolboy, Jean Pierre Mercier, looking through the debris scattered around the Place, found the piece of twisted bronze that was the sword and he turned it over to the city officials, who hid it from the Germans.
On the 16th of August, 1944, our American friends victoriously entered the city of Orleans and after the city was free once again, they walked around and saw the many buildings, and the other statues, which commemorated the life of the Sainted Heroine which they had heard about since their childhood. It was then that they saw the statue of the Maid of Orleans, so famous all over the world, that a painting of it even appeared in the February 10th issue of Colliers, in an advertisement sponsored by Willys, the makers of the Jeep. This picture was entitled "Orleans greeting the newly arrived American soldiers". And itís very true that the Americans were very enthusiastically welcomed and our sincere friendship went out to them, as they helped us celebrate our liberation, at long last. They have since told us, of their familiesí happiness in knowing that their sons could find in the French "foyer" something of their own home, so many, many miles away.
They are perpetuated in our memories forever in may ways, one of them being the restoration of the statue of Joan of Arc, which they financed. The 440th Troop Carrier Group and the 456th Air Service Group, of the Army Air Forces of the United States took up a collection from each Officer and Enlisted Man and raised $600.00 (30,000 francs at the official rate of exchange). This generous sum was given to the Mayor of Orleans, Dr. D. Chevalier at a ceremony in the Hotel de Ville (the City Hall). Now a new bronze sword is in place and at present the other necessary repairs are being made.
Two bronze plaques on the base of the statue, one in English, the other in French, will always remind the inhabitants of the Ville díOrleans and tourists of this splendid gesture of the American Army. And by a symbolic coincidence, the Free French Forces are fighting, with American war materials, while the statue of Joan of Arc, in Orleans, France, is carrying an American sword.