They made the trip from New York, Hawaii or Colorado. This Saturday, about twenty American citizens will follow in their father’s footsteps. On the trail of their childhood.
This Saturday, Loiret reconnects to the threads of its French-American past. A past written in dotted lines since the departure of GI’S in 1967, a year after France’s withdrawal from NATO integrated command. But this history has left marks that are still visible, even in the landscape. As long as you look closely.
In Olivet, the soldiers of the 12th Corazzi dell’Olivet had been training for decades, without necessarily knowing it, on land where hundreds of American children, baseball caps on their heads, came to beat for the first time in the late 1950s.
Buried under vegetation over the years, these four camps were officially named Riley Fields in a ceremony organized on May 30, 1959 by US military authorities.
A tribute to Captain James D. Rileywho coached youth teams and who had died a year earlier in a tragic road accident in Oliveto.
On July 17, 1958, a US Army bus carrying men bound for Lebanon was hit by a truck on the RN 20. Result: four soldiers and the truck driver killed.
“A nice conclusion to a sad story”: the daughter of an American soldier, who died in 1958, finds traces of her past in Olivet
Captain Riley, 33, leaves behind a wife and three children. Among them, Elizabeth, just 4 years old. Sixty years later, the one that thirty years ago finally married France and settled near Montpellier was launched looking for Riley Fields.
Mission accomplished this fall thanks to the assistance of the soldiers of the 12th Leather. After a first pilgrimage with her daughters to the Oliveto, there was one last point to put to this family story: affix a new plaque on the stele marking the position of Riley Fields. It will be done this Saturday.
Baseball Federation and American Embassy
But this ceremony will not take place in close family intimacy. Because this very personal research has entered resonating with the memory of dozens of American retirees who also left their childhood memories in Orléans.
“When I shared all of this on Facebook, I felt I had turned on something in them, says Elizabeth Riley with emotion. Everyone has extraordinary memories of those years spent in France.it was a close-knit community “.
The idea of meeting at Olivet to pay tribute to Captain Riley therefore quickly gained ground.
They are amazed and extremely moved by the welcome of the French soldiers. To have allowed this in order to honor my father is fantastic!
Because their father was also sitting on that bus on the day of the accident, or simply because they themselves knew Captain Riley, those 60-year-olds, these 70-year-old Americans have decided to cross the Atlantic.
This is particularly the case with Greg Lynch, 75. “Her parents and my parents were friends, explains Elizabeth Riley. Since she was about ten years older than me, she babysat while her mother helped my mother pack after my father died.” Elizabeth hadn’t seen Greg since. It’s been 63 years.
From the Petite-Espère district in Saint-Jean-de-la-Ruelle, built on the model of the American residential suburbs, to the Coligny district passing through the old American high school, the small colony took advantage of this stay to visit the emblematic places of the US presence in the Loiret.
The ceremony in honor of Captain Riley will be an opportunity to materialize this indissoluble link between the two countries : takes place this Saturday at 10:30, Maison fort district, in Olivet. The French baseball federation and the American embassy will make the trip.