France / Landmark

The oratory garden




In May 1944, in preparation for the forthcoming landings, the Allies stepped up their aerial missions to weaken the German forces. Bombing of communications hubs and military installations intensified.

On Saturday 27 May 1944, four bomber groups of the 304th Bomber-Wing of the 15th Air Force U.S. took off from their bases in the recently liberated south of Italy to attack the German airfield at Montpellier/Fréjorgues, including the 30 aircraft of the 454th Bomber-Group.

Shortly before crossing the French coast over the Cap Roux massif in the Estérel, a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber took a direct hit from the German Flak (anti-aircraft defence) protecting the Anthéor viaduct.

The aircraft, nicknamed "Miss I Hope", spiralled outwards and hit the sea in the Agay harbour channel.

4 men managed to parachute out and were immediately taken prisoner. The parachute of a fifth man, the nose turret gunner, unfortunately went up in flames, while the five remaining crew members died, having been unable to evacuate the aircraft. Several of these men are buried in the Rhone American Cemetery in Draguignan.

The sea closed in on the bomber, which had become a wreck. It wasn't until the end of August 1984, during an exploration dive in the Bay of Agay, that its dislocated remains were discovered at a depth of 42 metres.

The team of divers was deeply moved by this shapeless mass lying on the sandy seabed where anti-Flak jackets, a parachute wrapped around a machine gun and boots lay.... The aircraft's registration number was still inscribed (stenciled on the left side of the fuselage), the black paint having miraculously withstood 40 years of immersion.

A stele in memory of the crew of this bomber was unveiled in this garden on Saturday 5 October 1997. A commemoration is held here every year at the end of May.

In spring 2002, as a safety precaution, the Toulon bomb disposal divers explored the site and destroyed 29 bombs that were still active, causing a gigantic geyser.

It was by mistake that the name "Ophelia Bump" was inscribed on the stele. It is the serial name of this type of aircraft. The real name of the aircraft is "Miss I Hope".

880 Boulevard de la Plage, 83530 Agay