France Remembers Capt Charles M. Peal, Air Force Fighter Pilot
Capt. Charles M. Peal of Nashville died in a crash in Crouy, France, 67 years ago, and the village still commemorates him as a hero. August 14th is not Memorial Day. It’s not Veterans Day or the Fourth of July. It is, however, the day that a Tennessee soldier is being remembered for making the ultimate sacrifice for his country and for mankind. In fact, every year since his death, Nashville native son Capt. Charles M. Peal has been commemorated in Crouy, a little-known village of 1,600 people in the Picardie region of France, about one hour northeast of Paris.
Capt. Peal (left) was a graduate of Hume-Fogg High School. He joined the Air Force during World War II, became an ace fighter pilot, and came home on furlough to marry childhood sweetheart Norma Moore in May 1944. A few months later, on Aug. 14, his plane was shot down during a mission and crashed in a field in Crouy.
Each year, the people of Crouy remember Capt. Peal, as well as three other American soldiers who were killed there, with a ceremony. On that day, 67 years ago tomorrow, Nashville and Crouy would be forever linked. In February 2008, thanks to Mayor Karl Dean and our Metro Council, our two cities were formally linked with an official twinning through Sister Cities of Nashville.
I was in Crouy for the ceremony and had the privilege of speaking to citizens of Crouy who witnessed Capt. Peal’s crash. I learned how the people of Nazi-occupied Crouy risked their lives to give our Nashville soldier a proper burial. As I, in turn, talked about Capt. Peal, his family and his homeland, I was overwhelmed by their eagerness to know everything I could tell them about their hero.
Capt. Peal’s story and others like it were the inspiration for a project called France Remembers. The goal of the project was to collect information about towns in France that have memorials to fallen U.S. soldiers. A database would then be made accessible to anyone who wanted to learn more about the brave men who served in WWII or who wanted to visit these memorials. As I began my research for France Remembers, I discovered www.memorial-genweb.org, a French nonprofit dedicated to documenting “memorials erected in honor of soldiers, civilians, French, as well as those from foreign lands, killed or missing due to war.” This organization already has in its database 8,642 U.S. soldiers from both world wars, and the number continues to grow.
It is with gratitude and pride that I report that France Remembers and Memorial Gen Web have partnered to this impressive body of work easily accessible to English speakers, and we are expanding it to make it more robust and complete. Currently, fallen soldiers can be searched for using their name or the town in which they are commemorated.
It is my mission to see that there is biographical information for every soldier. Of course, this will only happen with the help of citizens who are interested in keeping the memories of our fallen soldiers alive. I encourage everyone to visit www.FranceRemembers.com , learn more about this project, and help in any way you can. These soldiers, lest we forget, are our heroes, too.
—Rita Richardson is a French teacher in Nashville and a Sister Cities of Nashville board member.
The article first appeared in The Tennessean, Nashville TN, and is reprinted with permission.
Originally published in Amitié, the newsletter of Normandy Allies.
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