French's Life Vest

The Decatur Daily News
Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Saving French: Frenchman has life vest once worn by area man
By Holly Hollman, Daily Staff Writer

Tuesday Evening. Lifford E. French of Athens wore his company jacket and showed a photo of the plane where his life jacket may have been lost over France during World War II. A Frenchman found the life jacket in France, and found French through a previous article in THE DAILY.

ATHENS - A man in France recovered an item in Paris last week that Lifford E. French did not remember he had lost 61 years ago.

French, 84, was a staff sergeant and later a tech sergeant in the 535th Bomb Squadron of the U.S. Air Force during World War II. He few 30 missions over France and Germany, before his injury in a plane fire.

French said his crew was flying a mission over Nancy, France, in 1943, when the plane caught fire.

Our target was the German Air Force's mess hall," he said. "We got a direct explosion from a German shell."

French said he and the pilot put out the blaze with fire extinguishers. The pilot landed a British base. French suffered second and third-degree burns and spent two weeks in a hospital.

At a Paris specialty shop 61 years later, Timothee Mignot of Saint Germain En Laye near Paris found an American World War II life jacket.

"I'm collecting uniforms and equipment of the U.S. Army in World War II," Mignot said. "It's my way of helping next generations--I have a 2-year-old boy--to remember this war and the sacrifice of those who came all over the world to help us." French's name and number are also stenciled on it.

Mignot was curious about the owner of the life jacket. Scribbled on the jacket is "S/Sgt Lifford E. French 34335103."

"I've been on Google to try and find, if possible, some reference to this soldier, to discover at least his unit," Mignot said.

(story ends?)

Submitted by Frank Slomzenski

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