Box 024, folder 34: Placide Labelle

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Labelle, Major Placide Int. CAN. Juno No Release

Box 24, #34

Last edit about 3 years ago by roweall
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Brief Descriptions of people- interviewed by Nancy Bashant [inserted] (Canadian office - you have the interview) [end of inserted]

Placide Labelle: [inserted] (?BRI?)[end of inserted]

A short, dark, healthy-looking typical French gentleman. He tells a story, grins from ear to ear with mouth as well as eyes, and then it fades as quickly as it came. Very sharp, soft-spoken,, and earnest. Looks you in the eye and you don't look away. Speaks excellent English, has broad, world outlook. Unassuming and very kind. Knows the score. Strong sense of duty.

Last edit about 3 years ago by roweall
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[inserted] Canadian PR [end inserted] Major Placide Labelle, was Captain at D-Day, in charge of Canadian Public Relations Operation. Had 78 men under him, and a great [crossed out] great [end crossed out] quantity of equipment. Age 34 then, unmarried, was in Third Canadian Division. Now [inserted] helps [end inserted] run[crossed out]s[end crossed out] run Publicity Services Ltd., 1475 Mountain,[inserted] Montreal, [end inserted] VI 93665.

Started training public relations detachment in March. Had been in Italy for 9 months. Knew in March what he was training the men for. They learned how to sleep out, to care for equipment and the like. Sometime before D-Day, a man came up to him and said he didn't want to go through with it. (They were surrounded by barbed wire -- noone could go in or out -- the same as others.) He was scared, he said. Please relieve him. Labelle said to him, but if you go, someone else will have to replace you. Look, there's no turning back now. You made your choice when you signed up in Canada. [crossed out] illegible [end crossed out] [inserted]( [end inserted] And I believe this is the way Labelle himself thought of it.[inserted]) [end inserted] Then, three days after D-Day, he [inserted]Labelle [end inserted] decided this man probably needed a replacement. He was way up front -- a man sent to get him was wounded. Finally they got him and he came back -- was frothing at the mouth -- really shell-shocked and in bad [inserted]Post D-Day[end inserted] shape. They sent him back to England and Labelle doesn't know what happened to him. This was only case of fear he saw. Mostly men were too busy during D-Day itself to be scared. Labelle felt that here he was -- in on one of the biggest shows perhaps during his lifetime. He was proud to have a chance to witness this thing that a lot of others couldn't see.

On June 3rd, on the Isle of Wight, he and another, (think it was Bill Stewart [inserted] Canadian Press correspondent [end inserted]), were shown the maps of the French coast. Then they knew. Labelle tried to convey the feeling [inserted] to me [end inserted] he had -- that they both had. When they went backto their hotel that night, they didn't mention it to each other. They were afraid to talk, afraid to b at an eyelash, afraid to talk in their dreams for fear they'd let it out. They felt loaded with dynamite. They were scared they'd show they knew something, for they felt so loaded with this terrific secret, they thought their [inserted] very [end inserted] look might convey it. While they were there, being briefed, someone asked the General (he thinks it was General Keller, a Canadian) how he felt about it. He said, "Hell, there's no risk at all." And he proved right. He felt very relaxed, and most confident about it. Don Mingay, Lt. Col., G-l, was [crossed out] so [end crossed out] confident when they opened the maps, he looked so sure. It all looked so well organized that they hadn't a doubt but what it would succeed.

They were lucky in their passage over, and went on HQ ship , H.M.S. Hiliary, (thinks it' s a cruise ship during peacetime.) He and Charlie [crossed out] r [end of crossed out] Lynch, then of Reuters, now with Southam press [inserted] of Canada [end inserted], played the piano on the way over. [inserted] They landed at Gray-sur-Mer around 11 a.m.

His problem when they arrived and saw the great panorama before them was finding a place to land. They were in a hell of a hurry, he says. They tried at Berniere, but there were just too many craft. So they finally ended up landing at Gray, close by. They landed from the large boat to smaller landing craft. Labelle is about 5 ft or maybe a bit more high. Everyone landed in chest-high water, he said, but on me the water [crossed out] illegible [end crossed out] was way up to here, and he

Last edit about 3 years ago by roweall
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- 2 - grinned as he lifted his chin up. When he went into the water, he had to hold, on his head, a cage of 4 homing pigeons, a revolver and a pair of socks. The pigeons they sent back to near London when they landed. Two of them made it. They didn't send much information with the pigeons, just said they'd landed.

The engineers had put up white cotton tapes to mark the place on the beach where it was safe to walk so they'd miss the mines. As he walked through the tapes, he remembers seeing something out of the corner of his eye. It looked like a group of men playing bridge. He turned and looked, and there were four sitting there, bolt upright, eyes open, their bowels shot out, all dead.

The first man he saw on French soil, he asked directions in French. The man said no capish — and since Labelle had learned a lot of Italian in Italy, he felt right at home.

They walked to Berniere (about five miles from Gray, through Courseulle) and mortar fire was close, so the Jerrys were quite [crossed out] illegible [end crosssed out] far away. They were looking for a house to hold the press men. At 2 o'clock in Berniere some French people told them there were some Jerrys in an alleyway. And there were -- five of them, two wounded. They took them prisoner, and then handed them over to someone else since this wasn't their business.

Sometime in the afternoon, when they were on their way back to Gray, an urchin boy came up to them and asked if theyid like some fresh milk and eggs. Sure. So Labelle went back to Gray with the boy, and into a house. The boy shouted to his mother, who came out, and who [crossed out] illegible [end crossed out] was very attractive. She was all smiles and very friendly. Then he heard 3 or 4 women shouting outside very loudly. Gradually he realized they were shouting at him. First, they were saying, she collaborated with the Germans, now you. This was the first sign Labelle saw of Frenchman versus Frenchman. He didn't get the milk and eggs.

They didn't think of eating until around 8 that night. They went from Gray to Berniere and back because they'd left some gear — a typewriter he thinks, in Gray. They found a house in Gray for their purposes with an old man who had a picture of Petain on the wall. Ah, they thought, a friend of De Gaulle. But then, you never knew whether or not he just pulled out the poster when he found the Allies were landing.

Late that night, they were sipping cider, when suddenly a very young girl, around 20 or so, came in, scared to death and trembling. (She was very attractive also.) She was followed by an old old woman in slippers. The girl had come to by consoled by the old man (and of course the press men quieted her down immediately). She was terrified, and the old woman was as calm as anything. Very old and weather beaten, and so calm next to the quaking girl.

D-Day night (and this was the reason the girl shook) the Jerrys bombed hell out of the coast. Ihey wanted to prevent the

Last edit about 3 years ago by roweall
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- 3 - Allies from landing equipment and men. Our planes were there too, and there were dog fights in the sky [inserted]all night[end inserted]. Mostly the Jerrys were dropping [crossed out] illegible [end crossed out] baskets full of anti- personnel bombs. There was a tremendous roar and noone even tried to sleep. Most of the men typed all night. Very few dispatches could be sent back at first (only a few paragraphs) but they were getting news ready for the time when they could. They were waiting for the big radio transmitter which came a few days later.

The only kindof joke or laughs they had that 24 hours, was when a dispatch writer on a cycle was looking for Labelle's public relations detachment. The writer asked a man where "1 Canadian P.R. Det." was. The man didn't understand him, so he said, "do you know where Placide Labelle is." The man thought Placide Labelle was a place, so Labelle was Labelle-sur-Mer after that.

Labelle said he thought W. A. Stewart, Chief of Bureau of the Canadian Press would know a lot more than he does. Evidently he was in it with Stewart most of the time.

Labelle also said he wished he had his books, because he thought he could remember a lot more if he could just leaf through them and be reminded of stories.

[inserted] Interviewed by Nancy Bashant [end of inserted]

Last edit about 3 years ago by roweall
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