In 1939, the winds of war were blowing across Europe. Hitler had invaded poland and soon set his sights on Western Europe, storming through Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and eventually France, which, unable to withstand the Blitz of German forces, surrendered in 1940, dividing the country into 2 zones.
Jacques wanted to fight for his country, but he was in the US at the time and the US was not involved in the war. At the French Embassy, he asked to participate in the conflict and was assigned to helping relocate French sailors whose ships had been at sea when France was defeated and thus had sailed to friendly countries.
That did not satisfy his longing to become involved, so he travelled to Canada to join the Royal Canadian Air Force, armed with a biplane license he had earned in Chile, and soon transferred to the Royal Air Force as part of the Ferry Command; squads of pilots who delivered freshly built bombers from North American factories to the European front, and Asia.
Jacques logged over 6,500 hours of flight time as a pilot. Most of this time as a Captain in the Ferry Command; a unit that delivered B24 Liberators from North America to the European front as part of the Lend-Lease Program.
Thus began 15 years of flight adventures that took him to all parts of the world as a soldier, then as a commercial pilot for Aigle Azur and Air France.
The Ferry Command was extraordinary in that the first ever air crossing of the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh was just 12 years ago. Ferry Command pilots had to endure freezing temperature, unable to fly above 10,000 feet for the lack of pressurized cabins. They wore uniforms made entirely of leather and 2 inches of lamb’s wool, zippered from head to toe. Once a plane was delivered to the front, they would pile into a flight back to Canada and repeat the crossing. During the war, Jacques was promoted to Captain and flew B24, B25 bombers, and Mosquitos.
A wonderful book, “Bombers Across”, depicts their adventures. Written by Edgar J. Wynn, its introduction was written by none other than Lowell Thomas, Jacques’ good friend from his Stowe VT adventures.
In it, Lowell described a harrowing experience of Ferry Command pilots lost over the Pacific as narrated by Jacques.
Click thisfor the complete introduction.
In 1945, he delivered the first aircraft, a DC3, to the nascent Air France company, and in 1946 he inaugurated the Paris-New York route for Air France flying a DC4.
He continued to fly for Air France until 1948, completing over 100 crossings, and then went on to pursue other interests
In 1954-55, he returned to flying as a pilot for an independent airline called Aigle Azur, whose services were subcontracted to the French military fighting the war in Indochina. He flew numerous missions there, most notably when he evacuated General De Castries from Dien Bien Phu. He then ferried the International Press Corps to Hanoi for their first interview of Ho Chi Minh.