Last week, Air Mail published the story of a man named Harry Hamilton. It began with his obituary, printed in the local British newspaper where he once wrote a gardening column. The obituary claimed that Hamilton had basically liberated Paris from the Nazis by accident: He had been traveling through France with Patton’s Third Army when his truck broke down. He took a shortcut and found himself leading the victory parade by mistake. Jubilant Parisians lined the streets, cheering and offering him champagne.
It was a wonderful story, but a hard one to corroborate given that the only record of this came from Hamilton’s unpublished memoirs. But then, when the story ran, a reader got in touch. “My Father Arthur Smith Jr. (96 yrs old) was a US Army medic in WWII,” wrote Ceri Smith, “and said he picked Harry up in Paris on August 26, the day after Germany surrendered the city. I recorded my father’s version of his story. May I email it to you?”