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It was a wonderful story, but a hard one to corroborate given that the only record of this came from Hamilton’s unpublished memoirs.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?”
What follows is Mr. Smith’s account of an incredible moment in history.
Hello Mr. Heritage,
I wasn’t expecting to be sending you this today, but here’s the story of why I am writing to you now.
I subscribe to Air mail and came across your article. So, I copied the link to share your story with my father, Arthur Smith Jr.
Dad was raised in San Francisco and was a medic for the army during WWII.
I remember hearing his stories as a child, one of them being very similar to this story of Harry Hamilton. Dad would laugh and joke that his troop arrived before Patton and that they liberated Paris.
I just came across the link, read him the story and showed him the photo of Harry Hamilton. He said “yes he was walking in the road and we picked him up”.
I recorded the conversation attached, it was literally on the fly (also excuse my Lady Bird Johnson error 😂). So it’s not completely cohesive as a story, but I think you’ll follow.
Dad had a stroke in his 70’s so his speech is a little slow, but his mind is sharp as a tack and he remembers details like no other person I know.
I hope you will find it interesting, and he thoroughly enjoyed the article.
Normally I live between Italy and San Francisco, but since the virus I have been here in California and fortunately with my father. Luckily, he’s my favorite person in the world.
I hope you will enjoy his version, coincidences are an uncanny delight!