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A piece displayed in one of our windows is surely one of the most mythical artifacts ever exhibited in a Normandy Museum. It is the only intact grappling hook that survived the assault on Pointe du Hoc.
Acquired in May 2019 at an auction from a well-known Norman collection, the grappling hook was discovered in 1944 by Jean Beck, a young man of 19 years of age at the time, living 500 meters from where Lieutenant Colonel Rudder’s 225 Rangers climbed the cliff. A few days after the assault, the young man went to the battlefield where he owned lands with his father and came across the impressive grappling hook caught in barbed wire. He decided to take it home as a souvenir. This almost innocent gesture allowed the preservation of this object, whose historical significance certainly escaped him in June 1944.
During the visit, in an area dedicated to aviation, there is an American Thunderbolt P-47D fighter-bomber engine and its eight Cal.50 machine guns. At the front, almost touching this exceptional piece, a display case contains three medals: a Purple heart, an Air Medal and a Distinguished Flying Cross. It also contains official documents, a parachute, and a carefully folded American flag, a symbol of honor and sacrifice.
All these elements, coming from different places, have a common denominator: Marvin J. Rosvold.
In 1992, Michel Leloup and Michel Rainfroy unearthed, south of Falaise, the engine of a P-47D, previously located by the latter. The pilot was then unknown to them.
In 2011, Stéphane Duchemin, president of the French Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, discovered the parachute of a 9th Air Force officer, Lieutenant Rosvold, not far from the crash site. The man then did a lot of research to learn more about this lieutenant, without succeeding in finding the crash site.
Five years later, Michel Rainfroy and Stéphane Duchemin put the elements they had at their disposal together and succeeded in determining, thanks to the machine gun numbers, that the P-47D found 24 years earlier was none other than the one piloted by Marvin J. Rosvold.
On August 17, 1944, while returning from his 65th mission in the Orne region, the lieutenant was shot down by the Flak (German anti-aircraft defense). In extremis, he parachuted out of his plane which crashed at Saint-Pierre-du-Bû, south of Falaise. Once on the ground, he left the wreckage of his Thunderbolt and his parachute behind him and joined his unit at Cardonville near Grandcamp-Maisy the next morning. He flew another 12 missions before returning to the United States in October 1944. He became an architect after the war and died in 2008 at the age of 87.
Contacted by Stéphane Duchemin, the family agreed to share “Marv’s” personal treasures so that they could be preserved alongside his P-47D and parachute, also on loan from Stéphane Duchemin. Exhibited jointly at the museum since June 2019, the reunion of these extraordinary pieces was made possible thanks to the hard work of enthusiasts and the trust placed in the museum by Lieutenant Rosvold’s family.