A few weeks ago, out of the blue, Harvey Engelberg received a letter from a farmer in Bassenville, in northern France. The writer was looking for information about a downed Second World War plane that had crashed into her fields on D-Day, back in 1944. She wondered if he knew anything about the event.
Reading the letter from his home in Montreal, Engelberg couldn’t believe it. That plane carried his father, Cobby Engelberg, who was 24 and in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a wireless operator during Operation Tonga. On the night before D-Day, his father, along with two pilots and a navigator, took off with a load of 22 British paratroopers. The men were to drop behind German lines to destroy bridges and prevent Nazi forces from reaching the infamous Normandy beaches where, hours later, tens of thousands of Canadian and British soldiers would make a surprise landing, turning the tide of the war.
Engelberg’s plane, however, was hit and caught fire. The elder Engelberg barely survived the crash, and his life was saved by farmers in a nearby house.
On today’s episode of The CJN Daily podcast, Harvey Engelberg joins to discuss his trip to the farm, what it means to have stood on the grounds of his father’s final mission, and what special gift he was given when he arrived in France.
What we talked about:
- Watch a French TV report on the event on YouTube
- Read more about the Canadian Jews of the Second World War in Ellin’s book, Double Threat: Canadian Jews, the Military, and World War II
- Watch a documentary about Faye Schulman, Holocaust photographer, on CBC Gem
The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Victoria Redden is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To learn how to support the show by subscribing to this podcast, please watch this video.