Georgia Magazine - September 2017 - 36

M ysteries

at Georgia
museums

Artifacts featured on Travel Channel show are just the beginning

E

very week on Travel Channel's
"Mysteries at the Museum," host
Don Wildman asks as many
questions as a typical toddler: What is
this artifact? Who owned it? How was
it made? How did it get here? Why
was it saved? What does it mean?
Fortunately, he also provides
the answers to those questions. In
doing so, he enthralls viewers with
the stories behind the most fascinating and strange objects in the world's
museums, enlightening the audience
about people and events from the
past. So far, the show has featured

BY LAURA RAINES

19 objects at 18 Georgia institutions.
(See map on page 37.)
But, as curators at Georgia's more
than 350 museums would tell you,
that's just the tip of the iceberg. Every
artifact has a story behind it, and that
story makes a difference, because
"history is about us," says Cynthia
StormCaller, curator of the Drummer
Boy Civil War Museum in Andersonville. "These are our stories."
Here are a few of Georgia's gems.

D-Day parachute dress

36

More online at www.georgiamagazine.org

COURTESY THE MUSEUM OF AVIATION FOUNDATION

This dress is made from parachutes used
by American paratroopers in 1944 and
hidden from German forces by a family in
the French town of Graignes. It is part of a
D-Day exhibit at the Museum of Aviation in
Warner Robins.

Museum of Aviation, Robins Air Force
Base, Warner Robins
Visitors to the D-Day exhibit of
aircraft, weapons and equipment at
the Museum of Aviation are usually
surprised to come across the case displaying the maid-of-honor dress of a
French woman. There's quite a story
behind it.
On June 6, 1944, D-Day, 150
American paratroopers of HQ Company, 3rd Battalion, 507th Parachute
Infantry Regiment were mistakenly dropped in the marshes near
Graignes, France. Too far from their
original drop zone, they decided to
defend the village and wait for troops
landing on the beaches of Normandy
to catch up with them.
Despite the risk to their lives for
aiding the Americans, the villagers
helped recover the heavy bundles
of munitions dropped in the swamp,
fed the soldiers and assisted in fortifying the area. Gustave Rigault, a
farmer, recovered bundles of weapons, while his daughters, 19-year-old
Odette and 12-year-old Marthe, gathered up parachutes and hid them in

their barn. Good, strong nylon material could be useful.
On June 10, a division of German
Panzers moved into the area and began shelling. The villagers evacuated.
Outmanned and almost out of munitions, the Americans abandoned the
position late on June 11. About 100
men escaped and connected with
other American forces, but some officers, medics and wounded stayed
behind in the church. They thought
they'd become prisoners.
Instead, the Germans massacred the Americans left behind, two
French priests and two old women
who had not been able to evacuate.
They also destroyed the church, the
ruins of which today commemorate
the battle and the fallen.
In 1945, the Rigault sisters made
wedding dresses for Odette and another sister, Marie Jeanne, and a
maid-of-honor dress for Marthe from
the saved parachutes.
"Marthe cut up her dress later to
make a blouse, but when she heard
about our D-Day exhibit, she and
a friend made a replica from saved
parachute material and sent it to us,"
says Mike Rowland, curator of the
Museum of Aviation. "It is one of my
favorite items."
By 1945, the war in Europe was
over. Peace meant hope for a normal
life, but France and its neighbors still
faced enormous challenges.
"Marthe Rigault took war material and turned it into a thing of beauty.
And what can be more hopeful than
a wedding?" Rowland says.
Today, the 507th Parachute In(Continued on page 38)
GEORGIA MAGAZINE


http://www.georgiamagazine.org

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - September 2017

Contents
Georgia Magazine - September 2017 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - September 2017 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - September 2017 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - September 2017 - 3
Georgia Magazine - September 2017 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - September 2017 - 5
Georgia Magazine - September 2017 - 6
Georgia Magazine - September 2017 - 7
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