At the age of 98, American veteran “Buck” Sloan retraces the steps of the Battle of Brest. [Vidéo]

At the age of 98, American veteran “Buck” Sloan retraces the steps of the Battle of Brest. [Vidéo]

Rarely are the veterans of the Second World War who push to Brest. Those returning to France often stop in Normandy, a landing place. Chester Peter Sloan always has a good foot (he wears Texan boots) a good eye (blue enough to make the Iroise Sea pale). Originally from Houston, Texas, he had this project to return to France for twenty years. And I really wanted to redo the route to Brest.

Return to the hot spots of August 1944

This Friday, September 9, 2022, in Plougastel (29), is an amazing thing! He was told nothing, just asked to join the car in the parking lot. About twenty soldiers dressed in period uniforms, weapons in hand, are waiting for him cautiously, in front of four Jeeps ready to take him to the hot areas of the summer of 1944. He cannot believe his eyes. In August 1944, the 38th battalion of the Second Division arrived from Normandy to liberate the city of Brest. But, before joining that strategic port for the Germans, there was no shortage of fighting in Loperhet (29) and Plougastel.

Chester Peter Sloan was quick to spot and recover his automatic rifle of the time (Le Télégramme/Stéphane Jézéquel)

“Yeah, it’s my gun,” he told a young man who immediately handed it to him. A straight weapon that carries its weight but still handles it like a teenager.

I threw smoke grenades into the hole and found myself face to face with a German officer

His division was part of Task Force B, sent to prepare the attack on Brest and clear the Finistère peninsula. In Plougastel, the Germans are still there, they must be removed in order. When we left Loperhet, on the heights of Elorn, “we proceeded cautiously as there were still Germans everywhere”. “In this sector, I threw smoke grenades into a hole and found myself face to face with a German officer whom I targeted. He was asked where his people had gone. We took about thirty prisoners with many weapons which I can still see. I still have that officer’s pistol at home”.

A commemorative photo facing the Plougastel bridge, which finally
A commemorative photo leading to the Plougastel bridge, which “Buck” Sloan will eventually be able to take. In August 1944, it had just been released by the Germans in its entirety (Le Télégramme/Stéphane Jézéquel)

The Plougastel bridge is burned

Stop on the Route du Port, where he sees the old bridge of Plougastel in the distance. “Yes, the first arch, on the Brest side, was just burned by the Germans. We had to go back to Brest”. Guipavas (29), where the fighting will cause many victims.

The rise to Brest was no picnic. Several of his comrades died in battle. He joins Brest where some Germans offer a strong defense. “Are we going to the German submarine base? “, he asks. He has a vague memory of it.

More than 70 years separate them.
More than 70 years separate them. “Buck” was 18 years old when he landed in Normandy and then joined Brest and the Second Division (Le Télégramme/Stéphane Jézéquel)

You know, I wasn’t always a hero. I was brought to court after a fight with two other GIs who had a crush on two girls I met one night at a bar!

Ready for a photo, he strikes a pose with his vintage automatic rifle. “Oh, you know, I wasn’t always a hero,” he laughs. “I must tell you that I was taken to court. This gun was taken from me a few weeks after Brest, when I was in Belgium, after a fight with two other GIs who had their eyes on two girls I met one evening in a bar! We were upset but they gave me my gun back. after Thanksgiving night.

As effective as his guitar, on a country song,
As effective as his guitar, in the atmosphere of the country, “Buck” held his audience for three or four episodes of his battle of Brest (Le Télégramme / Stéphane Jézéquel)

A great personality

Like a true performer, he captivates his audience, even pulling out his guitar and singing a song in front of Guipavas town hall. Every week, he continues to give a concert in a place reserved for him in Houston. “In the middle, we were told that he was a good man”, believe Ronan Urvoaz and Gildas Priol, happy to welcome in Brest one of the last actors of this era.

As he commits himself to another picture among the lovers of Super Sixth Wolves parties, Brest 44, Front Line Issue, his eyes are watching the stream. “It really touches me, you haven’t forgotten, it’s amazing to see you like this”. Young people wearing American uniforms are also motivated.

3,000 American GIs died in Finistère

The end of the day is held in Brest, put Wilson, in front of the monument that pays tribute to his unit that paid a great price. The Battle of Brest is said to have cost the lives of 3,000 GIs (more than the 2,600 identified by Ronan Urvoaz). The feeling is understandable. Time has not erased everything yet. And since life wanted him, like one of his senior officers, who died at the age of 110, “Buck” takes his guitar and leaves on a new country song.

Place Wilson, in Brest, "money" Sloan picks up his guitar to play a country song, next to a monument that honors his unity
Place Wilson, in Brest, “Buck” Sloan picks up his guitar to play the national anthem, next to the monument honoring his unit (Le Télégramme / Stéphane Jézéquel)