August 24, 2019
What a special day it was in Fairhope’s rich history. Barney Gaston Day took place at our wonderful Fairhope Museum of History.
LT. ‘BARNEY’ GASTON was born and raised in the City of Fairhope and graduated from the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education
Dot Yeager was on hand to describe Barney and his family’s generous spirit. When she told me she had graduated with him at the Organic School in 1942, I was blown away. She spoke up in the audience and I was able to video this incredibly special moment.
Barney’s grandfather was E.B. Gaston, the founder of our Utopian Community! I have been hand-selling his biography, Man & Mission, written by Paul Gaston since its 1993 publication through the Page & Palette. A book based on the origin of the Fairhope Single Tax Colony. His impact on Fairhope’s history has been responsible for the very essence of what makes our City so unique. E.B. Gaston in 1894, the year he led settlers to Alabama
The Story of Fairhope by EB Gaston was published in the very first edition of the Fairhope Courier from August 15, 1894!
The significance of EB Gaston’s great grandson Barney Gaston’s life extends far beyond his Family legacy though. Barney joined the Air Force to become a fighter pilot during WWII.
Like so many young men back then, he was brave, fearless and felt invincible. During one of his flight missions, he flew a P47-D named “Gwen” over South of France to fight the Nazis.
“The American squadron of nine P-47s approached the village of Sivry-Courtry, and while eight of them flew high to deploy Nazi antiaircraft fire, Gaston dived low for the purpose of strafing and scattering the enemy.” During this successful maneuver, his plane was struck down. Barney died serving his country on August 26, 1944 a hero for the citizens of this small village.
When Museum Special Projects Manager, Darby Wiik, described the details of the crash and the mindset of the men fighting this war during this time in history, I began to feel quite emotional. Losing was simply not an option then. The determination and perseverance of so many young men willing to die for our Country far exceeded the possibility of living in a world of dictatorship.
Remarkably, for the last 75 years on August 26th, Lt. Barney Gaston is celebrated by his monument in France for liberating the village of Sivry-Courtry!
This milestone anniversary will be celebrated tomorrow in the French village “since eyewitnesses to these events and people of our communities who lived through these events are becoming scarce, …. Thought it would be a good idea to recount what they saw then and display the artifacts they gathered on the scenes, especially those concerning Lt. Ernest Gaston’s plane crash on the edge of the Saveteux woods on August 26, 1944.”
Other Interesting Facts from Barney Gaston Day Ceremony:
Spider Gaston was Barney’s Father and the first child born in the City of Fairhope.
Barney Day Proclamation was read in both English and French
Museum Docent Kris Lafferty read the proclamation in English.
Museum Docent Jeanine Normand, fluent in French, recruited Fairhope resident Chantal Juery from France to read the proclamation in French because of her Southern French accent!
Barney’s World War II silk escape map pulled from his burning plane is on display. The United States and Great Britain produced over 3 million of these silk maps for Allied military personnel intended to assist airman in evading capture. The maps were made of silk because “heavy papers were far too loud, revealing themselves at the slightest prodding. The thin papers—’no thicker than that of the finest toilet roll,’ were prone to disintegration.”
Gaston family members and Fairhope , Rusty and Jill Godard, pictured below visiting Sivry-Courtry in 2010. The gentleman on the right witnessed Barney’s plane crash as a child. He has since passed.
Walt Disney designed insignias for tanks, minesweepers, bombers, and fighter planes completing more than 200 designs. This insignia was from Barney’s P47-D fighter plane.
Please stop by the Fairhope Museum of History to view even more!
Mayor Karin Wilson