(Source: STARS & STRIPES, Jan 4, 1956) Air Section, BASEC, Com Z is located at Laleu Army Airfield near La Rochelle, France.
The Air Section, formed in 1950, has a strength of 19 military personnel (three are pilots) and comprises two De Haviland L-20's (fixed-wing), two Cessna L-19's (fixed-wing), and two Bell H-13 helicopters. The unit supports the commander of BASEC and his staff throughout western France.
Laleu Airfield has a grass landing strip. (In the first years of operations, there were no hangars available for the American military aircraft. The planes were stored in the motor pool.)
Besides the airfield at Laleu, only the installations (within the BASEC AOR) at Captieux, Bussac, Fontenet and La Roche Sur Yon have suitable landing areas. Civilian facilities have to be used for flights to US installations at Braconne, Saumur, Ingrandes, Poitiers, Perigeux, St. Nazaire, and Chinon. The Merignac Air Base (USAFE) is used for flights to Bordeaux.
Bill Stimson served in La Rochelle and thereabouts from mid-September 1952 to mid -July 1956. His unit, the 502nd Signal Co. was stationed in Laleu, in that row of barracks opposite the hangar. The above photos shows two guys standing near the hangar. The one with the cigarette in his mouth is Bill. The other photo is two more of my buddies at the Place Fromentin just inside the Gross Horloge.
About 1954 the 502nd was dissolved and he was transferred to BASEC Hqs , in the 11th TTC in Rochefort, at Joinville Caserne, where he took part in the first four NODEX operations. The first three were at Le Verdon on the Pointe de Graves, across the bay from Royan. The fourth NODEX was at La Repentie, near La Pallice.
In 1954 he married a girl from La Rochelle and they are still together, happily married for 65 years. So his tour in La Rochelle was a blessing in many ways.
He and his wife do miss La Rochelle and over the years have returned there as often as possible. Retired for the past ten years, they have been returning every year.
La Rochelle is an unforgettable town.