Chirac airlifts stranded New Zealand D-Day vet

8th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, June 8 (AFP) - A New Zealand pilot who flew dozens of bombing sorties 60 years ago took to the air once again Sunday above France - this time thanks to President Jacques Chirac, who gave him a surprise lift to Paris.

LONDON, June 8 (AFP) - A New Zealand pilot who flew dozens of bombing sorties 60 years ago took to the air once again Sunday above France - this time thanks to President Jacques Chirac, who gave him a surprise lift to Paris.

Keith Coleman, an 86-year-old former gunner for the Royal Air Force, hopped on a bus after the international D-Day ceremony in Normandy, hoping to get back to Paris.

The New Zealander, who speaks no French, wound up instead stranded on a remote military airfield.

Inside the terminal he found an "important-looking guy wearing gold braid," Coleman told the Guardian newspaper in its Monday edition. "I guess he must have felt sorry for me, because he made a few phone calls and told me he thought he could get me back to Paris," he said.

The World War II vet was then sped to another airfield, served up "the best red wine I've ever tasted" and, when a long cavalcade pulled up, greeted by the French president.

Coleman gave Chirac a proper military greeting. "I snapped to attention and gave him a little salute.... He put his arm round me."

At Chirac's suggestion, the RAF gunner was helped aboard a waiting Gulfstream jet plane, and escorted back to Paris.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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