National Geographic : 1965 Apr
"But why," I asked, "that old-fashioned wooden wheel in the pilothouse?" "For an emergency," my companion said. Then, after a moment's reflection, "I suppose the real reason, though, is tradition." A pleasant drive down the valley put me in St. Nazaire, at the mouth of the Loire, France's longest river. Eighty-five percent destroyed in World War II, the town today stands al most entirely rebuilt. Even the Germans, who occupied it from June, 1940, to May, 1945, would hardly recognize it. Only the mammoth German-built submarine hangar, impervious to repeated Allied bombing, remains as an 478 example of the enemy's grim determination. After the Americans broke out of Nor mandy in early August, 1944, the Breton ports of St. Nazaire, Lorient, St. Malo, and Brest became key objectives of the United States Third Army, under Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. Through these ports the Allies hoped to fun nel supplies to their forces on the Continent. General Patton, famed for dashing, slash ing attack, sent his troops on a lightning-swift end run across this northwest corner of France. The Americans completely cut off the Germans on the Breton peninsula and liber ated most of the province with dispatch.