You know how you're looking at the Mona Lisa and something just ain't right? That cryptic smile. What was she really thinking? We'll never know. And so it seems we'll never know the real answer to Sergeant Picard's Tie. Allow me to explain.
Several years ago, While looking at the crew photo of the men after their 30th mission, I was struck by an interesting observation. Sgt. Edward Picard is wearing a tie! This had always bothered me for some reason, a bit of disquiet but nothing really, and yet.......every time I looked at that photo and others, it just bothered me. I finally decided to do some research and amateur sleuthing to see if I could uncover the secret behind that enigmatic tie. Here's what I found.
Among the records, files and photos that Mrs. Picard sent me was a document posted on 10 August 1944 and signed by Col. Snavely. It was a document declaring that Sgt. Picard had successfully completed his combat tour and was hereby recommended for ground duty. What's interesting about the document is that the July 31, 1944 mission has been struck. Meaning a clear line was drawn through that date. In handwriting in the upper RH corner, someone has written that Sgt. Picard flew as a gunner for another crew on 19 June, 1944. Which crew is still unknown at this time. But he is CREDITED with that mission. So he completed his 30 mission combat tour 48 hours before CREW 713 completed their historic mission. I spoke with Paul Arnett about this and we both came to the conclusion that Sgt. Picard is offically the first airman from the 492nd Bomb Group to complete his 30 mission tour! "How About that" as the late Mel Allen would say. But then this just deepens the mystery.
First, all the witnesses are gone. Passed away. So this is just surmise on my part. However, after talking with Mrs. Picard and Ryan Walker their grandson, this appears to be the most logical scenario. Sgt. Picard did NOT fly on July 31, 1944. His grandson Ryan was pretty emphatic about that. He firmly believes that he flew 30 missions, but not 31. Once again, back to Paul Arnett. The 857th allowed their pilots to make their own calls when it came to full or slightly below full strength crews to fly. In other words, did CREW 713 fly as a 9 man crew on July 31, 1944 or in turn was an anonymous gunner chosen to replace Sgt. Picard? If so, who was he? There is no record of this mystery gunner in any of the letters or diaries that I have read concerning CREW 713.
So what happened that day 66 years ago? Probably Sgt. Picard offered to fly with his crew. Lt. O'Sullivan, knowing that even on their 30th mission, something catastrophic might occur resulting in the loss of the aircraft and crew, denied him. He probably said something along the lines of "You've done your share, no sense in risking your neck, and if we don't return, at least one of us can go home to our family". Now understand, this is me, just speculating, but based on their character and talks with their sons, daughters, and wives, seems like a likely scenario. And yes I am a bit of a romantic, so that dialogue would appeal to me. (and you too if you admit it!). So what happens? The crew takes off for their last mission: Destination......Ludwigshafen, Germany. It's a long mission. 7-8 hours. Plenty of time for Sgt. Picard to take a shower, shave and comb his hair-maybe even get a haircut?- press his clothes, PUT ON THAT TIE, (cuz being a good son, he wants to look good for the folks back home when he takes his photo with the rest of the guys)....and I love his confidence in his crew in KNOWING that they would make it back. I bet you there was NO ONE sweating out the return of Liberator Serial Number 44-40166 more than Sgt. Picard was that day!
So.....the mission is successful. 28 take off, 28 come back. O'Sullivan buzzes the field and I can just see Sgt. Picard whooping and hollering on the ground waiting for his pals to land. What relief and what a great burst of pride must have gone through him at that moment. I wish I could ask him myself! The "Irishman's Shanty" lands and taxi's to their hard stand, a crowd is gathered there, I'm sure some of them are shaking Sgt. Picard's hand. Sgt. Picard joins the rest of his mates as they exit the bomber...... and then General Leon Johnson solemnly reads a proclamation and then pins each member of the crew with the Distinguished Flying Cross. And there they are now, laughing and clapping each other on the back, assembling for their crew photos, several are taken, and 66 years later, the son of the radio operator is looking at those photos and wondering.......Why is Sgt. Picard wearing a tie? Well now we know the answer. Or at least as close as we are ever going to get to the truth. I like this scenario, it answers a lot of questions and seems like a logical conclusion as well.
Thanks to Mrs. Picard, Ryan Walker and Paul Arnett for their input and help in solving this neat little mystery.
I will talk to you again soon, take care and Happy Holidays!