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Dassault Aviation 1940-1945 - During the War

After the Armistice of June 1940, the victorious Reich did not spare French aviation. Equipment, stocks and industrial establishments had to be delivered intact to Germany. The French aviation industry was virtually completely disbanded and manufacturing ceased.

Victim of a violent campaign of defamation, Marcel Bloch was arrested by the Vichy government on October 5, 1940, being considered as a "dangerous individual for national defense and public security". In spite of his internment, he kept abreast of aeronautical developments. From prison, he noticed the considerable interest taken by Germans in his aircraft, in particular the two-engined MB 175, 200 of which they wanted built by SNCASO and the MB 161 four-engined civil transport aircraft, the largest French commercial aircraft, for Lufthansa.

The occupying force sought to obtain his collaboration, but he refused systematically using his poor health as an argument. To deprive the Germans of as many industrial resources as possible, he delegated all his powers, by letter, on December 20, 1940, to Henri Carol (the director of the Saint-Cloud factory) who had to act as the managing director of the Company in the occupied area.

In his absence, Marcel Bloch's staff took steps to preserve the interests of the Société anonyme des Avions Marcel Bloch. An extraordinary general assembly was held on December 31, 1940 to appoint a new manager. In accordance with its articles of association, a board of directors was appointed. Marcel Bloch was appointed as chairman, and Auguste Le Révérend and Georges Hennequin as directors. The extraordinary general assembly also decided to transfer the Saint-Cloud head office to Thiers.

The Germans requisitioned the potential of the Saint-Cloud factory to their advantage and placed manufacturing under the control of the Junkers company. To save the factory, the Société anonyme de constructions aéronautiques et mécaniques (SACAM), which had run the Saint-Cloud factory under lease since May 1, 1941, was set up in April 1941 by Marcel Bloch's staff and with his approval. In Talence, where Bordeaux-Aéronautique had to work for the occupying power, André Curvale (chief pilot) and Paul Déplante (engineering director) attempted to keep manpower and equipment intact.

In March 1941, the Service technique aéronautique decided to bring together the various design offices of state-owned companies and incorporate them within SNCASO in Cannes, then in the Italian occupied zone, where Marcel Bloch's engineers could work on aircraft projects.

On August 16, 1941, the occupation authorities appointed a temporary manager of Marcel Bloch's companies for the occupied zone while the Commissariat for Jewish Questions appointed a manager for the French zone. In 1942, with Marcel Bloch's approval, Auguste Le Révérend and Henri Carol then attempted to preserve as much property as possible in buying a former bodywork workshop in Boulogne to produce propeller blades.

In Cannes, the technical Group became increasingly concerned with development of the situation. Henri Déplante managed to visit his former boss who, ever an optimist, kept the hope of a better world. He advised him to bring together as many aeronautical engineers as possible and send them to Britain or the United States to form the core in the rebuilding of the post-war French aviation industry.

But the future was looking gloomier. After the French zone was invaded November 1942, Henri Déplante and Bention Grebelsky decided to leave France via Spain. After many difficulties, they reached Britain and joined a fighting unit of parachutists of the Special Air Service (SAS). In October 1943, Xavier d'Iribarne reached Algiers and then the 1st armored Division.

In 1944, Marcel Bloch was deported to Buchenwald as a political hostage. During his detention, the Germans asked him, in exchange for his freedom, to work for them as director of a Focke-Wulf factory in Hanover. Once again, in spite of his fragile health, he refused and was almost hanged. During this period, he kept abreast of developments in the aviation industry and sent messages to his family and staff. He managed to send a letter to the Sup'Aéro former pupils' Association he was president of: "Dear comrades, times may be difficult, but don't loose hope in the future". "At the end of this war, during which ships, rolling stock and commercial aircraft will have been destroyed, commercial aviation will expand as never before and will replace most means of transport". "There is no doubt that the government of France will, in a rebuilt Europe, be able to preserve the share of aeronautical production in keeping with our technical expertise and our geographic position in the world". The Buchenwald camp was liberated on April 11, 1945, and Marcel Bloch and his deported comrades were set free.

By the end of the Second World War, French aeronautical industrial facilities had been considerably depleted, the base of machine tools had aged or had been destroyed, and design offices teams dispersed. Only factory staff were available in any numbers. State-owned companies continued to exist while the private sector attempted to re-emerge.

After the Germans invaded France at the outset of World War II Marcel Bloch, a Jew, was asked to build aircraft for the German war effort as an "honorary Aryan." Bloch refused to collaborate and was forced into hiding. He was later arrested in Lyon and jailed. Bloch's refusal to collaborate with the invading army after the Armistice led to his incarceration in Montluc Fort in Lyons, along with his wife and children, at the hands of the Vichy Government. He was then sent to Drancy concentration camp. Eight months before the war ended he was deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp where he remained until the area was liberated by American forces in May 1945. Post-diphtheria paralysis from 1945 to 1953 did not stop Bloch resuming his aeronautical endeavors after the war. In order to shed the somber souvenirs of war, Marcel Bloch and his family decided to change names. Bloch converted to Roman Catholicism after the war and changed his last name to Dassault, the nom de guerre of his brother, General Paul Bloch, who was a member of the French resistance. Although an "l" was added, the name literally means "on the attack." The name Marcel adopted in 1949. Marcel Dassault subsequently became an honored member of General de Gaulle's inner circle, but since his company had been destroyed by the war it was once again nationalized.

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