On this day in 1944: As Allied troops advance toward Paris, Pfc. James McRacken of Red Springs single-handedly disarms the explosives with which retreating Germans expected to blow up the last remaining bridge in Mayenne, a city of 18,600.
Had the bridge been demolished, the Allies would have had to use heavy aerial bombardment on the thousand-year-old city.
From their windows, scores of townspeople watch as McRacken races 500 yards to the bridge. Heavy German fire cuts his legs from under him, but before dying he crawls onto the bridge, reaches over the side and snips the wires to the explosives.
Citizens of Mayenne will rename the bridge after McRacken, build a monument to him and hold annual memorial services. Among those to lay a wreath at the site: Gen. Charles de Gaulle.