31 May 2014

The 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings

This year we are commemorating two major historical events. One tragic, as the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, and the other, an ode to hope and promise, as the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings, where Allied Forces (USA, Canada, GB and Captain Kieffer's 1er BFM Commando consisting of 177 elite French fusiliers) liberated France and neighbouring occupied nations from Axis domination. No doubt that every single one of us has a tale or two from our (great) grandfathers or uncles (and the grandmas) who were involved in the war(s) one way or another. I wanted to pay a heartfelt tribute to our lads. They displayed immense bravery - paid with their lives even - to pave the way for the modern Western society as we know it but which we tend to perhaps take too much for granted at times.

You might remember my moving tribute to my maternal grandad, Armand, who worked in transmissions for the French Navy, before joining the US Navy in the Pacific. Oh boy, my grandad, a Général De Gaulle supporter, was immensely proud to have teamed up with the Americans! My paternal grandad, Léon, was less lucky in that he was made a prisoner of war at the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940 and sent out to the work camps of Germany - yet thankfully not the death camps!

'Into the Jaws of Death — U.S. Troops wading through water and Nazi gunfire', by Robert F. Sargent

When Americans landed in Normandy, they brought with them Showtime! Supplies aplenty, modern technology, Jeeps and GMC Trucks, Big Band music, corned-beef, chewing-gums, benzene, Lucky Strikes, cartoons... and Hollywood propaganda! Ask my star-struck dad, a toddler when US Troops liberated our Northern border town of Saint-Quentin in August 1944. "Quand les Américains ont débarqué... c'était l'Amérique !" (When Americans arrived... it felt like America had landed!). This American officer spotted my dad in a crowd of people queueing up for food. He asked my dad to come over, then lifted him up into his arms, tearfully called him 'baby' as he showed my dad a photo of his kids. Then he told my dad he could have whatever he wanted. My dad's eyes sparkled. He felt like a kid in a sweet shop. 'I want gum, Sir... and benzene too for the bonfires!'

Further D-Day Resources:

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