Paris, June 6, 2013
This year is no special anniversary date for the decisive event that took place in Normandy 69 years ago. Regardless, there will be many commemorations today all across Normandy, at Omaha and Utah Beach , as well as Pegasus Bridge, Juno, Sword and Gold beaches, Sainte Mère Eglise and the Caen memorial. Vintage jeeps and GM trucks will circulate, men in GI uniforms will gather in the cemeteries, the very few remaining veterans will be greeted by local authorities and schoolchildren will look at them with wide open eyes.
History is like the tide on Omaha beach: events slowly fade away, each day that passes erases their marks in memory as surely as the waves wash away traces in the sand of the beach. My parents were 20 years old in 1944 and I have vivid memories of playing as a child in the 50’s in the foxholes behind Omaha Beach with American as well as German helmets and equipments left here since the war, before the region became a respected museum. For my children WW 2 and D Day is as far away as WWI was for me when my grandfather told me had fought in Verdun (actually, he very rarely spoke about it). De Gaulle, Mitterand, Kennedy, Reagan, are history for my children.
France does not have the cult of veterans that Americans have. Is it because our country’s history is much longer, 2000 years compared with 300 hundred? Americans spend a lot of money to maintain beautiful WW1 and 2 cemeteries in Europe. And righly so. Not only does it show respect for the dead soldiers buried there, but it teaches young generations the stupidity of war…. at least in principle .
In Normandy at The American cemetery of Omaha Beach, today is a beautiful day, unlike June 6, 1944. It was war, it is peace. Weather was ugly, it is gorgeous. Allied and Germans were killing eachother, they are united in sorrow.
A glimmer of hope that war will one day disappear from History as surely as the tide erased its ugly scars on the sands of D Day beaches?