St Laurent sur Mer, Sunday oct 13 2013
70 years passed since the biggest armada in the History landed on the five Normandy beaches called Omaha, Utah, Juno, Gold and Sword, to free Europe from the Nazi iron fist.
Since then, scores of tourists, mostly Americans, have trudged on Bloody Omaha, the endless golden beach, hands deeply ensconced in their pockets, hunched shoulders, forehead marked with frowns, as if they were bearing the weight of the grey rain- laden clouds of the Normandy sky along with the tradgedy of so many young lives mowed down seven decades ago right there on that immense solitary beach.
Today Omaha is pristine. Only sand and sea, a few seagulls, some beach houses along the road and the dike, and the endless sea on a wide open horizon. Who would believe that here in June 44, 2000 young GI’s died in a nightmarrish slaughter, and that shortly after and for months and months on, the uproar and turmoil of hundreds of thousands of troops and a zillion tons of equipement would feed the irresistible progression of the Allied armies into the heart of Nazi Germany, in a permanent stampede and frenzied activity?
Now all is calm and quiet. Above on the hill, in the most beautiful cemetery in the world, 6000 young men rest forever.
Next June , I will take my American friends of the Cavaliers de Lafayette to this place so dear to my heart. I will tell them how, as a kid in the 50’s, I used to play with other kids in the sand dunes behind the beaches, in the bunkers and foxholes, still full of equipment and objects of the battle.
Only in the early sixties with the iconic film “the Longest Day” by Darryl Zanuck, would the Normandy Beaches become a touristic attraction, and to a certain degree alas also a tourist trap.
I will tell them how for a whole generation after the war, Americans remained those handsome generous young men pictured in magazines, smiling on their Jeep or Sherman tank, holding an extatic young french woman in their arms, handing out candies, Hershey bars and blonde cigarettes to the crowds of enthusiastic passer byes. Nothing after that, neither Mac-Carthysm, Ku Klux klan, , the Kennedy brothers and Rev Martin Luther King assassinations, My Lai, Watergate, George W Bush and his Irak war, nor the smouldering anti americanism of the french arrogant elites, detered me from loving the country which liberated us in 44 and from venerating the boys who lost their lives on our Normandy beaches.