Wednesday, June 6, 2012

D-Day Celebration in Saint-Mère-Église

Normandy region of France.  June 5-6 is the 68th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France.  We happened to be in the area last weekend in time to witness some of the annual festivities marking the occasion.  First stop: Saint Mere Eglise, France, widely recognized as the first village in France to be liberated.

The town is not brightly painted and appears to look much as it might have 68 years ago.  Many townspeople and visitors dressed as GIs or in the style of the 1940s.

Shops, restaurants, florists and even hairdressing salons had a distinctive military air about them. 

It seemed the gratitude the participants felt for their liberation was still strong after all these years.

I'm a very sensitive person and do not do well visiting sad places.  We were planning to leave the village of Saint Mere Eglise to see the battlefields, which I knew would likely be difficult to see.  I was, for some reason, deeply moved as  this bicycle parade passed by with participants dressed in the style of the 1940s, riding old bikes.  As I choked back tears at this early morning event, it made me think this was going to be a really rough day.

A poster for peace was a welcome sight.

This is the memorial in the town square of Saint Mere Eglise.  Note the figure in the background.

The mannequin represents the US paratrooper John Steele whose parachute got caught on the church tower.  A bullet hit him in the foot and he feigned death for several hours until he was taken prisoner and later escaped.  His story was a memorable part of the movie The Longest Day.

One stained glass window in the church indicates appreciation for the paratroopers who landed in France.

Wish this blog could let you experience just how fragrant these sausages and onions smelled on the grill.

It was nice to see that there were messages of peace around the town.  

Update: June 7, 2012.  After reading this post a friend sent me to a CBS News report about a very moving story of what the people of Les Ventes, France have done and continue to do every year to honor a wounded American pilot who, despite his condition, directed his plane away from the village and crashed in a nearby woods.  I think you'll want to see it.


  1. How great to be in this town during the celebration of D-Day. They really make the place look like 1944.

    1. It was purely by chance that we were there for the beginning of the celebration but am so glad to experience a positive side to those battles of 1944.

    2. My Dad landed in France after D-Day as part of a mobile medical unit. They continued through France and on into Germany. He hated to war, but did his part right to the end. Mostly it was cold, wet, and miserable for him, and he didn't talk much about his experiences.

    3. I can fully understand why he would not have wanted to speak of what he saw and why he would have hated war. Our tour guide told us that medics were often intentionally targeted. Your father must have seen some awful sights, things human beings really should not have to see, much less endure. I sincerely hope he recovered enough to live a happy life and to be kind to his family and that you, your mother and your siblings did not have to suffer from the effects of his experiences.

    4. It worked out just fine for him. After the war he became a new car dealer as the result of connections with old racing car buddies. He did well, and then became an executive with GE. His third career was running a family investment banking company. He got over the war, but never went back to France or Germany.

    5. Sounds like he led a very unusual and interesting life. Glad he was one of the lucky ones.