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French memorial to AmericansBy Alan Davidge

During the past few years I have met many Americans who wish to explore Normandy. After the obligatory few days in Paris the majority head west in a rental car, stay at a B&B and then embark upon an excursion that takes them to Mont St. Michel, the Bayeux Tapestry, a chateau or two, and the D-Day beaches.

Le Chêne Guérin Military CemeteryThere is rarely more than a day or two set aside to tread the paths of their ancestral liberators, so it’s important to cover as many key sites as possible in the time available. For most, this will mean Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, Pointe du Hoc, the American Cemetery, and a museum. I always cover these in my tours but in addition I have managed to seek out a number of other places of significance that do not usually feature in the guidebooks. It is the purpose of this article to identify a few of these for visitors who would like to add something else to their itineraries.

Le Carrefour memorialFor visitors who have stayed with us, I usually begin by highlighting what happened in our village during the war. There are bomb craters in the woods dating from when the USAF moved in and I once met an elderly lady who recalled seeing the GIs march down the main road and past the end of our drive. One English neighbor told me about the spent ammunition he found under his floorboards. I gather that our house suffered some damage, as there were two suspicious shell-sized holes in the back wall of the barn and signs of a fire. When we replaced the windows we discovered French coins dating from 1945 underneath the sills. It’s a custom to put new coins under the windows when you replace them so it sounds as if wartime activity led to them needing replacement.

I particularly like taking families around so that young minds can feed on the images, relics and anecdotes that they absorb, to be reinforced by their parents who also experience the same stimuli. I point out how the French, British and Americans all experienced war differently, and, where possible, illustrate how the war affected women as well as men. It is my aim to tell a story that is meaningful to women and families, as well as men and boys. I always visit the gravesite of Billie D. Harris when we visit the US Cemetery, which I feel represents a real woman’s account of war and is particularly poignant. Visit: link.

Robert J. Niland Preston T. Niland Theodore Roosevelt Jr. Colleville-sur-Mer Church

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