Over the course of the trip, it has become clear that each country we visit has its own unique themes in regard to their WWII history. In London, the city felt victorious. Its monuments and memorials of WWII were proud and invigorating. When visiting the sites or even walking through the streets London enveloped pride in its people and the cause towards victory. Here in France, the theme is not the same.
After visiting Pointe du hoc, as well as Utah and Omaha beaches, the monuments don’t display French national pride. Here, of course, the monuments and memorials are dedicated heavily to American and British infantry divisions who did their parts on D-Day. Along Pointe du Hoc and the beaches, you’ll find the memorials dedicated to the 2nd rangers, the 1st infantry, the 29th infantry, the 4th infantry and even the 101st Airborne Division. The 2nd Rangers have a statue of a dagger in the rocks on top of the hill commemorating their bravery. Whereas the 1st, 29th, and 4th infantry divisions have memorials displaying their creeds at Omaha and Utah beach. We even got the chance to see the memorial to Cpt. Richard Winters of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division a short drive behind Utah beach. But we never came across any memorials to the French. Logically, it’s because they didn’t play as significant a role in the invasion as their Allies. But my point is that if there were any French memorials or monuments they were most certainly overshadowed by all those commemorated to its Allies.
Even the museums were flooded with American and British memorabilia. In fact, many if not most were American museums on French soil. The only hint of French pride was inside the American cemetery where there was an exhibit on a French infantry division who landed with the British at Sword beach. The American and British cemeteries were sprawling beautiful commemorations to their dead at D-Day. I saw them as massive commemorations from France to its liberators. What better way to honor your Allies than to commemorate those who sacrificed everything forever on French soil. In Paris, the theme was very much the same. Besides the movie to De Gaulle which was just ridiculous. But again, there weren’t huge monuments or memorials to see that screamed victory over the Nazis or at least none that I saw. Paris was actually rather quiet. We even visited the Shakespeare and company which was an American bookstore during the war effort and enjoyed Patrick’s lecture on Americans in Paris. At the end of the day, this big city, unlike London, didn’t feel as proud in victory.
It was eye opening to come from a city where confidence in victory was so openly displayed around the town to a place or places where the tone is shifted from confidence and pride to respect and gratuity. The French above all else show their respect to their liberators at both the beaches and in Paris. Here in France,
you won’t hear citizens remarking how France was triumphant after heavy fighting or lost too many of their men at the beaches. But what I did see and hear, was gratitude. I was in a bar in Bayeux where I met several French guys drinking and hanging out and after they realized I didn’t have an accent I told them I was American studying WWII in Europe. All three of them turned to me and said “American! Hey you saved, us back then!” Of course, we were joking around, nor did I take it literally but even still, from its memorials to its people France most definitely respects its allies in the war.