Moving on from London, I spent about a week in Bayeux, France and a few days in Paris, France. During our time in France I was able to use my French language abilities to assist with translating for our professors and to get around day to day life. My travels in France interested me more than those in England, as the different language and the diverse types of spaces we saw made it a more fulfilling exploration. From the small town of Bayeux, the seaside villages near Caen and St. Marie Eglise, to the city of Paris, I feel I saw and learned quite a bit about France. I did not come onto this program with any particularly strong focus on the American involvement and experience in World War II, but my time in France- especially in the museums- bolstered a newfound expectation towards this.
Like many Americans, I have personal connections to the losses incurred during the war. Both of my [maternal] grandparents’ fathers served in the Army during the Second World War, coming from the same small, rural Ohio community. My grandmother lost her father to this at a very young age, and this is something that affected her deeply. Knowing this, and therefore valuing the memory of my late Great Grandfather, Joseph Ferrell, who was killed in action in Belgium, I found multiple French accounts of their version of history that did not do my family’s loss, nor those of other families, proper justice.
An example of this includes the framing of Allied Victory as French Victory in the Caen Memorial Museum (among others). One of the many text boxes adorning the artifact encasements, timelines, and portraits actually stated that the French would have liberated themselves (Paris) even if the Allies had not invaded. Many of my comrades also found this to be a shocking statement, as it goes against the facts. In addition, we came to this museum with the memory and images of the bloody destruction of American forces during the invasions (Utah and Omaha Beach, more specifically). Though the Free French Army was still in existence and moderately active (relative to not at all), it is not the case that the success of the invasions and of the defeat of Germany can be accredited to France at the level in which it was.