It’s palpable you know, still. D-Day. The rescue. Liberation.
The prefecture (this is the office nearest to your residence where you do some of your required governmental bid’ness) where we needed to be for Stampson’s immigration application, St Lo, happens to be the same city his grandpa helped liberate in the days following June 6th, 1944. It was a serendipitous moment, we think. Another one. Stampson married a girl from Belgium after all, where Pop was eventually gunned down.
When we mentioned this to the person who took care of his case, she stopped everything she was doing and wanted to know everything that happened to Pop and if he’d lived or died and where. Just like Monsieur Lebrec, she was impressed that he had made it to Bastogne (Belgium).
It’s an impressive feat. And strangely amusing. On the journey from the States to England, Pop was an MP (Military Police). The Queen Mary was his beat; horny soldiers in dark corners and cabinets, weighing the good-ole-fashioned dance of lust and debauchery against impending death on the battle field, were the target.
In England, before D journey over to the Normandy coast, the job continued. But Pop wasn’t the guy for disbursing a fornicating crowd. Whether or not that had anything to do with it, we’re unsure, but he said “no thanks” to any consequent MP jobs and even the rank of Officer MP, ending in full battle in Bastogne where the burning hot tracer round that seared through his body may well be the only reason he survived.
That’s Pop’s story. In a nutshell. My husband says antiauthoritarianism runs deep!
People are genuinely interested, seventy-one years later. It’s amazing! I’m not sure what more could show the impact the occupation and the liberation had on the psyche of a nation, and assuming this nation is a mirror, an entire continent.
As June 6th approached, posters announcing D-Day celebrations appeared in shop windows, and towns were suddenly spruced up with hanging flower baskets and foreign flags. British. American. Canadian. Not German. Fountains are dancing merrily up and down in village squares. Black-and-white photographs depicting … the carnage, hung from clock towers. Overhead, bombers and biplanes of that era. Around town, sidecar motorcycles, jeeps and other military vehicles.
You name it. For an entire week, from the 6th through the 13th of June, each and every Normandy town has its own D-Day bonanza extravaganza—exhibitions, parades, dances, commemoration ceremonies, etc.
We live here because exploring Normandy and its rich history is a bucket list item that reaches—in spite of our family’s connection—far beyond Le Choc (The Shock), as they call D-Day here. 1400 years beyond actually! And of course we’re here to visit the battle sites and cemeteries around the beaches, to get a feel for the place Pop helped to liberate.
The families, including our own, who had people in this area in WWII, in the landings or after, should know that they are regarded as heroes, and not just around the dates when you’d expect it to happen, but any time. The interest in personal stories, like Pop’s, is genuine.