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It may seem difficult for some to believe, but during the raucous late 1960s and early 1970s I was in France getting a university education.
While there at friends' house for dinner on weekdays, invariably someone from that generation would take great pains to let me know that despite some criticism by a few, a very large number of French people were grateful to the US for the liberation of France.


That effort belongs to the people of the so-called Greatest Generation, of which my late father (a master sergeant providing security on the Manhattan Project) and my uncle (lieutenant and commander of a Japanese POW camp) made direct contributions and thought nothing of it, considering it their duty. Unlike many folks, the ones who did the slogging wanted to leave it behind and get back to their lives.


For anyone who has done it (me too, but in a different later conflict), conflict of this nature is not fun. We can only thank the ones who did it for what Lincoln called "the last full measure of devotion."
 

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We were at that cemetery two weeks ago and it was all roped off with no access to the graves, in preparation for D Day and some VIP visitors. I expect that some US people who came to pay their respects to a relative would have been choked that they could not lay a wreath or even get close.

We also went to Juno Beach where the Canadians landed, the museum there, the Canadian cemetery at Bény-sur-Mer, looking briefly at every one of the 2000+ graves, signing the book of remembrance.

We also visited the grave of an RCAF Pilot Officer downed in early 1943 over St-Martin-des-Entrées which is immediately east of Bayeux (of Tapestry fame), presumably on a pre-D-Day early reconnaissance flight. His name was William K. Ferguson, and the townspeople buried him in the municipal graveyard near town. Many French people came to pay their respects despite being occupied by the Nazis, and the occupiers were not pleased with the widespread sympathy for this officer and as retribution for this "transgression" sent ten of those at the service to concentration camps. Only 6 returned home after the war - 4 were murdered.

A day earlier in our trip, we were at Ypres - beautiful town - and Vimy, places where the British and Canadians played a major role in WW1. At Vimy in particular, the fierce battle that the Canadians won in the trenches happened mere days after the US joined the Allies in that war, around the tenth of April 1917.

It's all awful, and seeing the names of the 18-21 year old soldiers and airmen on tombstones is a really sobering, sad feeling.
 
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