” Gum, gum, gum ! ” those are the words I screamed out to airplanes flying in the sky over Carentan, my home town in Normandy.
I was only 3 years old but I remember thinking, wishing that the planes would throw chewing-gum at me. This is one of my earliest memories: American soldiers. Their presence in Normandy was a part of our daily lives for years following the epic Allied invasion on June 6, 1944 – D-Day.
Have you been to Normandy yet? Walked along the long sandy beaches where young soldiers landed by the tens of thousands? Would you like to visit the small French towns liberated from German occupation? Have you heard of the military cemeteries where rows and rows of white crosses and stars are a powerful reminder of the sacrifice for freedom?
We Normands have never forgotten D-Day.
When the Battle of Normandy took place, my family went to hide at my grandmother’s farm, a few miles away from Carentan, in St Jean de Daye where they thought that they would be safer. But pretty soon American forces were on the other side of the canal located on our land, shelling the Germans or “Boches” as the French called them. The Germans occupied our farm, which was gradually destroyed in the battle. When the American soldiers finally arrived, they did not expect to find civilians among the enemy, and almost fired at my family.
“What are you crazy French people doing here ?” asked the officer. Then he saw my frazzled, 8 ½ months pregnant mother. The soldiers immediately drove her to Carentan, which by then had been liberated by the 101st Airborne. It was very hot, and my mother was thirsty, so the driver stopped the jeep, found a cardboard box and filled it up with water from a ditch. He then put a purifying pill in it and told my mom to drink! She reluctantly swallowed the water, and a few weeks later at the end of July, 1944, I was born. My parents gave me the middle name of Suzanne, after a young cousin who had been killed trying to escape the farm during the shelling.
After the Battle of Normandy, several American units stayed behind for a few years, as there was a lot of important work to be done in the area: identify and re-bury bodies, rebuild roads and bridges which had been destroyed. I witnessed the completion of their projects just as they saw me grow up. I must have been given a lot of gum and candy by these soldiers.
Our farm was later rebuilt thanks to the Marshall plan and was even an improvement for my grandmother – it had electricity! In 1945, my dad was trained as a paratrooper by Americans forces. This training was the “highlight of his life” and he then went on to work for the French railroads. As I was growing up, I heard many stories told by my parents, and today regret that I didn’t ask for more details.
We had great admiration and gratitude for anything American: its people, music, films, and cigarettes. As a young woman, my dream was to go to the United States, which I did for the first time in 1966, and then again in 1967 to marry a Texan.
After living almost 16 years in America, I returned to Normandy where I have been a tour guide for about 12 years, proudly taking visitors to the American sector of the D-Day landing beaches. At almost 72, I am gradually passing the new business to my son Trevor, who is also a guide and as passionate about the memories and region as I am. He has one advantage over me however: no accent in either language. For, as he says, he is: “Made in Texas, Born in Normandy!”
I now want to participate in the festivities organized to welcome the last aging Vets coming over, so I can tell them again how grateful we are here in Normandy for what they did for my country! If you have not yet visited the towns of Normandy, I strongly urge you to do so. The memories of D-Day signaling the beginning of the end of WWII are a powerful reminder to both young and old of the sacrifices made for freedom and liberty.
Danielle DUBOSCQ was born one month after the D-Day Normandy invasion which signaled the beginning of the end of World War II. She grew up in the presence of American Allied soldiers who helped rebuild France, cherished her love for America and married a Texan. Danielle enjoyed a successful career in the tourism industry before starting her own popular tour guide service in Normandy specializing in the American sector of the D-Day landing beaches. Today, her son Trevor proudly carries on the activity.