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My interest in WWII began with a place and a poem. The place was the American Cemetery above Omaha Beach. The poem - Le Dormeur du Val - The Sleeper of the Valley - by the 19th century French poet, Arthur Rimbaud. Here, in Normandy, thousands of miles from home, on a 100 foot cliff overlooking the sea, enshrined in lush velvety-green cushions of grass, ten thousand Sleepers of the Valley sleep forever. I was 19.

American Cemetery at Omaha

Years later, another poem would lead me to embark on a project photographing and documenting the remains of a legacy of Nazi oppression - the Atlantic Wall -the string of fortifications that one stretched along the entire coast of western Europe from Norway to the Spanish border. These once menacing masses of concrete and steel represent the brutality and arrogance of power of a regime that boasted that it would last a thousand years. Looking at these remains, I was reminded of the poem "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

the author with bunker

Researching the role of the French Resistance in Normandy led to my presence at the 50th Anniversary of D-Day. I was interested, in particular, in Jean Marion who was sector chief of the Resistance of an area which included the Pointe du Hoc. Now deceased, he was my husband's uncle.

Jean Marion

According to Cornelius Ryan who interviewed him for "The Longest Day", Jean Marion had relayed to London just prior to D-Day, that the massive cannons slated for the Pointe du Hoc had yet to be emplaced.

In the spring of 1994, my search led me to Len Lomell, who, along with Ranger Jack Kuhn, discovered the Pointe du Hoc cannons on D-Day, not installed at the battery, but hidden about half a mile inland.

Len Lomell was in the midst of planning the Rangers' return to Normandy for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day. He had recently lost his French translator and asked if I could translate into French the Rangers' official history of the Pointe du Hoc for the Ranger Museum in Grandcamp. In return, my husband and I were invited to attend the celebration with the Rangers.

It was the experience of a lifetime!

In response to several e-mail inquiries, I give talks accompanied by slides of my project on the remains of the Atlantic Wall, "Silent Sentinels, Hitler's Legacy in Normandy" (I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.) I may put these photographs on the web in the future. Please let me know if you would be interested.

© Copyright 1994-1998 Vivian E. Corbin. All text and photographs contained herein are the work and intellectual property of the author and may not be used without the author's express written permission.