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grandcamp-harbor GRANDCAMP, NORMANDY, FRANCE - JUNE 1994

In this little seaside village between Omaha and Utah Beach, drab facades have undergone a veritable transformation. Red, white and blue, blue, white and red festoon the cramped narrow houses with their tall windows, and the mom and pop shops of the Rue Aristide Briand and the Rue des Dames.

june3-droguerie Outside the droguerie, Monsieur Johanneau, stretching from the highest rung of his ladder, plants French, American, Canadian, and British flags under a large blue bottle, advertising propane gas. At La Frégate, a blackboard in the form of a jolly plump chef, announces the plat du jour, moules frites, a bargain at 48 ff. The Union Jack dangling from the balustrade above, tickles his nose. From window boxes sprout red geraniums and Old Glory.
june3-fregate Red, white and blue; blue, white and red, dancing from doorways and windows and balconies. High above the narrow streets, the Stars and Stripes joins the Tricolore snapping and waving in the wind. On the corner, Le Corsaire grocery boasts 50th anniversary vintages of Calvados and cider, "sablés de la liberté" -"liberty cookies" and camembert covered with GI's and jeeps.
june3-street Everywhere, posters welcome the returning veterans of D-Day. But at the pharmacie, another poster is a reminder of the darker origins of this "Jubilé de la liberté". It reads simply "Achtung minen".
june3-mmeX Fifty years earlier, "the boys" liberated the Grandcopais from four years of German occupation. On the outskirts of town, powerful batteries defended the coast. The town itself was the local headquarters of the Kriegsmarine and the Wehrmacht.
june3-raising-flags At the dawn of D-Day, the villagers, drawn out by the unusually heavy bombardment through the night, gathered at the waterfront as an endless stream of ships, stretching from one end of the horizon to the other, rose out of the fog. Shells exploded and burst all around them - to the west at Ste. Marie-du-Mont and to the east at the Pointe du Hoc. The earth trembled and shook under their feet. A destroyer neared, turned to its side, and blasted away at a battery at the edge of town. The crowd roared and cheered wildly before the German occupiers forced the villagers back into their homes.
june3-squeeze Two days later, the Americans were coming up the Vierville road. Machine gun fire burst out by the old church. By the end of the day, the first GI's entered the town. For the Grandcopais, it was the end of 4 years of rationing, deprivation, curfews, requisitions, and forced labor. The Rangers and the men of the 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division brought liberty, cigarettes and chewing gum. Today "the boys"- grandfathers now -- were coming back.
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©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.