By Daniel Smiechowski, San Diego
June 6, 2019 (Colleville sur Mer, France) -- Today at the American Cemetery in Normandy under cloudy skies and a brisk chill, world leaders including President Trump, French President Emanuel Macron and former United States Secretary of State John Kerry along with an astounding 1300 American military personnel gathered to commemorate the Allied assault on Vichy France otherwise known as the D-Day landings or Operation Overlord. It was the greatest amphibious military undertaking in history led primarily by American and British forces.
The five principal beaches of the Allied assault were cloistered between the French towns of Cabourg and Sainte Mere Eglise and nick-named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Gold and Sword. The former three beaches were British sites. The nearly 150 WWII American Veterans in attendance were repeatedly given standing ovations by close to 10,000 French and American citizens.
In a coincidental twist of fate, I interviewed 100-year-old D-Day veteran from San Diego, Sidney Walton, who liberated my own Mother on these very shores from the yoke of tyranny 75 years ago. It was impossible to hold back tears.
Mark St. Claire from Texas, an Army 1st Seargent, was in the audience helping with logistics. The American led effort was not without help from our allies including the Australians, Canadians, British, Norwegians and Poles who defeated the German war machine at Falaises in a horrific tank battle.
From the perilous cliffs above the American Cemetery in Normandy, one can see further north the port city of Le Havre. It is here where my Mother, as a 17-year-old, and her family lived under German occupation. Just three months after the US led invasion at Colleville sur Mer, my Mother’s home and this entire strategic German held City were relentlessly bombed into submission by Polish and RAF pilots. The Germans capitulated and the Allies advanced into Paris. Le Havre alone suffered over 5,000 fatalities since France fell on the 10th of May 1940.
It was two years earlier that the first raid on Hitler’s Atlantic Wall took place at the northern French town of Bruneval. Operation Biting, led by British commandos and RAF bombers was a resounding success.
During our return trip into Le Havre through Caen, we were witness to American flags everywhere and French citizens sitting on curbsides waving thank you to America. If there is still anyone doubting the loving friendship between two oldest allies, look no further than the streets of Normandy on June 06, 2019.
Daniel Smiechowski is a candidate for Mayor of San Diego.