If I drew up a list of the 10 or so places in the world I most want to visit, Normandy would most definitely be on the list. It's something I've hoped to do for as long as I can remember. From watching WWII movies with my dad to this documentary that uses drone footage of the battle field and memorials that piqued my interest even more.
Any yet, while I knew the cemetery of the Allied troops who fell in battle on D-Day was maintained with the utmost care by a grateful French people, I had no idea this was part of it. The solemn reverence it takes to go from grave to grave, headstone to headstone, 2,400 times to make each name legible is indescribably beautiful. And the fact they use the very sand those men gave their lives on is poignant beyond words.
This is further confirmation of something real historians have been saying all along. The idea that the French are an ungrateful collection of snobs who were too cowardly to fight their own battles is a myth. One of the 20th centuries biggest lies. They were a people devastated by the previous war. They paid a horrible price in World War I, practically losing an entire generation of young men. They lost 1.15 million people. That's 4.39% of their total population, which was more than Germany, the UK and all but three nations in the war. By way of comparison, the US lost 0.13% of our population. So by the time Germany threatened them again a couple of decades later, they simply didn't have man power or resources to stop them, no matter how much will they had. And even after their country fell, the Resistance continued to fight all the way to victory. The French might be a little insufferable when it comes to wine and cuisine, but never let it be said they don't appreciate true sacrifice. And they do it in an elegant way that makes you proud to be human. Merci.