SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

May 30, 2014

French survivors keep D-Day gratitude alive

SAINTE-MERE-EGLISE, France — Andree Auvray, nine months pregnant, was hiding from German bombings in a Normandy ditch with her husband one night in June 1944 when their dogs started barking. The shadows of three soldiers appeared.

"We both came out to see what was going on," she recalls. She initially thought the men were the Nazi occupiers who had upended life in her quiet farming village. "And then I said 'No, it's not the Germans!'

The soldiers were Americans. D-Day had begun.

Auvray relives that wrenching time with clarity and a growing sense of urgency. Seventy years have passed since the Allied invasion of Normandy helped turn the tide against Hitler. With their numbers rapidly diminishing, she and other French women and men who owe their freedom to D-Day's fighters are more determined than ever to keep alive the memory of the battle and its meaning.

As President Barack Obama and other world leaders prepare to gather in Normandy next week to mark the 70th anniversary of the battle, French survivors are speaking to schools, conferences, tourists, filmmakers about their experiences, and their gratitude.

That's especially important to Auvray's hometown of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, the first village liberated by the Allies after D-Day.

About 15,000 paratroopers landed in and around the town not long after midnight on June 6, 1944, and seized it from the Germans at 4:30 a.m. An American flag was raised in front of the town hall.

During the drop, American paratrooper John Steele's parachute got caught on the church spire. For two hours, Steele hung there, feigning death before being taken prisoner by the Germans. Today, a dummy paratrooper hangs from the spire in his honor.

Henri-Jean Renaud was an excitable 10-year-old the night the Americans landed, and his father was the town mayor.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World

Local News
  • 140730_SN_DLE_DEMOLITION5 Demolition of Salem Harbor Station begins

    SALEM -- It all begins with B5. Or ends, depending on how you look at it. Demolition began at Salem Harbor Station Wednesday afternoon, with crews first setting upon one of the power plant's 11 steel tanks. The work was supposed to begin Monday, but

    July 31, 2014 7 Photos

  • Market Basket seeks replacement workers through job fair next week

    Market Basket began advertising a job fair for store managers and assistant managers in a direct shot at the current managers who signed petitions Monday threatening to resign if former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas is not rehired. The ad, which will appear

    July 31, 2014 2 Stories

  • Mary Manning Recovering Salem principal says thanks

    SALEM -- Just about a month before she was set to retire after 25 years as the principal of Collins Middle School, Mary Manning entered the hospital with a life-threatening condition. She hasn't been home since. A month later, in June, friends and co

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Former school janitor Robert Scribner sentenced for assaults in truck

    SALEM -- A now-former Marblehead school janitor was ordered to serve a year in jail Wednesday after pleading guilty to charges that he assaulted and threatened to kill his estranged girlfriend after trapping her in his pickup truck in May. Robert Scr

    July 31, 2014

  • Danvers selectmen to pick town manager screening committee DANVERS -- It's a who's who of Danvers. So far, 19 residents, including human resources professionals, former selectmen, and present members of boards and committees, have submitted letters of interest to serve on a screening committee that will pick

    July 31, 2014