Thank you President Mueller for giving me the honor of addressing your guests, especially our WW II Veterans in attendance.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am a D-Day Veteran. Not a fighting D-Day Veteran because I was only slightly over 2 years old on June 6, 1944. However, our family home was right on the square of Sainte Mere Eglise when the paratroopers landed.
I am a survivor and my family and all the people in our town survived thanks to the paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st airborne.
About 360 American paratroopers defended our population of 1,600 citizens; who were surrounded by thousands of German troops with artillery and tanks,
It was like the Alamo of Normandy.
The paratroopers repelled, with heroism, massive German counter attacks from the North and the West.
I wish to quote a part of the letter which my father, Alexandre Renaud, the D-Day Mayor, sent to the French Government.
“I observed these American men with great attention. They were quiet and self-controlled. They smoked cigarettes and chewed gum, holding close to the walls of our homes, they advanced against our enemy with firm steps under continuous shelling from the German artillery.
48 hours after landing these airborne soldiers accomplished an unbelievable mission. On their own, they destroyed two German battalions in the North, one battalion and the flak unit in the South, two companies of Germans in the East, and they held the bridges at La Fiere and Chef du Pont. They destroyed 8 German tanks and took 364 prisoners. U.S. casualties were heavy, especially at La Fiere Bridge.
I strongly demand that these heroic men be honored with glorious citations and the right to wear the French Fourragere.” End quote.
If the Germans had succeeded to retake our town, they would have burned it down and my family would have been #1 on their execution list.
As soon as June 1945, my father organized ceremonies to express our deep gratitude to the American soldiers. This expression of undying gratitude has never ceased and faithfully, every year, we pay tribute to these great men and invite the Veterans to join us.
My association, the AVA, which means in French “The Friends of the American Veterans”; was founded in the 1960’s by my mother and plays a central role in these celebrations.
Not only do we say “NEVER FORGET”; but we have always and will continue to demonstrate our remembrance of our liberation from tyranny by our American heroes.
My mother and father passed down to my brothers and me the imperative of honoring those brave souls who dedicated themselves to preserving our freedoms and democracy.
One day soon there will no longer be those who fought these battles and soon after that; there will no longer be any direct witnesses of these events.
After they are gone….This magnificent World War II Museum exists as a living, breathing legacy that will continue to pass down the necessary lessons of this history to the next generations.
God Bless Our Veterans, God Bless Freedom and Democracy, God Bless America.