From the 18-passenger tour bus window, I scoured the landscape of the French countryside, looking for church steeples, checking my map, then reading and re-reading my grandfather’s narrative. It wasn’t long before I had announced to the entire tour group that I was “Monuments Girl.” Our tour guide Stephane was fabulously knowledgeable about all things relating to D-Day and WW II. He and my fellow traveling companions were very patient as we made several special stops so that I could hop off the bus and snap photos of monuments mentioned in my grandfather’s book.
August 3, 1944
We had zigzagged for a couple of days far from the usual peacetime courses of Dover-Calais and Folkstone-Boulogne, and had landed on the bleak Normandy coast at Utah Beach, scene of the initial landing on D-Day. From there I thumbed my way to the headquarters building of Beach Operations, where I telephoned to the Advance Section Communications Zone and spoke to my new commanding officer.
While waiting for transportation I made my first notes on destruction a few hundred yards from the beach. Here was a small chapel, not mentioned in any of our lists. “Chapel called Ste.-Madeline,” I wrote. “Fr. McAvoy has posted a signed calling for daily services at 1700. Good sixteenth-century Renaissance architecture in Maison Carée style. Fragments which can be used for restoration are in and about the immediate area which is off the highway. Main portal damaged by fragmentation from the south, or west. One lierne rib damaged. Wooden roof with stones is in good condition except for minor damage.” Then I took a photograph for the record (J. Rorimer, 3-4).
As you can imagine, I was elated by today’s discovery, and I am deeply indebted to Stephane for helping me find my grandfather’s first monument!