Ten-ton Trucks in the Tuileries

Here is an anecdote in my grandfather’s words from his chapter entitled, “Paris Monuments Officer.”  Over the last few days, I got to know the Tuileries and the Esplanade des Invalides through walking, biking and picnicing.

Every day thousands of men and women walk across the serene paths of the Tuileries Gardens – perhaps to catch a bus, to take the metro, to ride the trams to the banlieu, or to walk to their homes. Since the days of the last French kings these gardens have belonged to the public, and generations have relaxed here. They retain the same general aspect as Le Nôtre’s plans for Louis XIV (1664). The terraces, trees, fountains and sculpture offer serenity in the presence of beauty. No one who has strolled through these gardens which connect the Palace of the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, or looked up the Champs-Elysées towards the Arc de Triomphe or the Eiffel Tower, can fail to feel the significance of this cherished park. Its gardens mean more in historic association and daily convenience to Parisians than do Hyde Park to Londoners and Central Park to New Yorkers. I protested vigorously when it was recommended that the Tuileries be made a bivouac area for the service troops for whom it was becoming increasingly difficult to find accomodations… I was determined that the Tuileries should not be subjected to slit-trench latrines and the other defacing necessities of an encampment… I made myself vociferous and decidedly unpopular in their defence.

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Tuileries Gardens, 2014

An unsatisfactory compromise was reached without my knowledge: the Tuileries would be used as the official Allied motor park for all the jeeps and ten-ton trucks plying their way from the ports through Paris to the front. In a short time half a dozen historic statues were damaged by the heavy trucks, the terra cotta pipes sagged under the unaccustomed weight of these vehicles, and the old trees were injured. I suggested that the large open area of the Esplanade des Invalides be used instead of the Tuileries as the motor park. After many meetings with both American and French officials, at which we argued the case until I almost had to give in, it was fortunately agreed to use the Esplanade rather than the Tuileries as the motor park (J. Rorimer, 63).

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Esplanade des Invalides, 2014

 

“You took my sister, I’m taking your apartment!”

If I had to describe Paris in one word, it would be “grand.” If I had to describe Paris in five words it would be “a cafe on every corner.”

It’s taken me a few days to get oriented because there is a lot of ground to cover here. Also, I had friends in town, so we wound up having some long, leisurely lunches in cafes. Now that I know my way around and I’ve had a few days to rest, I can begin to recount my discoveries. I’ll start with today, since it was by far the crème de la crème in terms of fact-finding.

When my grandfather was assigned to his new role as the Monuments Man for the Seine Section, he began staying in his sister and brother-in-law’s apartment in Paris. (In other words, my great aunt and great uncle’s apartment). Aunt Louise and Uncle Dush had lived there before the war, but they had to vacate in a hurry, leaving most of their belongings behind. Today’s mission was to find their apartment.

My relatives had given me information about the address, so I knew it was located on the 7th floor of a building on the rue de l’Université. In the very least, I wanted to locate where my grandfather had stayed. I also hoped that I might be able to meet the current tenant and perhaps have a look inside. Since my French language skills are still in the very beginning stages, I used Google Translate, as well as the all-important phrases from my French tutor to put together a note the night before. Then, I wrote the message onto the back of a post card bearing the image of my grandfather standing on the steps of Neuschwanstein (top of this blog page).

Around 11am, my friend and I located the building. Next, we took photos and counted the floors. There were 7 in all. We could see the top apartment from the sidewalk level. After that, we inspected the entrance. The outside door was closed and it required a key code to get in. I could see the individual apartment buzzers inside through the window. There was a medical lab on the first floor with two open windows. We discussed the idea of calling out “Excusez-moi!” and handing the postcard through the window, but decided that would be a last-ditch effort. Instead, we crossed to the other side of the street and waited, surveying the scene.

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After just a minute or so, we spotted a lady exiting the building. I ran across the street and showed her the post card explaining, “Mon grand-père a vécu dans cet apartement.” Without any hesitation, she smiled and held the door open for us. We were in! We looked at each other and squealed with excitement. “Now what?” We began to study the apartment buzzers. They all had names, but only two of them had numbers. How could we figure out which apartment was on the 7th floor? Just then, a repairman entered the building. We held the door open for him and again I pulled out my post card. After about 3 sentences, he asked me if I spoke English. (I felt like Matt Damon’s character in “The Monuments Men” film – embarrassed, but extremely relieved). He opened the second door for us and invited us into a very small, cage-like elevator. There was just enough room for the three of us and his toolbox. He was going to the 4th floor, so he wished us luck as we continued on to the 7th. When we reached the door, we could hear voices inside. I composed myself, got my post card ready, and rang the doorbell. A woman answered the door, so I began to read her my post card.

Mon grand-père a vécu dans cet appartement pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale. (Il est le deuxième à gauche sur cette photo). Je suis venu en France pour retracer les par de mon grand-père. Si possible, je voudrais vous rencontrer et voir l’appartement.

She went away and quickly came back holding the arm of an older lady, Madame L. I handed the post card to Madame L. and she began to read. She asked where we were from, then invited us to come in. We sat in her parlor and she began to speak in English. I got out my grandfather’s book and told the story of how he had stayed in the apartment 70 years ago.

Madame L. gave us the grand tour. There were three bathrooms, a kitchen, dining room, study, parlor, living room, and multiple bedrooms. Artwork decorated the walls as well as many black and white photos from past generations. The caretaker led us to the balcony where the view looked out over the Eiffel Tower. I imagined my grandfather enjoying the view.

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We learned that Madame L. was 97 years old. She had lived in the apartment for 10 years, and she did not know the former tenants. She was very proud of her family, especially her husband who had lived to age 99, but had died two years ago. When I told her that I was retracing my grandfather’s footsteps through Europe, she thumped her cane on the floor and her face lit up. “You’re going to the places where your grandfather was,” she said in English. With a sparkle in her eye, she asked me how I liked my life in New York, and I said it was very good. Again, she thumped the floor and grinned. “How long are you in Paris?” she asked. “Just today and tomorrow,” I said. “That’s too little!” she exclaimed, and I knew she was right. After a photo together, we parted warmly with kisses on the cheek. I wondered what the walls knew.

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It’s incredible to think about the ways that lives intersect. Thanks to my grandfather’s letters and books, I connected with Madame L. We had come as strangers, but we left as friends.

I love how my grandfather jokes with my great uncle about winding up at the apartment in the letter below. “You took my sister, I’m taking your apartmet.”

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p.s. For the premier of The Monuments Men film in February, I wore a dress that belonged to my Great Aunt Louise, my grandfather’s sister (see the photo of me on the ABOUT page)!

The Liberation of Paris

…After checking-in, we were sent to the Hôtel du Louvre to spend what was left of the night. It was absurd, but here in the midst of destruction was this comfortable hotel with hot and cold running water, and big, high-ceilinged rooms, each with French doors, drapes, and a balcony. Just for a moment it was like pre-war Paris. (J. Rorimer, 47)

Hôtel du Louvre

Hôtel du Louvre

Although I'm not staying at the Hôtel du Louvre, my room does have high ceilings, drapes and a balcony!

Although I’m not staying at the Hôtel du Louvre, my room does have high ceilings, drapes and a balcony!

After breakfast…I crossed the Rue de Rivoli for a walk through the Tuileries to the Louvre. Each hour brought more Parisians to the streets. By and large, the rejoicing over our arrival was so real and unconditional that almost everyone, except those actively engaged in immediate combat problems, momentarily ignored the need for facing realities. Champagne flowed from bottles which had been artfully concealed form the Germans. We were witnessing a turning point in the fortunes of a great nation after four years of enslavement. For the French, August 26th is as memorable as the day that Joan of Arc rode into Orléans, or the day the French stormed the Bastille… In the offices of the Louvres nothing much seemed changed from the last time I had been there five years before, until I looked out of the window and saw hundreds of captured German soldiers coralled in the courtyard, and American anti-aircraft equipment being set up on the grounds.

I crossed Rue de Rivoli several times this afternoon!

I made sure to cross the Rue de Rivoli today!

As the monuments specialist officer for Paris it was my responsibility to advise the Commanding General of Seine Section and his Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5, in all matters pertaining to the art and culture of this metropolis and the surrounding Ile de France. I had to promote our relations with the French, to see that they helped themselves, to get them to help carry out our program, and to report my findings and actions taken by our command through technical channels to SHAEF… Early the next morning I stepped out onto the balcony and breathed the almost palpable atmosphere of Paris. Below me stood the Louvre and the Palais Royal (J. Rorimer, 48-49).

Louvre

Louvre, 2014

Palais Royal

Palais Royal

Using my grandfather’s descriptions as a guide, I walked around the center of Paris today. My friend has joined me here, and we realized after we took this picture that we had been standing in the courtyard of the Louvre on the same ground as the German soldiers!

Courtyard at the Louvre

Courtyard at the Louvre

One month later, on September 25th, my grandfather wrote home about the liberation of Paris.

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“You’ve got the Paris post!”

Most of us desperately hoped that our outfits, or we as individuals, would be moved to Paris, whose liberation was expected momentarily. Higher headquarters began to take an even greater interest in the accomplishments of the Civil Affairs section. My colleagues and I left the field for a couple of days to prepare our respective reports on MFA & A, refugees, public safety, and feeding of the inhabitants. There was beginning to be much talk of new assignments. Captain Ralph Hammett, with whom I had traveled about Normandy, was going over preliminary notes I had made and documents I had gathered. At this point, his chief, Brigadier General Cuthbert Stearns, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5 for ETOUSA and Communications Zone, bellowed my name from down the hall.

I hopped up to answer, wondering what I was going to get chewed-out about.

“Hammet has told me of your qualifications,” he said, without further ceremony, “your Paris connections and background. You’ve got the Paris post. Get there as soon as you can. Our troops will be there sooner than you think.”

I was on my way to Paris, the greatest art center on earth. (J. Rorimer, 45)

By September 7th, my grandfather was so consumed by his work in Paris that he forgot his own birthday.

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Now that I’ve made it to Paris too, I’m off to retrace some more footsteps! I’ll be here for 5 days, but that hardly seems like enough time.  Already, I can tell that I will have to come back!

The Wandering British Major

Perhaps the bit of fouling-up that disturbed me the most resulted from the confused orders of a wandering British major who one moment was attached to a British unit and the next to an American one. None of his reports ever reached me until it was too late for them to have any value. I was constantly making an all-out effort to get to a bombed-out building only to find that he had already been there on one of his peregrinations. One day at the request of SHAEF I made the long trip to Colleville-sur-Mer near Omaha Beach. It was a particularly trying journey and I resented the time consumed. When I at last reached my objective, a Romanesque church in need of immediate attention, I found that my friend had already administered first aid. A fine portal remained unharmed and some of the elements of the solid stone architecture had not fallen as had the tower and the vaults. My predecessor had planted a huge sign, of his own device. It looked like a billboard and warned: ALLIED FORCES: It is Forbidden to Remove Stone or Other Material from the Site of This Church. HISTORICAL MONUMENT: CIVIL AFFAIRS. The posting of a sign always gave a feeling of accomplishment (J. Rorimer, 7).

Church at Colleville-sur-Mer, 1944 (Photo JJR)

Church at Colleville-sur-Mer, 1944 (Photo JJR)

On the way to Omaha Beach today, I started getting antsy. Looking out the bust window, I could tell we were approaching Colleville-sur-Mer, and I began scanning for church steeples. I broke the silence of the somber bus tour group and requested that we stop, doing a spontaneous show-and-tell with my grandfather’s book, passing it to the tourists seated across the row. Seeing this monument today was another victory for Monuments Girl!

Church at Colleville-sur-Mer, 2014 (SSR)

Church at Colleville-sur-Mer, 2014 (Photo SSR)

My Grandfather’s First Monument

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.

Saint-Madeleine, the first monument James Rorimer surveyed, near Utah Beach

Saint-Madeleine, the first monument James Rorimer surveyed, near Utah Beach

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!

Normandy Beach Remnants

This is a pictorial summary of the WW II remnants I saw today.  I’ll let the history books be the experts on the wartime details.  Suffice it to say that today’s tour gave me a much better understanding of the geography, scale, logistics, strategies, and landscape in Normandy.

After visiting the Normandy American Memorial Cemetary, Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, Pointe du Hoc, the Airborne Museum, and several other places of interest, it’s clear to me that my grandfather’s story is just one of many, many, many awe-inspiring stories, and I’m just beginning to understand all of the layers!

Also, here’s a map.  (It’s in German, but since the place names are mostly French, it doesn’t really matter.  I think the pictures are informative).

DDay Map

 

 

 

 

 

Et Fuga Verterunt Angli – And the English Fled

I’m staying in Bayeux for two nights, using this lovely town as my home base to retrace some more footsteps in Normandy.  Bayeux was the first city to be liberated by the Allied forces on June 7, 1944, and there are a number of painted murals and flags celebrating the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.

D-Day WindowBayeux

I am quickly discovering that traveling solo is an excellent way to learn a language, and my functional language skills are improving.  I’ve been struck by the civilized nature of the French people, and I find their politeness incredibly refreshing. How easily I had fallen into diverting my eyes from my neighbor in the concrete jungle of NYC.

So today, I went to see the famous Bayeux Tapestry, which is nearly 1,000 years old.  Although it was housed in the Bayeux Cathedral for 7 centuries, it has traveled around quite a bit in recent years.

Bayeux Cathedral

Bayeux Cathedral

Gargoyles

Impressive Gargoyles on the Bayeux Cathedral

Although my grandfather did not have direct dealings with the tapestries, he recounts several anecdotes in his book.  I’m skipping ahead chronologically to the chapter on Paris because that is where the Bayeux Tapestry was located at that time.

[Jacques] Jaujard, [General Director of the National Museums], vitiated all German attempts to effect an exchange of German objects from France for French objects in Germany… For months Jaujard delayed German efforts to acquire the Bayeux Tapestry – the 850-year-old embroidered pictoral of the conquest of England by William the Conqueror – one of Europe’s most prized art treasures. Finding it impossible to procrastinate further, he finally permitted them to copy it. The Germans subsequently insisted that the original be given up to them. A week before the arrival of the Allies a special emissary came from Berlin with instructions to bring the tapestry back with him. The resourceful Jaujard contacted the Underground to learn when the arrival of the Allied troops was expected. Hearing that it might be only a matter of days, he fought a final delaying action and succeeded in keeping the tapestry in its lead box in the sub-basement of the Louvre. (J. Rorimer, 50-51)

Here are a couple snapshots from my visit to the Bayeux Museum regarding the whereabouts of the Bayeux Tapestry during WWII.

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In the early days following the Liberation, security was still an important factor.  We thought then that it was safer to keep many of the cultural institutions closed.  It seemed the wisest course in view of the disorganization of the directing authorities, the continuing need for caring for objects which had been stored out of the city, and the fact that Paris had not yet been declared a leave center.  Somewhat later, however, it was decided that the vast artistic resources of Paris could be made available to the soldiers… the Louvre opened an exhibition displaying the Bayeux Tapestry for the first time in Paris since 1804, when Napoleon had shown it to his generals… Jacques Duont, the clever young Inspector of Historic Monuments, made his contribution to the scheme by bicycling the 165 miles to Bayeux to obtain the approval of the city officials for the loan of the tapestry.  An embarrassing discovery was made just as the Minister of Education arrived to greet the American, British and French officials… The last line of the explanatory inscriptions on the tapestry reads, “The English Turned in Flight.”  In the interest of inter-Allied solidarity it was hastily decided that the last scenes of the tapestry would have to be artificially concealed.  A new edition of the descriptive pamphlet omitted “In fuga verterunt Angli” altogether.  (J. Rorimer, 64-65)

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Bayeux Tapestry – ET FUGA VERTERUNT ANGLI (The English Fled)

New Yorker

New Yorker Cover (July 15, 1944)

And that is the perfect segue to my next post… the Normandy Beaches!

 

Mistaken for a Spy

The following words are taken from Chapter 1 of my grandfather’s book, “Survival: The Salvage and Protection of Art in War,” 1950. In most cases, the photos are mine.

In Normandy, with our troops waiting for the Avaranches break-through, I was able to cover most places that had not been visited by other monuments officers about to move forward. The nearer to Germany, the more I found trying to cover my sector like trying to clear the woods of acorns… With the dead to be buried, the communications systems to be repaired, and all the other “firsts,” it required the enthusiasm and perseverance of a devout lover of the arts to accomplish anything beyond the posting of signs and the recording of damage (J. Rorimer, 9).

At this point First Army had cleared the Germans from Saint-Lô and Coutances, the Third Army had cut off the Brittany peninsula before sweeping north from Le Mans around the southern flank of the Germans’ Normandy positions. I tried to contact Captain Posey, Third Army’s monuments officer, to get information on conditions in Mont-Saint-Michel…The tides, the many mines and other obstacles placed along the uncertain quicksand beaches had been sufficient bulwark to prevent an Allied landing from the sea. History had proven maritime operations in these waters to be hazardous to the extreme. The high tides, which recede for a distance of more than seven miles and roll in faster than a horse can gallop, make driving on the sands impossible… (J. Rorimer 20)

Low Tide High Tide

Low Tide / High Tide from my Hotel Room in the Rampart

I wondered if this inaccessibility would now continue to be its salvation…What if the thirteenth-century cloister, the church, the large Salle de Chevaliers, with its pointed vaulting supported by a triple row of columns, should be used for military installations and become the objective of enemy fire? … I decided that I would have to go to Mont-Saint-Michel as soon as possible.

Cloister

The Cloister

Abbey from West Terrace

The Abbey Church from the West Terrace

Stained Glass

Stained Glass Windows in the Abbey Church

Column

Gothic Ceiling with Crossed Ribs

Mont-Saint-Michel was not easy to reach. It stood about one hundred miles from our headquarters at Catz and was at the far end of Advance Section headquarters. There were the inevitable rumors that we would be moving our headquarters at almost any time, and these served to tie up transportation even more seriously than usual. I momentarily forgot Mont-Saint-Michel’s remoteness from the main road when I suggested to my new commanding officer that I could walk there from the main Avranches-Rennes highway, over which were busily moving mountains of supplies coming into Normandy at an ever-increasing rate now that the seas had subsided.

“You idiot,” the Colonel said irritably. “This is twentieth-century war. Who gives a damn about mediaeval walls and boiling pitch?” Then he momentarily relented… “All right,” he said gruffly. “Get going. But let me tell you, Rorimer, you’d better get there in a hurry and come back fast. If you get left behind…”

I had no trouble getting as far as Avranches. The roads were alive with GI vehicles…Transportation [there] was no problem by reason of its being almost non-existent. I got an occasional ride, but for part of the way I was a reluctant foot soldier. I soon realized that I would never make it before dark unless I did get a ride, and I hailed a civilian car. The driver had lost all his possessions except this car, which he had just retrieved from under a hay mound on a friend’s farm, following the long siege of Saint-Malo. The Germans had surrendered there just a few hours before. He dropped me at the end of the causeway outside of Mont-Saint-Michel.

MSM Causeway

Mont-Saint-Michel (J. Rorimer, 1944 / S. Rorimer, 2014)

I had visited this stronghold of the Middle Ages when I was a boy. I had many recollections of the small village built on the sides of the curiously isolated rock formation connected with the mainland by an almost mile-long causeway built in the nineteenth century. I walked the plank bridge over the sands leading to the unguarded gateway. Three OFF LIMITS signs were completely ineffectual. The scene was one of almost indescribable bedlam. This was the one place on the continent which was unguarded, undamaged and open for business-as-usual. Even a British brigadier had found haven in one of the rooms of the hotel for himself and his lady companion. Each day more than a thousand soldiers came, drank as hard and fast as they could, and, feeling the effects, became boisterous beyond the power of local control. The shopkeepers had at first thought that American soldiers would not loot; they had’t counted on these soldiers being drunk.

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Tourist Scene in the Village of Mont-Saint-Michel

Passing beneath heavily fortified archways, I clambered toward the picturesque abbey topping the mount. Streets winding beneath the windows of the old houses led up to the final, seemingly interminable flight of steps to the Benedictine abbey. Neither time nor tourists had, until now, been able to dispel its air of serenity mixed with grimness and self-sufficient solitude. In the short time at my disposal I posted warnings, locked all doors leading to dangerous parapets, shut off some of the rooms where further damage could be done, and advised a return to the regular opening and closing hours set by the Beaux-Arts instead of the endless hours demanded by the carousing soldiers. The chief custodian of the monastery and one of the guards had been taken as prisoners to Germany. The former’s wife and one armed guard had done their best to maintain order. Among the hundreds of soldiers, the only officer I could find who might have authority to control the situation was an Air Corps MP captain who was investigating the facilities for bringing troops on pass from an airfield in the vicinity. He told me that the Air Corps had no interest in and no control over ground troops. I was to discover this was not the case when I had further dealings with him the following morning.

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Hiking up to the Abbey

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“Interminable” Flight of Steps

That night I stayed ad the hotel of La Mère Poulard. Before dinner I was authorized by the Sub-Prefect from Avranches, at a conference with the Mayor of Mont-Saint-Michel, to decide after further investigation whether the town should be entirely closed to troops…We weighed the matter during dinner, and just before bedtime decided that Mont-Saint-Michel with its poetic, historic and artistic atmosphere must, in spite of some good arguments to the contrary, remain open to our troops.

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Hotel La Mère Poulard, 2014

Early the next morning the Air Corps MP I had met the preceding day approached me in the hotel dining room and asked to see my papers. He had obviously been dwelling on the fact that the authority I seemed to have was incompatible with my rank of second lieutenant, and furthermore, I had arrived without a vehicle. This latter fact was too much for him. He found it inconceivable that any officer would travel without his own personal transportation.

He concluded that I must be a German spy and, envisioning a hero’s reception for himself, carted me off to his headquarters where I was obliged to sign oaths and papers of every description while copies were made of my papers. It was finally necessary that we go back to Pontorson where we found a Civil Affairs officer who identified me and cleared up the matter for the disappointed captain.

That same day I arrived back at my outfit. When I reached headquarters, I found my belongings already on a truck. (J. Rorimer, 37-41)

Leaving MSM

Leaving Mont-Saint-Michel

N.B. I typed this post while traveling from MSM to Bayeux, and my train passed through Avaranches. Here’s a photo I snapped from the train window. I’m so glad I didn’t have to hitchhike or walk the way my grandfather did!

Avaranches

Remembering D-Day

The toughest part about crossing the English Channel last night was 1) the air conditioning, and 2) the WiFi – NOT that they were ineffective, but that they were highly effective, and as a result I was either too cold or very distracted. This, in combination with the gentle ocean swells made things challenging at times, but I had promised myself (and my readers) that I would not complain, so every time I was tempted to think I was the least bit uncomfortable, I thought about D-Day.  What would it have been like to cross the channel in one of the boats invading Normandy? What would it have been like for my grandfather, a few weeks later, sailing with French troops? Pondering these questions helped me keep things in perspective.

D-Day was extra fresh in my mind yesterday because it turns out that Portsmouth, England (the location of my previously undisclosed location) has an excellent D-Day Museum, within walking distance of the train station. I couldn’t have planned a better use of my time in port!

http://www.ddaymuseum.co.uk/d-day/the-museum

D-Day Museum

D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, England

In addition, the museum houses the Overlord Embroidery, which has been dubbed the “modern version of the Bayeux Tapestry.”

Overland Tapestry

Overlord Embroidery, Panel #30, July 1944

The short film was powerful and moving, and the exhibits gave me a real sense of what day to day life must have been like for the Allies gathering in Portsmouth and Southampton. For example, here are some examples of dried goods. I wouldn’t have noticed them, except that I overheard the woman in front of me as she turned to her friend and said, “Dried eggs! I hated dried eggs! Do you remember those?”

Dried Goods

Dried Canned Goods & Wartime Recipes

The folks at the museum were very friendly, and I told them about my Monuments Girl Mission. I also showed them “The Monuments Men” movie shirt I was wearing, gave them my blog address, read aloud from my grandfather’s book “Survival,” and showed pictures from the NYC Film Premiere. I was pretty excited to find a captive audience.

Thinking all about D-Day inspired me to turn to my grandfather’s letters to see if I could figure out where he had shipped from. He didn’t include details, however, because of the censors.  According to the museum docents, it’s very likely that he sailed from Portsmouth since it was the naval base at that time.  Do any of my readers know from which port exactly a Liberty ship would have sailed?

Needless to say, my D-Day envisioning strategy worked, and I made it to St. Malo safely.