07 June, 2012 – Day Eight: “Massacre of Graignes”
By Garrett Fly USAFA Cadet
Today’s focal point was a ceremony commemorating the Massacre of Graignes. The Massacre occurred after a group of 182 mis-dropped American Airborne troopers held the town just long enough to prevent the Nazis from reinforcing Carentan. After the Americans became overwhelmed and were forced to retreat, the Nazi’s rounded up the French citizens deemed as “conspirators” and executed them before pillaging the city.
The ceremony was in the remains of the Church that the Nazis razed, but the story told was one of hope, not despair. The speakers told of the bravery of the French and Americans as they held against a numerically superior German force. As Christelle, a renowned French shool teacher, explained the significance of the cornflowers the French children wore and the poppies accompanying every veteran, her voice cracked. Her tears made me realize that the memorials we visited are more than buildings or beaches—they are the home of living memories. The Allies liberating the people of Graignes from the Nazi occupation and oppression remains fresh in their minds and will not be soon forgotten.
The ceremony ended with the French children exchanging their cornflowers with the veterans. The looks on the veterans’ faces caused me to realize that this trip is truly a pilgrimage for them and a chance to see all of the good that came from their sacrifices. This commemoration was a true highlight for many, if not all of the veterans and cadets in our group.
After the ceremony the veterans arrived back at their chateau early so they could get some extra rest for the night. The veterans told me it was nice having a brief break because it gave them a chance to reflect and rest before tomorrow’s journey.
While the veterans rested up, the cadets ventured to Bayeux to do some exploring. We split into a couple groups and visited the Commonwealth D-Day Museum, the famous 11th century Norman tapestry, and the beautiful Bayeaux cathedral. The food was delicious and the art was very impressive. Following our little venture in Bayeaux we retired to our chateau to pack, rest, and spend some time around a final commemorative cigar in Normandy.