FRANCE: Battle of the Beaches

During World War II, American forces liberated miles of beaches along France's CÔte d'Azur. Ever since, it has been a struggle to keep them free.

Wealthy Europeans and Americans built tens of thousands of fancy villas along the 200-mile coastline between Marseille and the Italian border, turning much of the Riviera into a private playground. To keep out trespassers, these "beach barons" erected high fences, stone walls and barbed wire, often patrolled by vicious guard dogs.

The ordinary sun seeker soon found it almost impossible even to reach the supposedly public shoreline. At...

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