Foreign News: The Liberated

  • From the New York Herald Tribune's Joseph Driscoll came the week's best account of the first liberated fragment of France:

    "The smoke of flaming Isigny is still in my eyes. When we entered that picturesque provincial town yesterday in the wake of our conquering troops, the main street was a long row of crackling, collapsing buildings. Nearly everything along the cobblestoned Rue de Cherbourg was on fire except the enamel highway sign which proclaimed Cherbourg to be 61 kilometers (about 38 miles) ahead. . . .

    ". . . it's appleblossom time in Normandy right now, and on the outskirts of Isigny we found a formation command where they had pitched their tents and dug their foxholes. It was a beautiful setting for a deadly business.

    "Beauty there was on all sides. Daisies and cornflowers and poppies were growing wild in the green rolling fields. ... As we rode through the villages, friendly housewives and their daughters threw bunches of long-stemmed gardenias at us—gar-denias that would have cost $5 to $10 at a Madison Avenue florist back home.

    "But there was an ugly side to this lovely Norman landscape. The winding country lanes were posted with German signs bearing a skull and crossbones and the bilingual warning 'Achtung Minen,' and 'Attention aux Mines.' . . ."

    Fallen Saints. "The first village we came to, St. Laurent, was like the curate's egg—good in spots. There were pleasant little stone houses with courtyards where birds hang in the trees, black and white hens guiding their chicks about and one belated hen setting on a manure pile hatching her brood. With American efficiency we had already supplied these householders with French tricolors to fly and with wall placards reading 'Private Property—Off Limits to Troops.'

    "For the other side of the picture, the parish church had been unroofed, the steeple had been shot full of holes. Stations of the Cross were hanging loosely from the stone walls, and the pews and the altar itself were coated with plaster. The adjoining vicarage had been burned out. The altar flowers were wilting in their vases. The church doors were blown in, but no one was inside. Statues of the saints had toppled from their niches.

    "Out in the parish graveyard we found two old women checking up on the marble monuments which had been blasted loose from their foundations. They were the first of many to shrug their shoulders and give a characteristic Gallic answer when asked about the troubles they had seen:

    " 'C'est la guerre.'

    "Mort aux Boches! They were more than eager to talk to the Americans. They said the Americans would be welcomed generally by the French patriots. The Germans, they said, had been very correct in their social relations with the French, but had eaten the cream of the crop and had compelled the Frenchmen to work on beach fortifications, and the French women to do their laundry, for which they paid. . . .

    "At cottages where red roses ran up the calcimined walls, children would come to the doors and look out, half anticipatory and half scared. When you smiled at them, they smiled back and ran to tell their elders that those smiling 'Americaines' were passing.

    "The villagers were demonstrative . . .

    1. Previous Page
    2. 1
    3. 2