I visited the pock-marked, bomb-scarred area in 2010. Every village along the gorgeous coast had their own World War II museum, and each one had a unique twist which made every museum interesting. The French were not cowards; they willingly and knowingly allowed their towns, homes and farms to be bombed to oblivion to ruin supply lines for the German military.
Our group visited the American cemetery, and the German one. The Americans buried their own in proper, marked graves after the war, while it took 10 years before the Germans could do the same.
The contrast was striking. The American one had neatly trimmed, Irish green lawns, and precisely set, marble headstones for each soldier buried there; most showed the Christian cross but a few showed the Star of David.
The German one had summer-whithered grass, and brass plagues set in the ground. They couldn’t afford one cross each, so they place a group of crosses at regular intervals. Only crosses. Their cemetery had just as many graves as the American one. But: There were two soldiers in each.
My heart broke at the thought of all those lives, mostly young men, on both sides, fighting without knowing if they’d ever win, just hoping they would.
War is always described as being about the glory and honor and bravery and sacrifice. But all its surviving participants end up focusing on never having a war again. The one good thing about World War II is not that the allies won, but that once the fighting was over, nobody wanted to do it again. The result are two influential agencies that are still helping us focus on peace internationally even today: The United Nations and the European Union. Keep the peace, don’t fight for it.