Many times during the last week I have heard ex-combatants of the Normandy invasion claim that they fought for France, that they liberated it, and that their comrades who died there did so to liberate France. I have no wish to decry the action of the men who fought and fell in Normandy in 1944, but to claim that they did it for France is a little overdone. They would have had to do it wherever they had landed, in whatever country, because their objective was to destroy the German military machine, not to liberate France, which was merely a means to that end, and often an embarrassing one.
I'm sure there are many Normans who heartily wish the invasion had taken place somewhere else and they might have been spared the saturation bombing their cities received at the hands of the liberating Allied air forces.
It never seems to occur to the heroes of the invading armies that the vital information that made the invasion possible came from the French Resistance, many of whom suffered death or torture to get it through. Far from the French owing a debt of gratitude to the Allied fighters, without the Resistance many more of those 'liberators' would have had their names carved on gravestones, and it is the Allied fighters who owe the maquisards their thanks.
Military historians estimate that the Resistance stopped between 10 and 15 German divisions reaching the Norman front, the arrival of which could easily have tipped the balance against the Allies. At no time were there more than 100,000 men and women in the Resistance, many of whom were non-combatants, while more than 1 million heavily armed troops massed in Normandy. It is time we recognised that without the Resistance the invasion might easily have become another Dunkirk.
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