Plus Cher Camarades de
Bord et Amis!
Now, I am a cool guy. Few things have come along that 'smoke my bacon'.
You know that. I have been everywhere... and done everything, well
almost. But, those French jumped right into my manhood with such
eloquence. Hey, I am speechless! Regardless of what Dot says, I can't
find the words to describe the French, or what they did. I can ask,
however, what took 'em so long? I "like" being treated like this. In
case you were not listening, I'll say it again... "I can get used to
being treated like this"! In my less than perfect French, let me
explain. Along about March of this year, I got a letter (Charlie got one
too) from the Department of Veterans Affairs (V A), saying the French
were revving up to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion,
would I like to go? It was a bit anticlimactic, as they had already
called on the phone, at which time I did a couple of cartwheels and
handstands, before the body over-ruled the brain! The V A was selected
(by the French Government) to find 100 vets, who had participated in the
Normandy Invasion and were still able to travel to France... on a French
Government tab! Mon Ami, they were playing my song. Oh yea, like I said,
they got Charlie's address too. In early May we got a formal invitation
from the French Embassy (ENCL 1). They had chosen us to be named "Knight
of the Legion of Honor", in FRANCE. which they did. And I am so proud.
The medal is blue and green and gold and white and is so pretty. And I
am a Knight! (Charlie's one too.) Always knew my proudest moments were
after dark, and now it's official! It will be my esteemed pleasure to
let you all see my medal... anytime, oh yes, Charlie will. too. His is
just like mine. Those French people are just so nice! (Back to the
Dot was my "escort", of course. I couldn't do it without her.
And Jayne, Charlie's daughter, went with him. (Helen was
recently in the hospital with a broken hip and could not go. She
is now much better and getting around with a walker.) The first
stop in our trip was in DC at the French Embassy (4PM the
evening of June 3rd). Jean-David Levitte, French Ambassador (and
his wife), wanted to calibrate us for the upcoming four days
extravaganza. And that they did. It was charming... talking to
all those people with funny accents, sounded just like
ThunderBolt. We ate all that finger-food... and drank Champagne,
French of course. Slowly we migrated to Dulles Airport for a
10:30PM Air France special flight to Paris. While at the
Airport, Frederic Patard (co-editor of that French book on the
wrecks of Normandy) interview me and Charlie. A newspaper
article with our picture was in the French newspaper two days
later (5th June 2004). Patard gave me his (and Gerard Leonard's)
book, Fortunes de Mer autour de Cotentin. Pages 82-84 give the
full story of the USS RICH (DE-695)... with pictures. Very nice.
Dot and Ed arrive in France.
Buddy, Dot, Charlie, Ed, and Jayne
While flying to France, Jayne and Charlie sat with the French
Ambassador and his wife. Two days later Dot & I had a two hour
train ride with the Ambassador and his wife, while returning
from Normandy to Paris. Such a personable couple. Very easy to
talk to. But you know me; I am Just a bashful country boy and
don't say much. Here is something that puzzles me. We left
Dulles at 10:30 that night, and arrived in Paris at 12 noon the
next day. Where did all that time go? We were on the plane only
about 6 or 7 hours? I am glad Dot's around to handle the
scheduling, especially with all the receptions and things we
have on our Iist. When we got off the plane, all the important
people were there to greet us... and all that red carpet to walk
on. Man, Oh man, makes you feel important, but not as important
as when they took us to the hotel, the George V of Paris. I
think they also call it a "Four Seasons Hotel". And they gave me
1944 Euros (that is $2200, thank you very much)... to spend
while at the hotel. (Actually, they gave each vet 1944 Euros...
get the significance of the 1944?) We had to spend it at the
hotel, but no problem there. It was like a shopping center
inside that place. Man, I got some silk ties, some real French
clothes, and breakfast in bed each day! *just kidding* They gave
us the rest of our first day to reset our bio-clocks, so we
could hit the carpet running the next day. I'll tell you man,
these French people are nice!
The next day (5th June) at 10 AM, they mini-bussed us to "Cour
des lnvalides" (that's "Court of the Invalids" in English!).
Wonder if they are trying to tell us something? Anyway, they
lined us up, made an impressive speech and pinned us with the
"Legion of Honor" medal. We took some pictures and mingled
about. "Buddy", Charlie's son, met us in Paris. He teaches in
San Diego State University and travels in Europe quite a bit. Of
course, Jayne and Dot came on the plane with us. About noon they
bussed us to the France-American Foundation for another cocktail
reception and lunch. After lunch they bussed us back to the
hotel, so we could spend those Euros. At 5 PM it was another
reception at the American Embassy. These folks are really nice.
Ed Black, Dot Cole, and Senator
Today (6th June) we are up early for the two hour train ride to
Normandy. (That's where the action was 60 years ago, you know.)
By 9:30AM we were on Omaha Beach for the American/French
ceremony. Jacques Chirac, French President, was the main
speaker. Many dignitaries were there, but the heavy hitters
arrived in the afternoon for the International Ceremonies on the
Gold, Juno, & Sword Beaches. There were "21" Heads of States
introduced, including President Bush. Of course the secret
service were successful in keeping me from getting my picture
taken with the president... so he isn't going to be in a picture
with me in this newsletter. His loss! Dot and I got pictures
taken with many big-wigs (no pun!). You get the idea; everybody
of importance was there. After the ceremonies concludes about
5PM, we had a delightful train-ride back to Paris with
Ambassador Levitte and his wife... as I have already mentioned.
Fine people, easy to talk to. They made this country boy feel
right at home. Like I say, these French are fine people.
Our last day (7dt June) in France was upon us, and we still
needed to connect-up with Lieutenant Del Guidice, you know,
"Thunderbolt". We had a framed information sheet (ENCL 2) about
the USS RICH (DE-695) Web site that we wanted him to put in the
Utah Beach Museum. (We gave away about 75 copies while in
France... to brag about the web site and George.) Thibaut has
recently flown missions in Afghanistan and was stationed on the
Charles De Gaulle Aircraft carrier at that time. He met us for
breakfast this morning. Presently, he is taking some courses
here in Paris. He sends a Lt. Del Guidice & Ed "Thunderbolt
Hello" to all the RICH Crew. Thibaut is a true representative of
the French. Like I say, fine people.
Madame Levitte, Ed Black, Ambassador
Lt. Del Guidice and Ed Black
About noon we departed the FOUR SEASONS HOTEL for the Charles de
Gaulle International Airport... completely tired and worn-down.
The French did it right. Told them I would be back for the 70dt
year Ceremonies. Said they would be ready! By evening we were
aboard the plane and heading back. Arrived Dulles about
midnight. Got to the Lynchburg Ramada by 2:30 AM for "our"
Survivors Reunion, which was in progress sans the Blacks. There
you have it, my friends. Memories of my trip (our trip) to
France, as best I can recall. Charlie and I have no idea why we
were picked for the 60dt Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion.
Never-the-less, it was an outstanding affair. We sincerely wish
that each of you could have been there. You would have enjoyed
every minute of it, as we did.
See you next year at our
Survivors Reunion. In my ever- improving-French, I bid you au revoir.
Vents Justes et Mers
(Fair Winds and Following Seas)
Ed Black - Dot Cole
Guy Rich - Frances Livesay