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  August, 2004


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 trip.)

     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 Warner


President Bush

     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 Levitte


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 Suivantes,
(Fair Winds and Following Seas)
 


 
Ed Black - Dot Cole
Guy Rich - Frances Livesay

            
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