With the 70th anniversary of D-Day just weeks away, a United States congressman has accused France of going back on a promise to fly veterans out for a commemoration marking the historic event – a charge that France denies.
The veterans took part in the daring June 6, 1944 assault, which ultimately helped liberate France from German occupation and marked a turning point in World War II.
To commemorate the landings, veterans from the United States, Britain, France and other Allied countries will gather at Normandy’s Sword Beach on June 6 for a ceremony attended by, among others, French President François Hollande, US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
As the date swiftly approaches, Michael Grimm, a US Representative from the state of New York, has accused France of breaking its word to fly the veterans out for free, leaving them to cover their own airfare.
“Our chief-of-staff heard it from the French Embassy in DC — that they would be flown out to France,” Nick Iacono, a spokesman for Grimm, was quoted by the New York Post as saying.
In its reporting on the story, the Post did little to conceal its disdain for France, bashing it as a “surrender-happy nation” and alluding to its reputation for rudeness.
But France denies that any such commitment was ever made, dismissing the accusations as a misunderstanding.
“France never said it would pay to fly veterans over,” a source at the country’s Defence Ministry, who asked to remain anonymous, told FRANCE 24. “It was said that France would welcome American veterans, but it did not detail [at the time] what that meant.”
Although the French government is not paying for veterans from the United States or other countries to travel to France for the commemoration, it has promised to finance their food, travel and hotel expenses once they arrive in the country.
But the miscommunication has left those who were counting on a free ticket to France in a lurch, raising the possibility that some may not make it to the ceremony. With many veterans now in their late 80s to 90s, this year may be the last major anniversary they will be able to attend, making their absence all the more significant.
“France was supposed to pay for our airfare,” Theresa Tarangelo, whose father Felice John Tulli fought on Omaha Beach during the Battle of Normandy, told the Post. “Now they’re telling us they have nothing to do with it . . . It’s really frustrating.”
Knowing that her father, now 90 years old, may not live to see another decennial, Tarangelo said that she is organising a Memorial Day baseball betting pool to help cover the cost of travel.
Date created : 2014-05-19