As a Parisian visiting Washington, I discovered the new National World War II Memorial, which stirred deep emotions for me.

My country is commemorating D-Day for four months in the landing areas of Normandy. A flotilla of ships arrived June 5 in Caen and the commemoration is continuing with speeches, concerts, films, religious services and warplane fly-bys.

My memories of that summer of 1944 are vivid. As I reach 80, I feel even closer to the men who brought us freedom at the risk of their lives after four dark years of German occupation.

I was celebrating my 20th birthday in 1944, and the Americans I met then were healthy, handsome, well dressed and well educated. They were also respectful and considerate.

Through friends, we became acquainted with officers from a U.S. airbase in Saint Andre de l'Eure who often traveled to Paris on their 48-hour leaves. We invited them to visit us there. The first visitor was a colonel. Although we were enduring a food shortage, my mother managed to offer him a stylish dinner. He went back to the base and recounted his experience to a general, who told the captains, who told several lieutenants. We entertained more than 100 officers during the year. Our apartment became a sort of club. We shared French meals and K-rations, and listened to popular French songs and Frank Sinatra's hits on the radio. We swam and bicycled around the Bois de Boulogne.

Those precious days established relationships that have lasted, as shown by the many letters, invitations and e-mails that I still receive from many of those officers 60 years later, and, even more touching, from their children, who have heard our stories.

In today's awkward times, when politics, propaganda, violence and jealousy tend to divide nations, the links of friendship between such American families and many French ones are the strongest rebuttal to criticism of the transatlantic relationship. May this be added to the heartbreaking "last messages" that have been left at the World War II memorial.




It is regrettable that early-morning meditations and prayers at the National World War II Memorial must be disturbed by the pedaling of bicycles and the loud voices of joggers who display no respect toward what has become a shrine for those who remember.

To paraphrase William Butler Yeats: "Walk softly, you are treading on my dreams."


Chevy Chase