The Record from Hackensack, New Jersey on June 7, 1994 · 13
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The Record from Hackensack, New Jersey · 13

Hackensack, New Jersey
Issue Date:
Tuesday, June 7, 1994
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TUESDAY, JUNE 7, 1994 2 THE RECORD A-13 Remembering The 50th Anniversary Veterans and others flock to D-day site By MOOT ROSENBLUM The Associated Press OMAHA BEACH, France - At dawn under a drizzle, on D-day plus 50 years, the same gray shapes loom again out on the choppy sea. This time, the beach is empty but for a curious little band: a few Italian war buffs in costume, an American who took a flag for a swim, and news people. "Move along," commanded two French cops, who for unknown reasons wanted to end this early-morning communion with history. No one paid any attention, and the cops wandered off. "Hey!" shouted a television cameraman, a little later, as he panned what he wanted to be a swath of empty sand. That cleared the beach. Off camera at D-day ceremonies, poignancy is masked by shades of P. T. Barnum. Big events usually breed a media circus and general confusion. But here the scene falls somewhere beyond the surreal. For one thing, an ad hoc army of non-veterans is parading around in hodgepodge camouflage Gulf War chocolate chip, Vietnam tiger, and the rest with separate statements to make. That's why those Italians were on the beach, looking as if they had strayed off the set of "La Dolce Vita." ' ' 1 L ! ' - ' -V d 1 i ' -i ASSOCIATED PRESS President Clinton on Omaha Beach with a group of D-day veterans after ceremonies observing the 50th anniversary of the Allied invasion. Seventeen heads of state participated in the commemoration. Enzo Maio of Torino, 38, in combat fatigues, airborne helmet, and scholarly spectacles, explained: "We're military enthusi asts, and we're proud of what the Allies did." His club members came to try out their antique collection, especially their prized pieces, a pair of Yeltsin doesn't mind exclusion from D-day But most Russians feel they beat the Nazis By SERGEI SHARG0R0DSKY The Associated Press MOSCOW No one invited the Russians to the D-day commemorations, but President Boris N. Yeltsin says he doesn't feel scorned. "When we were celebrating the 50th anniversaries of the battles around Moscow and Stalingrad, we did not invite any of our allies either," the Russian president said. "But this does not stop us from being partners in all spheres, from trusting each other, respecting each other, and resolving international problems together." His remarks, reported by the Interfax news agency, contrasted with the offended tone of the Russian media and World War II veterans, who have felt left out while Western leaders and veterans flock to the coast of Normandy. It has long been the belief of virtually every Russian that it was the Soviet Union that broke the Nazis' backbone. Many believed the Allies dragged their feet in opening the second European front and joined in at the last moment to seize their slice of the victory cake. At the Foreign Ministry, officials said Moscow was represented by embassy personnel only. Just one Russian veteran traveled to France, "on his own initiative and at the expense of his own savings," the Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper reported. "But we, the Russians, never have been petty in serious affairs and have always honored our comrades in arms," it said, noting a memorial coin issued by the government to mark the event. The three-ruble coin shows the Soviet, U.S., and British flags flying above Nazi Germany. Newspapers have stressed the former Soviet Union's role in making the Allied invasion of France possible and ensuring Hitler's defeat. "The Allies supplied food and military equipment, but were in no hurry to launch military actions," the army newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda wrote recently. "Our soldiers in the trenches could only joke bitterly: 'Shouldn't we open the second front?' as they nicknamed the American canned beef." What the Soviets called the Great Patriotic War claimed more than 20 million Soviet dead. With the collapse of ideological barriers and, finally, of the Soviet Union itself, Russians have begun to acknowledge that the victory was a joint one. But they believe their own role was the decisive one. "The world has started to forget who made the main contribution to the victory over Nazism," commented Nezavisimaya Gazeta. For war veterans, being left out of the D-day celebrations was a slap in the face, said Vladimir No-vikov, a lawmaker who chairs the "New Second Front," a public organization set up in 1992 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of D-day. "All the veterans are furious. They just ignore us. They think we should be thankful that they even speak to us," said Novikov, whose group mounted a D-day exhibition in the Russian parliament last year. Still, some Russians said there was no reason for hard feelings over the fact that Russia was left out of D-day events. "I don't see a great tragedy," World War II historian Oleg Rzhe-shevsky told Krasnaya Zvezda. "The former Allies traditionally, so to speak, fail to invite us, considering this a strictly western European business. Let this remain on their conscience." Uneasily and from a distance, Germans watch the ceremony By GEORGE B0EHMER Associated Press FRANKFURT, Germany -The German government showed its respect for the D-day anniversary Monday with silence. The country's leaders were not invited to Normandy, and Germans watched the commemorations from a distance, fascinated, yet uneasy. There were no formal ceremonies in Germany to mark D-day, no big speeches by politicians. Germans settled for hours of coverage on national television, broadcast live from Normandy. The occasion gave many pause to reflect on the meaning of this milestone for them and their country. Rudiger Emich was just a baby when Germans fought Americans at Omaha Beach. That doesn't stop the 52-year-old travel agent from thinking about the battle. D-day, Emich said, "is uncomfortable for Germans because they started the war and they lost it. But D-day should also be seen as the beginning of the end of Na-lism." Germany, Emich says, has learned from its defeat. "The entire political thinking of our politicians and also the German people la that 'My God, none of us want any more war,' and we don't want such elements to arise again," Emich said. Ignatz Bubis, head of the Cen- 1 i I For many, a time to reflect on war tral Council for Jews in Germany, disputed that assessment. In a radio interview, Bubis said too many Germans especially elderly ones are still bitter about their country's defeat. He said May 8, 1945, the last day of the war, "is a day of victory and not . . . as many Germans still think ... a day of capitulation." "Only thoughts of joy should be in people's heads" when it comes to reflecting about the Nazis' defeat, Bubis said. German news media provided big doses of D-day anniversary coverage. On Monday night, one talk show broadcast 1944 Allied footage of preparations for D-day, American soldiers under fire as they hit the beach, and the liberators pushing the German army across France. Nazi propaganda footage from that time was also broadcast, showing a German paratrooper unit using bazookas to destroy American tanks. Historians on the show were asked whether there was any alternative to D-day. Their answer No. There was some criticism of the way the anniversary was handled, but it was mixed in with a lot of understanding. "The re-creation of the 'longest day' smacked not a little of Holly wood," said an editorial in Tuesday's Die Welt newspaper. "But who can criticize our former war enemies for using the tools of our media age to reflect on the sacrifice of their sons?" While most of Europe's political leaders were in Normandy, Chancellor Helmut Kohl was in the eastern German city of Dresden, breaking ground for a new Siemens AG computer-chip factory. Kohl, who was not invited to the ceremonies, had said he didn't wish to be included because it wasn't Germany's place to stand with the victors. Instead, he celebrated a new factory providing new jolw in the struggling former communist part of Germany. Later, he met with Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez of Spain in the Baltic port of Schwerin to discuss European unification issues. Bubis, who lost many relatives in Nazi concentration camps, gave special thanks to the United States, saying the Americans waged war against Germany even though they were not directly threatened by the Nazis. Wemer Gueterle, a Frankfurt hotel manager, was grateful that German soldiers who died in Normandy were also remembered at the anniversary ceremonies. "It was done in good taste. They even remembered the German soldiers who are buried there. The French and German soldiers together." Ducks. Before Normandy, these amphibious vehicles were used to invade Italy. On D-day plus 50 years, that fit the mood. In a cemetery for 21,000 Germans who died for the Fatherland, ex-Wehrmacht officers stepped on soldiers' graves to hug the men who killed them. Sometimes imagination ran to the extreme. An American on the beach was Mark Rooney, a 30-year-old banker who lives in Prague. "You try to find an American flag in the Czech Republic," he said. He got his in Zurich. Rooney wanted to honor his uncle, a D-day veteran. A Bostonian, he was used to cold water. So he swam out 200 yards and came back. In an invasion replay, a lone guy in surfer shorts took Omaha Beach. More elaborate ceremonies later in the day brought together the heads of 17 states that bled to free France. Still, a lot of American visitors missed the point. "I don't see why we had to do it alone," one woman told another, loudly. A French protocol official, assigned to help the visitors, gritted his teeth and said nothing. But, although nearly half the Allied troops followed other flags, the show around Omaha and Utah beaches was strictly Franco-American. The Vierville post office, a businesslike little structure, suddenly spouted music: "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anyone Else But Me." The people of St. Laurent entertained U.S. veterans until 3 o'clock in the morning, giving each a pebble from Omaha Beach set on a base of Baccarat crystal. "That wasn't here when we were," one old soldier told another, pointing to a 17th century chateau. "Yes, Ralph," his buddy replied. "It was." All around were scenes of it-could-only-happen-in-France. An engineer from Mobile, Ala., brought his family to stay with his wartime girlfriend, a Resistance fighter he met while his wife was still his fiancee back home. He had briefed his daughter. "My mom learned this when the woman announced it at dinner," the daughter said, laughing. "By then, mom had already invited her to Mobile." She and the Frenchwoman's daughter are good friends, and both assume their mothers will get along fine after 50 years. With all the VIPs, media people, and other outsiders, at times it seemed like the veterans were an afterthought. "I'm trying to get absorbed, but I think the meaning is sort of losing itself in all the ceremony," said Brian Roberson, 24, of Trenton, who came with his uncle. And only the lucky veterans got to see the ceremony. ASSOCIATED PRESS Phyliss Camarena of Upland, Calif., weeping over her brother's grave at the American Military Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France on Monday. Manuel Camarena, a paratrooper, died in the D-day invasion. Amid the clamor and fuss, veterans honor the dead By PATRICK McDOWELL The Associated Press OMAHA BEACH, France - A few stood silently before marble crosses. Others pointed out stretches of sand to their attentive families. Many grouped together in renewed camaraderie. Amid the speeches and hoopla, the veterans who returned Monday to D-day's bloodiest battlefield found personal ways of reflecting on an invasion 50 years ago that changed history. For Pete Pernotto, 72, of Youngstown, Ohio, it was strolling through the American Cemetery with his adult children in his first visit to Normandy since 1945. "Back of my mind, I always had the thought that I'd like to come back some day," said Pernotto, an engineer who came ashore the day after D-day. "We started talking about it a year ago, and the kids got really taken up with it." As they toured the cemetery, past 9,386 graves decorated with flags symbolizing America's sacrifice on French soil, Pernotto pointed out the area of a German trench where he spent his first night on the beach. He talked in bursts about the hundreds of bodies his unit buried from the slaughter on Omaha Beach the day before. Hey, it was named twice Lot Angetot Timet Ntwt Service Once more, for those who may have mitted it. ... Just what doeB D-day mcnn? Military historians remind that it is the consummate redundancy: The D in D-day stands for "Day." Similarly, the H in H-hour (ae in "D-day will begin at H-hour") stands for - yes, "Hour." Visit the graves of D-day buddies "When you look at those crosses, you know what happens in war," said Pernotto's daughter, Geniene, 28. "It's important for people to see this." At times it was hard to see the rows of crosses and Stars of David for the thicket of broadcast tents, military bands, and the sheer mass of some 10,000 people here to mark the anniversary. But in remote corners of the cemetery, undisturbed by tubas or journalists, the silence was profound. Names like Petrollini, Montgomery, Solomon, Jimenez, Doyle, and Kukulsky illustrate in marble the American melting pot. And 307 times "A Comrade in Arms, Known But to God." Some, however, avoided the cemetery. Charles Neighbor, 69, of Roanoke, Va., came ashore on Omaha in the first wave with the 29th Division. His comrades, along with the 1st Infantry Division, suffered the bulk of the 3,881 killed and wounded on Omaha Beach, sent in against a fierce German cross-fire. "I got a lot of friends buried here," Neighbor said. "But I haven't tried to see any of them. I want to remember them the way they were." Neighbor was seated up front with other 29th veterans to hear President Clinton's speech. The group looked typical of many: festive hats, picnic baskets, family members in tow. But this was no convention. Many of these men can talk about their wartime experiences only with each other. May Frank, for example, never knew her husband, Al, kept a trunk of war memorabilia in their attic until he started talking about it to fellow vets from the 191st Engineers Special Brigade, which came ashore at Utah Beach. "D-day was the biggest day of his life - bigger than getting married, bigger than having kids, anything," May Frank said. For men like Frank, 85, or 76-year-old Henry Tyler of the 29th Division, war was no Rambo movie, and those who haven't seen combat don't understand. "It's dog eat dog. You live like an animal," Tyler said. "If a guy gets wounded, you say he's a lucky bastard. If he gets killed, you say he got it. Not much you can say. Sound and light show reenacts invasion and barbed wire were projected The CAEN, France D-day-plus-50 came to an end in France on Monday with a spectacular reen-actment of the Nazi occupation that the Allied invasion helped to end. More than 60,000 people came to the Caen Memorial on the 50th anniversary of the invasion to watch thousands of actors recreate France's wartime experience in a nighttime sound ana light show. The stage was i 80-foot-high. 700-ton, multilevel pyramid full of trapdoors and hidden staircase. Images of soldiers' faces, waves, onto the pyramid's four sides. Dry ice fog swirled around and explosions boomed. Beginning with the wail of air raid sirens, more than 2,000 actors played out the 1940-44 Nazi occupation, deportation of Jews, Charles de Gaulle's famed radio speech rallying Frenchmen to fight, and the mobilization of the Resistance. About a dozen parachutists glided out of the night sky, representing the American and British paratroops.

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