Saturday, August 23, 2014

French Gratitude to the Allies - Hard to Track

Laval story on the monument to the MZ 684 crew. John
Tepper Marlin points to his uncle's name, F/O W.J. van
Stockum, Cpl. Pamela Turney to her great-uncle's name,
Sgt. Fred Beales.
Richard Rubin has a fine article on how the French remember, with gratitude, the U.S. entry into World War I.

He says that when the French speak about "The War" they are talking about World War I.

I think that depends on the region of France and which war had the most impact in that region.

When we were in Normandy and Mayenne in June, as the 70th anniversary of D-Day was being remembered, "The War" was World War II.

And the French there were just as grateful for the support of the Allies in World War II as they were for their support in World War I.

Just as it is hard sometimes for someone writing thank-you notes to keep track of which guest gave which gift, it is hard sometimes for the French to keep the Allies straight.

The story in the Laval, Mayenne, France newspaper about the unveiling of monument to the crews of two planes that were shot down in the week after D-Day thanks the "britannique et canadien", "British and Canadian" airmen. In fact it was more complex than that.

The Halifax MZ-684 was piloted by a Dutchman (Flying Officer W. J. van Stockum, via the R.C.A.F.) resident in the United States and awaiting U.S. citizenship. The other plane, the Halifax MZ-352, was piloted by an Australian (Flying Officer Thomas Henderson, flying for the Australian Air Force).

August 24, 2014 - Postscript

A friend writes to me saying that The New York Times story and my tributes to the sacrifices of the Allies is lovely and sentimental but how about what is going on today? Back in the days of the Black and Tans, there were people charging The Times of London with "Afghanistanism" -writing strong editorials about atrocities in Afghanistan while overlooking the atrocities in Ireland.

My answer is that it is precisely when we have crisis points in the world that we need to look back and see how we got through the crises of the past. I am aware that Forbes is tracking every omission or error in reporting on the Middle East by the The New York Times. The finances of the newspaper business have changed, and we may not be able to rely as much on only one or two sources for our information.

I am not ready to trade in The New York Times for Forbes, but maybe one result of the democratization of news gathering, news dissemination and opinion-writing is that bloggers have to think about their changing role:

  • Should bloggers only tackle topic areas where they feel less comfortable?
  • Or should they make an effort to go into topic areas where they feel less sure of themselves, but where their thinking and opinions are needed?