WORDS FROM OUR PRESIDENT
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A Word from our President
Périers, February 22, 2000
The least one can say is that this column is far from reaching its saturation point. Even if late for a wish, may the year 2000 bring or keep you all the good health and a little of happiness.
Our Internet site, which will receive its 5150th guest today, fills every day more out. We acquired the domain name www.normandy44.com which will allow us to cover other numerous columns, such as researches of persons or of witnesses. For a few months already, we have been looking especially for members of the 508th Fighter Squadron, friends of Lieutenants Bert Espy and Ben Kitchens killed during the collision of their P47s on June 24, 1944 (witness of which I was). We also look for the members of the two bombing missions over Périers on June 8 (BG 409) and June 13 (BG 391) : we have parts of the official archives, but know very few direct witnesses having carried them out.
The efficiency of this Internet site is indisputable ; since August 1999 we have received or emitted more than 800 e-mail messages. Our efforts for research and for answer especially focus on helping Veterans and their families ; may the others forgive us, the Frenchmen in particular, but it is impossible for us to start researches in their place. It is a long-term job, of perseverance, of uncountable working hours that we can not physically assume.
All our attention is today directed on the realization of the Monument which will be unveiled on next Sunday , June 4 at 12:00 AM.
The result of the subscription opened near American and French citizens is exceeding our original wishes. It was as a consequence decided during our General Meeting to give to this memorial another dimension. Four American soldiers of the 90th US Division, killed in action at Périers or in its vicinity on June or July, 1944 are represented in human size. The statue shows Virgil Tangborn, a medic providing help to the wounded Sergeant Andrew Speese, who tries to stand up again. At their sides, soldier Richard Richtman watches and protects them. Behind them, sergeant Tullio Micaloni member of a tank crew is making signs for his platoon of tanks to move. May we remind you, we made all what was possible so that the faces of these people look the same as the real faces of these soldiers killed close to us. Their relatives, who participated in the gathering of the information and photos necessary for these reconstructions will be present at the inauguration. We know that the moment of the unveiling of the Monument will be a time of intense emotion for all and more particularly for these four families.
It also was necessary to pay our tribute to the courage and the sacrifice of the "Prisiaises" women (inhabitants of Périers) who were able to face the new crushing loads daily imposed by the absence of their men during four years, sometimes more.
The estrangement of these husbands or sons, often war prisoners in distant Stalags, sometimes engaged somewhere in the Free Forces, maybe also still lying under the ruins of their house, had left many French families in a deep confusion. So we considered convenient to represent, several meters away from the group of GIs, an overwhelmed with grief woman, sat on a stony heap, vestiges of the walls of her house. Near her, a boy about ten or so, perceiving the Americans tries to escape her mother and to run towards them. This child, the only cheerful element of this composition, will symbolize the Freedom and the Joy to living found again. To the Americans, these "civilians" may also be the mother and the child who vainly wait at their house, for the husband or the Dad who will never return.
You will notice that we did not try to celebrate The War but only to glorify those who suffered from it and immortalize their memory, whoever they were.
The approach of the date of inauguration imposes a follow-up of the potential visitors and invited guests, of their housing, of the preparation of the details of the ceremony which are no more really details. The City of Périers which covers the set of the three days of celebrations has of course its own obligations with another organizations and associations. Everything settles in the greatest friendship but all the problems and they are numerous however have to find their solutions. Some groups work on the housing, others on the program of the ceremonies, others else on the Périers's review from prehistoric times until 2000, through the Middle Age, the French Revolution, the two great wars, the bombings of Périers and the Liberation. The animation of Friday will be the result of a work of teams of local amateurs supported by mature professionals.
So will Périers live three days of celebrations, three days of festivities and of great emotion, the top being the inauguration of the Monument. The sculptor Patrick Cottencin left the neighborhood of Chartres and now works near Paris. Every month we use to visit him and follow the evolution of his work. The monument of the Four Braves will be set up in the last days of May but no definitive picture of it will be shown before its inauguration.
A part of the official invitations is already launched, but we shall announce the list of the coming personalities only after confirmation of their part. The Commander-in-chief of the US Army in Europe let us us hear that he would ensure the presence of a military music and of a guard of honor. Heir of the old 90th Infantry division, the 90th Regional Support Command, at present quartered at Little Rock, Arkansas, will doubtless send a beautiful delegation. The Veterans also and especially will be present, one hundred or so of them have already booked their places ; they are not any more twenty years old but they will come. They will make the journey either in organized group, or separately. Numerous children and grandchildren will accompany them, it will be one of the last occasions for the young people, to hear from the mouth of the grandfather, on the spot, what was the reality of the fights of 44.
In the middle of them, we shall meet the special group made by the families of our Four Braves : Richard, Andrew, Virgil and Tullio, these young men who rest in Colleville's cemetery. Them, they never had the time to realize a life, nor to bring up their children, nor to become old.
Stimulated by good wills, trained by an enthusiastic professor, sixteen pupils from a class of the Périers high school, "adopted" the four families of the soldiers of the Monument and are in permanent contact with them. In June, these young people will display all the information collected from "their" families and will take part in the inauguration.
These days of June 2000 are undoubtly going to mark the life of Périers. You will find their Schedule in our Internet site. It will be updated according to the successful confirmations.
I thank you for your patience and for your kindness.
Henri G. Levaufre, President.
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A Word from our President
Périers 5 September, 1999
Apparently only, the President writes little!
The temptation is regrettably always to wait for some extra days to try to give a more complete information. Here is however the latest data with regard to the Monument and its inauguration.
The subscription having perfectly worked in the States as well as in France, it covers the expense of the Monument and of works appendices. If you have not still contributed and wish however to participate, know that your participation will be welcome and will allow still to improve the result. As expected the list of the givers will appear in a document sealed in a capsule, which will be enclosed in the body of the Monument. Know that we received some very important donations and a multitude of others that I should not qualify of small because all are at the measure of the wallet and of the heart of each one.
The sculptor Patrick Cottencin is working full-time on the four sculptures.
During our last visit in his Eure & Loir (near Chartres) studio, what we could see has confirmed that we chose an artist with a strong sensibility, who can give a soul to his work. Our wish, to see the memory of our four soldiers live in their statues, seems realized.
At the end of September, we shall visit the studio of the artist again and shall make a new point of the progress.
To settle in the detail, the ceremonies of the inauguration, numerous
debates are indispensable, not only within our own Association, but also with other organizations, the Périers
Municipality and the concerned Administrations.
If the date is fixed in a precise way on Sunday, June 4, 2000 at 11:00 am, some elements which are not details are still needing reflection, and are suspended for a large part to the expected answers from the consulted American and French authorities. As soon as we have firm indications, we shall not fail to share them with you.
We wish to give to this day all the dimension and dignity that it deserves. We shall put everything at work so that not only the assistance will be proud to participate but even more so that the American families who lost one of their members for us, can return home with the calmed soul, knowing that Frenchmen watch on the memory of theirs.
During the annual meeting of the Association of the Veterans of the 90th Division, which ended on Sunday, September 5 in Indianapolis, the participation of the Veterans to the inauguration was discussed. A tour operator presented a project of package tour. We will come back on this subject later on.
Plaster cast trial bust - © P. Cottencin - November 99. Don't search for any resemblance, this is an anonymous study face.
Five hundred persons have so been able to judge visually our mission and its promotion. The visits of our Congressman Alain Cousin, vice-president of the General Councill of La Manche and of Jean Le Garrec, President of the Committee of the Cultural Affairs in the French National Congress, their conversations and comments, show the interest that these responsible authorities feel not only for our Monument but for the whole project of the Périers Place of Memory.
The Association Normandy 44 also deposited files for demands of partnership near the ONAC (French National Office of War Veterans) and of the Credit Agricole Bank of Lower-Normandy. Without prejudging results, we know that these requests left the local or departmental level with a favourable advice.
Our Internet site received more than 2000 visitors. It drained an important mail, revealing the enthusiastic interest of the American Veterans and their families.
You can rely on us.
Please, make our Association be well known around you. We need you, I thank you.
Henri G. Levaufre
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A Word from our President
Périers January 20th, 1999
This is my second letter as the President of this Association.
It will be uneasy, within a few words to resume the works realized during the two last months.
We spent a lot of energy to elaborate and get our brochure printed : "The Future of a Memory". In spite of the good will of all, the artist many hours of conception, the good will of the printer and our own commitment, we did not reach easily our expected goal.
An other of our problems and it seems uneasy to solve, is the possibility to collect funds from American Citizens, and many volunteered, without having the painful obligation to leave to the bank a percentage of the total amount. We are doing our best to clear this problem with several devoted persons working with us in the States.
On the French side we are beginning the mailing of our nice brochure. Every French town or village, liberated at least partially by the 90th Infantry Division, will receive this brochure. Of course they will find inside a "Subscription form". All VIPs, members of our families, friends will be also asked to contribute. I already told that, according to the French laws and our conviction, no list of donors will be published for commercial use.
To begin to work, we had to borrow from our bank, an amount of francs : 50,000 Francs (about $ 9,000). With this money we can afford the expense of the conception, printing and mailing of our brochure and order the conception of the Monument statues. All your subscriptions are essential to the balance of our budget. They can be modest, however we have several good friends who, knowing the quality of our project and its goal, will be honored to participate with a more substantial donation.
I already told you that I wish sincerely not to ask American Veterans to send money. I wish only they talk among the circle of their family, friends, relations of all kinds. However, it's my duty to let you know that the son of a 90th Veteran, killed near Périers, made a $ 500 donation. Also a returning Veteran, who lost his leg on Mont-Castre (Hill 122), when he was 19 in July 44, gave also $ 500. As I was specially reluctant to receive his money, he added : "this money for the Monument is not from the Veteran but from your friend !" Thank you to both of these men.
Also before, I told you that the faces of the three soldiers of our Monument, will express more human misery and the will to survive to protect Liberty than heroic attitudes of great style. We want their faces to have certain features in common with the faces of true soldiers that got killed in combat in Périers or surrounding area. I am talking with three of these families. So, for each man, we will have not only a statue but also a background in which people will try to understand why young American came to France for the supreme sacrifice.
Pretty soon, the City of Périers will offer a building inside the local park, where we will have a temporary place of exhibition and where the French sculptor Patrick Cottencin will work from time to time, mainly for the molding works.
It's my duty also to thank all the members of our team who worked pretty hard, often for some of them, far outside the normal limits to help the Association progress. I more specifically thank two of our sons, Christian and François for their performance. They realized the logo, translated hundreds of pages and above all, conceived and realized our Web site, that even professional computer scientists are watching with envy !
Please, make our Association be well known around
you. We need you, I thank you.
PS. To write this letter I am using my own English, be indulgent.
Henri G. Levaufre
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A Word from our President
Périers, December 19th 1998
Our Association is a young one, born in July 1998. However if its roots look like young, they are already strong.
At first what are we talking about ?
Our main purpose is to gather people of good will, brave people that feel much concerned by the Duty of Memory and are still able to say "Thank You".
Several will think that an Association that wish to remember and prevent others to forget events that are some 54 years old, wakes up a little bit too late. I will not try to convince them.
Our main goal is precisely to tell to the Men that did amply their job, this simple "Thank You" that very few of us had the true opportunity to express individually after the battle. In fact the time is now limited to let the American Veterans know the so strong acknowledgement we have in our hearts. Time passing, pretty soon we will have to transfer our gratitude to their children and grand children.
We will have to help them, even when some of us will be gone, and this is the principle number one of our Association : Serve these Men that already gave so much for us in 1944 and after them, their families.
Of course, we did not wait so many years to proof our true ability. Since 1971, under a more individual way, Citizens of Périers and area have demonstrated their interest and savoir-faire in welcome and recognition.
Now, you know what my principles are. There is no doubt, I will commit a few mistakes, but will never agree deliberately on compromises about historical truth, too many times embellished, nor about the quality of our assistance to American Veterans.
Every person in good faith and who, from the bottom of his heart, wish to help us in our projects is welcome. But no one should forget that we are here not to show off but to serve. It's also why, although the subscription is opened to all, we refuse to ask the Veterans to financially participate to the construction of their Monument, that we wish to be of outstanding quality.
The Veterans paid in 1944, this will be Our Monument to Their Memory.
On this day we are settling our Web site, I rely on your confidence. Have a merry Christmas and a happy New
Henri G. Levaufre
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