(by Michael Gartland, NY Post) – Seven decades after Allied troops stormed Normandy’s beaches and saved France from the Nazis, the…nation is turning its back on hundreds of U.S. WWII veterans who want to return next month to mark the invasion’s 70th anniversary.
France has broken its promise to pay for the vets to fly to this year’s commemoration, according to Rep. Michael Grimm.
“Our chief-of-staff heard it from the French Embassy in DC — that they would be flown out to France [for free],” said Nick Iacono, a spokesman for the Staten Island congressman.
But when The Post contacted the embassy Friday, Dana Purcarescu, a spokeswoman for the French Embassy in Washington said, “The French government never offered to pay for the plane tickets of the veterans traveling to France for the 70th commemoration of D-Day.”
On June 6, World War II veterans from America, France and Britain and other Allied countries will gather at Sword Beach to remember the largest sea invasion in history and the campaign that turned the tide in the war against Hitler. Within a year of the bloody battle, the Nazis and the Axis powers would be on their knees.
President Obama and French President François Hollande will preside over the anniversary and the presentation of Legion of Honor medals, France’s highest honor to American veterans.
Veterans and even U.S. military officials were shocked by the news of France’s financial betrayal of the very troops, now in their 90s, who saved them.
“France was supposed to pay for our airfare, hotel and transportation,” said Theresa Tarangelo, whose Staten Island dad fought in the offensive. “Now they’re telling us they have nothing to do with it . . . It’s really frustrating.”
U.S. Army Master Sgt. Manuel Perez, a coordinator of the event and a liaison between veterans’ families and the French government, as late as Friday was still getting scant information about airfare for as many as 400 vets. “Their office is very vague. Nothing is solid,” he said. “I’m frustrated — I’m not getting any clarification.”
Perez said “it was common knowledge” that France was footing the bill for airfare — as much as $7,000 for two people — especially since it sponsored the trips of American vets 10 years ago for the 60th anniversary.
Among those now in the lurch is 90-year-old Felice John Tulli. He was only 18 when he landed at Omaha Beach with the 29th Army Infantry Division’s 116th Battalion. “The 115th, they’re the ones who made the actual June 6th invasion. We got in there a day or two after that. They mopped up, but we saw a lot of action,” the Staten Island retiree said. …
In April, his daughter got a call from Grimm’s office telling her the French government wanted to honor Tulli.
“They told us he would receive the French Legion of Honor medal from President Obama and the French president, that he and a guest could go and that airfare, hotel and other travel would be included,” Tarangelo recalled.
France will pay for lodging and travel within the country, the embassy confirmed.
Tulli realizes this might be his last chance to honor his fallen brothers. So his daughter is organizing a Memorial Day baseball betting pool to help pay for it.
“Are we rolling in the money? No,” she said. “Can we afford to go? It’s tight.”
Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The New York Post.
PLEASE NOTE: The last day of posting for the school year is June 13th.
“Answers” emails will end for the summer on May 23rd.
1. When and what was D-Day?
2. Who will preside over the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy?
3. What is the Legion of Honor?
4. What do U.S. veterans of D-Day say the French government had offered to do?
5. What was the French government’s response to this assertion?
6. Who told the veterans France would pay for everything? Why did they think this was so?
7. The veterans who took part in the D-day landing are in their late 80’s to early 90’s. Do you think the French government should pay for their airfare as well as hotel and transportation to Normandy?
8. Why should as many vets who made the D-Day landing be able to attend and not pay for the trip? Why is it important that them be there?
From a February 12 Agence France-Presse news report:
During a visit to Washington, the French minister of veterans, Kader Arif, said that nearly 300 American veterans of the World War II D-Day landings plan to attend ceremonies and lodging and transportation to the beaches of Normandy will be covered by the French government.
“The organization is starting to be put in place,” said Arif a day after President Barack Obama hosted French President Francois Hollande at the White House. Paris wanted to honor the role of the American soldiers who “died on the beaches of France in the name of liberty,” Arif said.
The elderly veterans, including six who President Hollande decorated with the Legion of Honor in Washington, are all in their late 80s or 90s.
The age of the former soldiers makes the commemoration this year particularly important, he said, as it will be the last chance to have large numbers of veterans in attendance.
Obama announced Tuesday that he will attend the 70th anniversary of the June 6 Allied landings that liberated France from the Nazi German occupation.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II also is due to attend in a three-day state visit to France.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted an invitation from the French president to attend as well, Arif said.
About 650 US military service members will participate in the June ceremonies that will last several days.
The commemorations will include a ceremonial parachute drop by up to 700 troops from the United States, Britain, France and the Netherlands over the storied Sainte-Mere church in Normandy.
The grand finale will come on June 6 where heads of state will gather at Sword Beach, stretching from Ouistreham to Sant-Aubin-sur-Mer, where British troops and Free French commandos landed.
More than five million people are expected to attend the anniversary ceremonies.
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