THEY travelled thousands of miles to pay their respects, but their efforts could be in vain.
Americans in France to visit a D-Day cemetery were disappointed when they learnt their own government’s shutdown had forced its closure.
Thousands cross the Atlantic to Normandy each year to see where Allied soldiers made their first entry into Nazi-occupied France during a massive invasion on June 6, 1944, known as D-Day.
A year from the invasion’s 70th anniversary, many came to visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer.
But a sign on the gate read: “Due to the US Government shut-down this site is closed to the public.”
A political standoff in Washington between Republicans and Democrats over the US budget has shutdown non-essential government services, including the American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) that manages dozens of cemeteries for US servicemen in foreign countries.
The AMBC’s website said its cemeteries and memorials commemorating some 125,000 American war dead abroad were closed temporarily due to a funding gap linked to the shutdown.
Danny and Elizabeth Ferguson, a couple from North Carolina, said they were shocked to find the cemetery closed.
“We were very very sad, after travelling so far and making such plans, to find that the government has elected to shut this place down,” said Danny, a lawyer. “We think it’s all political, and we think it’s terrible.”
Fred Oldman, whose father was part of the invasion at Ohio beach, one of five codenames given to the beaches, said he never assumed the sites would not be operating when he scheduled his trip.
“We scheduled this trip about nine months ago and unfortunately we can’t go to a cemetery because our government seems to shut everything down when they can’t get along,” he said. “So we’re very disappointed in that.”