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D-Day: The French GI who returned to liberate his homeland

D-Day: The French GI who returned to liberate his homeland
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He has been dubbed the French GI.

For it was in American uniform that Bernard Dargols from Paris, now 94, took part in the Allied invasion of Normandy.

When war broke out, he was in New York on an internship at a sewing machine factory. The young man – whose family was Jewish – stayed in the US, where he gained citizenship and signed up for the army, specialising in military intelligence.

“I left France at the age of 18, as a young teenager,” Dargols told our reporter Laurence Alexandrowicz.

70ème Anniversaire du Débarquement Allié

“I returned at 24, six years later, with an American uniform and the rank of staff sergeant, with the possibility of seeing my family and friends again. It was an emotional time that is difficult to describe.”

Part of the dwindling band of elderly veterans who have returned to the beaches, Bernard is keen to distinguish fact from Hollywood fiction when it comes to D-Day.

“As I landed, at about 100 metres from the shore – I had never seen such a beautiful beach,” he said.

“And then for the last 100 metres, I was in the middle of a bombardment – gut-wrenching bombing that I had never experienced before. And not German bombing, but allied bombing, with the sole aim of allowing us to gain a safe foothold in France – but this bombing also killed French civilians and destroyed French homes.”

Exactly 70 years on, thoughts are also with the military men who left their lives behind, their graves stretched out in row upon row in the region.

Our correspondent Laurence Alexandrowicz said: “Only American soldiers who fell during World War Two lie in this cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer – victims of the D-Day landings represent only 10 percent of the graves. It is an extremely moving place, the most visited site of all the monuments linked to the Normandy landings.”