Over on Facebook, I challenged readers to identify a photo:
There is a story to this one, and one I think you will enjoy. I saw this walking up Sword beach, sticking up above the sand. Being curious, I walked up the rise to check it out.
Yes, it is an eternal flame in steel. On that steel are some names.
Then, you step back and as you do you look to the left.
Now, the full view as seen from the front if you walk up from the street.
The memorial is for the "Commando" Keiffer and memorializes the unit and those who died liberating Ouistreham and France. It is a story worth knowing, as they wore a green beret long before the idea came to our shores, and they set the stage for it.
Many of the Free French forces were not army forces, but sailors who were on ships that went to England rather than surrender as part of the capitulation to Germany. Phillipe Keiffer had volunteered for naval service in 1939 at the age of 40, and served at Dunkirk and elsewhere. He was impressed with the British Commandos, and requested permission to form a similar unit of Free French. After a lot of work, this was granted.
He and his unit trained with the British, and this meant brutal training and even the use of live ammunition in exercises. They took casualties, but the unit excelled to the point that the British were not just impressed, they respected and even non-commando British officers took to saluting anyone wearing the green beret denoting someone who had made the cut to become a member of what became known as the Keiffer Commando.
One thing you don't see in the movie "The Longest Day" is that of the Free French forces landing on D-Day, a number of officers were killed on the way in by an artillery shell hitting the boats, and that Phillipe Kieffer was wounded in that blast. From what I have been told here, it was worse that he wanted anyone to know, and just as he kept up with his men as they ran and trained, he kept up with them as best he could despite his wound.
His commando lost several men in that initial assault, but they took the goal. They then went and cleared every other goal they had and pressed forward. It is a story now well known to Americans, and for those interested in special forces, it is one I commend to be studied.
Today, he and his men live on in a steel flame eternal, and a memorial providing those lost that day with a place of memory bright.
This trip and other embeds sponsored by MilitaryLuggage.Com and B.N. Shape Clothing. Normandy coverage also made possible by Enterprise Rent A Car Caen Railway Office. My thanks to them and to all who have contributed to make this and other trips possible.