Revisionist history on hold

D-Day seems to have been well commemorated in France on its 70th anniversary. President Obama apparently saw fit to chew gum while Queen Elizabeth II was welcomed and during the playing of the Marseillaise. But as far as I can tell, the Europeans behaved with dignity and gratitude, as well they should.

There is, though, an unflattering revisionist history of the Normandy invasion that has gained some currency in France. I became aware of it in 2008 when I visited the region and overheard a French tour guide talking to some French tourists. He said that, although he doesn’t mention it when he gives tours to Americans, young historians have shown that American bombing during the invasion was far too indiscriminate. Some churches, for example, were bombed quite unnecessarily.

Perhaps this narrative has faded now that America has left Iraq and is headed out of Afghanistan. Except when we are fighting directly for their freedom, the French typically like America better when it is in retreat.

But we should never underestimate the stupidity of “young historians,” the capacity of humankind for ingratitude, or the extent to which history is always up for grabs.


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