As Tracy Sugarman so memorably recalls D-Day–before and after–(in his book My War), he was on boats and on the shore at Utah Beach from June 6 to October 22, as a naval officer, when his brother Marv suddenly turned up. Tracy had no idea his brother had enlisted, much less that he had come to France–and had washed up on Utah Beach, too!
On October 22, 1944, they were reunited and spent the day in Cherbourg.
The next day they departed for Barfleur, which is (sort of) in my old neighborhood (like Honfleur and Harfleur, it’s in the Basse-Normandie, on the south side of the Seine across from Le Havre and the Haute-Normandie).
As Tracy had access to a jeep, they rode to dinner at the Hotel Moderne in Barfleur, driving “. . . carefully through the still-rubbled streets of the town, then on to the coastal highway that ran up the peninsula to Barfleur and Cherbourg. We found the modest and miniature hotel easily and paused at the entrance. GRAND PRIX 1931, GRAND PRIX 1935, GRAND PRIX 1937. As we entered the tiny dining room, the elderly owner greeted us with “Bienvenue!” and led us to a table. I thanked him, and told him that we were about to celebrate a very special occasion.
‘I have been on Utah Beach since D-Day,’ I said. ‘And yesterday my brother arrived with his army outfit–on my beach!’
The old man’s eyes opened wide. ‘Mon Dieu! Brothers? How marvelous! This is a very special occasion indeed!’
He paused a moment, and then asked us to follow him. He led us through the fragrant kitchen, pausing only to introduce us to the chef. ‘Tonight we are serving both the American navy and the American army, Jacques. En garde!’
We followed the elderly gentleman out into the small vegetable garden, where he picked up a shovel that leaned against the potting shed. Walking carefully between the rows of beans and carrots, he paused at a flat rock and nudged it aside with his toe. He began to dig, his face concentrated on his labors. He stopped suddenly, and reached into the dark soil. Smiling broadly, he handed each of us a bottle of Muscadet, the moist dirt still clinging to the dark green glass.
‘For five years–five very long years,’ he said, ‘these wines have hidden from the Boches. Tonight they will celebrate this memorable American reunion!’
‘Memorable’ doesn’t even begin to cover that remarkable evening with my brother and our new French friend.”
My War–A Love Story in Letters and Drawings, Tracy Sugarman, Random House, Inc., 2000, pp. 128-133.