October 16, 2018
More than seventy years ago, as part of the Northwest European Campaign against Nazi Germany, the armed forces of the United States and the British Commonwealth waged an air war against France. It lasted four long years and targeted most of France’s population centers, small towns, and even isolated villages. In 1944, as the Norman landings approached, the bombing intensity increased dramatically, and by the end of the year, aircraft from the United States Army Air Force and British Royal Air Force had killed approximately 75,000 French civilians, injured thousands more, and destroyed thousands of buildings and historic structures. Today, monuments across France attest to the effects of these attacks, often naming the individual victims in the same manner a war memorial commemorates the conflicts military veterans. Newspapers and civic groups alert the rebuilt communities when an anniversary of an unusually significant attack approaches. Finally, cemetery plots, often entombing entire families, provide tangible evidence of the grief suffered by families and communities.
This is not the traditional story known to most who have accepted the “Greatest Generation” narrative familiar in today's America. Beyond the Beach: The Allied War Against France, inherently challenges accepted narratives held by American historians, military history enthusiasts, the US Air Force, and the French themselves. In this discussion, the author explains and explores these counter-narratives that are at the heart of his writing.
Stephen A. Bourque Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of military history at the School of Advanced Military Studies, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He left the US Army in 1992 after twenty years enlisted and commissioned service, with duty stations in the United States, Germany, and the Middle East. Dr. Bourque has taught at several colleges and universities including Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, California State University-Northridge, the University of Kansas, and the Command and General Staff College. His publications include Jayhawk! The VII Corps in the 1991 Persian Gulf War (2002), The Road to Safwan (2007), and Soldiers' Lives: The Post-Cold War Era (2008), and most recently the book Beyond the Beach, the Allied War Against France (2018). Currently, he is writing a history of the Northwest Europe Campaign as experienced by a senior officer who began the war as a corps chief of staff and ended it as an infantry regimental commander.