Anecdotes and misc. family episodes
 Miscellaneous personal anecdotes    Bréchamps in WWII
  • Is it genetic ? The scene takes place in the main hall of the Sorbonne in Nov. 2005. I see a bill-board saying "Conseil d'Administration = privatisation" ("Board of Directors = Privatization") and underneath a young good-looking student seated at a small table with the name of his organization : "CVSE : Comité pour un Vrai Syndicalisme Etudiant" ("Committee for a True Student Union"). I am interested and I decide to elucidate this mysterious bill-board.
    - Me (as smiley as I can) : All French universities have a Board. What do you mean by this slogan ?
    - Him (full of respect) : What do you teach ?
    - Me (blushing) : Well, actually, I am a student.
    - Him : .....
    - Me (humbly) : please explain.
    - Him : Well, it is very simple : we are against any Board in universities because when there is a Board, it is tempted to do things that would be different from what other universities do and quickly, universities would become different from one another.
    - Me : so what ?
    - Him : the diplomas would no longer be national
    - Me : so what ?
    - Him : then they would not fit into the "Conventions Collectives" ("National Labor Contract") and people would not be sure to be treated the same way by employers.
    - Me : Are you kidding ?

- Him : No. You know how the dirty "patrons" ("bosses") are.
- Me : Yes, I was one two months ago and I can assure you that from a dirty-boss point of view what you say does not make any sense.
- Him : there is another reason to be against universities having a Board. It is very tempting for "patrons" to give orientations to the Board.
- Me : That is true. Maybe to help students find jobs, thanks to a well-adapted education ?
- Him : No. All they want is to destroy the university, like they do in the United States.
- Me : .... (Did I drink too much at lunch ?)
- Him : Do you realize that in the USA there are 52 million people with no Social Security ?
- Me : ..... (This kid looks intelligent : what is wrong with him ?)
- Him : Nice to talk to you. Come to our meetings.
- Me : Sure.
This, and many other comments I do not have the courage to report, happened in November 2005, in a country with almost 10% unemployed, and could have been said by thousands of other French kids with normal IQs. Is it genetic ? If it is a dialogue between The Young and The Old, who's The Old ?


We have a family home in Bréchamps, a small village of 200, in a valley near Dreux, 50 miles West of Paris.

In 1944, after D-Day, an American plane crashed in the cemetery (our garden touches the wall of the cemetery!). Here is a letter my wife wrote to the daughter of the pilot in 1994.

Ms. Sherry D., California, U.S.A.

Dear Sherry D.

Thank you so much for your letter to the Mayor of Bréchamps. It was posted in English and in its French translation, along with the photos that you sent, at the exhibition that was held after the ceremony honoring your father today.

The reason I am writing you is that I am an American, who married a Frenchman whose family purchased a home in the village of Bréchamps in 1943. They have been there ever since--and when I married my husband in 1973 and he brought me to Bréchamps, one of the first stories I heard--one I was to hear many times--was that of the American pilot who had crash landed in the village cemetery.

I was of course always intrigued by the story and so it was with special interest that I attended today's ceremony which was presided over by official representatives from the French government, the village Mayor, a representative from the American Embassy. It was a very moving ceremony, held first inside the village church where a Mass was said, and then outdoors in front of the Memorial to the war dead. (Bréchamps is a tiny village of only about 200, but it had at least 10 or more people who died in World War I. whose names are inscribed on the Monument aux Morts.)

The Mayor spoke about the circumstances of your father's death and the officials from the French government underlined how grateful they were to people like him who gave their lives. The officials stood up on the little hillock where the Memorial is and the villagers stood across the road from them. It was a cool, sunny day and everyone was dressed for the occasion.After this ceremony, we all walked to the Town Hall where the photos you sent (they had arrived just that morning!) and your letter were posted along with an exhibition showing Bréchamps as it was in 1944 and also items such as records of pilots reported as "Missing in Action" in the region. Then we walked back home where my mother-in-law, who is 79, told us the story again: it was evening, around 7:30, and she was at the next door neighbour's house. All of a sudden there was a loud noise and when they looked up, they saw a plane falling from the sky. My father-in-law for a moment thought it was going to hit the chimney on his house--but the plane continued on and crash landed in the cemetery two houses further away.


 Actually, it was my mother-in-law's mother who brought the sheet in which they wrapped up your father for burial. So you see there is a real connection and a reason that this is more than a remote tale to me.

I can assure you that even though I am of your generation (I am 48) that this story has moved me very much. I was especially honored to have attended the ceremony today which was held under the American and French flags, and to observe the minute of silence for your father who represented the young men who like him sacrificed their lives. Perhaps having lived in Europe for over 20 years and having visited the Normandy Beaches many times has made me even more aware of how great that sacrifice was: in any case, I just wanted to write to tell you how much it means to me to now be able to walk past the "Monument aux Morts" and see the plaque on which is inscribed in marble: "Weins Lloyd C. Pilote Américain Mort pour la Liberté 23 juillet 1944" (American pilot who died for freedom July 23, 1944).

Thank you again for your letter which really touched everyone who read it.

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