Rebecca in France Spain

Rebecca is a President’s Scholar and a triple major in art history in Meadows School of the Arts and Spanish and French in Dedman College. In Summer 2009, she will begin her travels in the sunny South of France on the Cote d’Azur before continuing to Barcelona. There, she will pursue a Richter research project, studying the relationship between nationalized Catholicism, the Franco regime and parish church architecture in the Catalunya region of northeastern Spain. After Barcelona, Rebecca will continue to the Burgundy region of France, where she will volunteer as a guest worker on an organic vegetable farm before settling down for Fall 2009 in Madrid.

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Past and present in St. Raphael

DSC_0132.png One of my final and favorite memories from the South of France took place last Sunday with the Quilicis, a local family who graciously shared their home and hospitality with me and another SMU student as our trip came to a close. The Quilicis took us by car down the winding coast to St. Raphael for a day of relaxation, bazaar shopping, and delicious ice cream. But more important than relaxation was the opportunity to see the beaches of Dramont where the U.S. 36th Infantry Division landed on August 15 of 1944.

My paternal grandfather was around my age when he was drafted into the U.S. Army after Pearl Harbor in 1941. A Chicago native, he was ironically placed in the 36th “Texas” Infantry Division after a year of training stateside. After fighting for a year in Italy in some of the worst battles of the war, his unit landed in Southern France to continue the liberation campaign in the European Theatre, eventually being awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

The beach was sunny and fresh at mid-day on that Saturday, alive with picnickers, sunbathers, and vibrant musicians. Nevertheless, it was quieting to see the beaches and the monuments knowing that my grandfather had arrived in the same place almost 65 years ago with a very different objective. Whereas my goals in France included study, relaxation, and cultural interaction, his top priority was staying alive.

The parking lot above the beaches has several monuments and one of the U.S. boats used in the debarquement. According to locals, a celebration is held every year on the 15th of August to commemorate the town’s liberation.

DSC_0151.jpg The monument, in English and French, reads:

Over this defended beach the men of the 36th U.S. Infantry Division stormed ashore 15 August 1944. Together with their French allies they began here the drive that took them across France, through Germany and into Austria, to the final destruction of the German armies and the Nazi regime.

C’est sur cette plage opiniatrement defendue que, le 15 aout 1944, debarquerent en force les hommes de la 36e Division d’infanterie americaine. C’est d’ici qu’avec leurs allies francais ils commencerent la poussee qui les mena a travers la France, l’Allemagne et l’Autriche, achevant la destruction complete de l’armde allemande et du regime Nazi.

As my time in the South of France came to a close, it was both humbling and fitting to experience such a moment. What else to do but smile and bid France adieu for now!

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    One Response to Past and present in St. Raphael

    1. Michael P. Higgins says:

      Rebecca:

      Hello!

      What a small world!

      My father, Captain Martin J. Higgins (then 1st Lieutenant) commanded 1st Platoon, Company A (ABLE Company), 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th (TEXAS) Infantry Division. He was in the first wave ashore on Calanque d’ Anthéor – code named “Beach 264-C,” and “CAMEL BLUE Beach” at
      H-Hour (0800 hrs), D-Day (15 August 1944).

      With which Company did you grandfather serve?

      My son is currently a sophomore at SMU.

      I look forward to your reply!

      Best regards,
      Michael P. Higgins

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