American D-Day veterans are crying foul over a French initiative, approved last month by President Nicolas Sarkozy, to construct over one hundred 525-feet wind turbines just off the Normandy landing grounds.
Gérard Lecornu, president of the Port Winston Churchill Association of Arromanches, says the giant structures, expected to be built seven miles offshore, will be visible from the Normandy battleground beaches of Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
“Three million tourists come from the world over to the landing beaches. The first thing they do is look at the line of horizon from where the landings came,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “D-Day is in our collective memory. To touch this is a very grave attack on that memory.”
American veterans are weighing in with opposition and dismay. Bob Sales, the only survivor from his landing craft on D-Day, and Omaha beach veteran Bob Slaughter told The Daily Caller that the beaches are “sacred ground” and expressed their strong opposition to the building of the turbines.
Hal Baumgarten, who was wounded five times on Omaha beach, added that he considers the beaches a “shrine” to those who died and said that constructing windmills off the coast would be a “desecration.”
“I landed with the first wave on Omaha beach,” said Baumgarten. “Of course it is hallowed ground. I have been going back for the last 15 years straight — except I missed last year and this year … When I look at it I see all the bodies — we lost a lot of people on D-Day, especially on my beach where we couldn’t get any reinforcements.”
“[The windmills] will take away from the scene” Baumgarten added. “People that I know who have gone there for the first time and they are standing at the beach at low tide — even the generals — Ernie Pyle put [it like this] in his book: ‘If I didn’t see it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it.’”
The need for renewable energy is not lost on these veterans. They readily acknowledge the need to find and harness new forms of energy, but the beaches of Normandy, they say, should not be tampered with.
“Obviously the need for renewable energy is an important consideration in these times,” Tim Holbert, executive director of the American Veterans Center, told TheDC. “However, that need must be balanced against the need to preserve history that was made sacred by the sacrifices of thousands of Allied men on D-Day. We owe it to them to treat their legacy with the respect it deserves.”
Military historian Paul Stillwell explained that the steadfast opposition by surviving D-Day veterans is more than understandable.
“In effect that has become sacred ground and it is a huge intrusion to put some kind of distraction like that nearby,” Stillwell said. “You could compare it to the Battle of Gettysburg. Some years ago an entrepreneur put up a large observation tower [on the Gettysburg battleground], which was considered a desecration and public opinion was such that it was finally demolished.”
“Obviously the world needs to find alternative sources of energy, but I do not think that is the place,” he added.
“I think it’s a disgusting affair,” Jack Martin, a Canadian who was among the soldiers on Juno Beach, weighed in on CTV Edmonton in Canada. “I saw so many of my buddies and friends die on Juno Beach that I figure it is very hallowed grounds.”
The French government insists that the windmills will not significantly mar the view from the coast and that “most” local officials support the plan, which is expected to be completed by 2020.
“The transition to the 21st century by making the most of huge unexploited wind power off our coasts is not an insult to yesterday’s warriors,” Mickaël Marie, president of the Europe Ecologie group at the lower Normandy regional council, told The Telegraph.