Fury at Disney-Style ‘D-Day Theme Park’ Plans for a $110 Million Attraction

George Winston
American veteran Harold Johnson, 97, from Hobart, Indiana, stands beside the 116th Regimental Combat Team Memorial at Omaha Beach during commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
American veteran Harold Johnson, 97, from Hobart, Indiana, stands beside the 116th Regimental Combat Team Memorial at Omaha Beach during commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)

D-Day: What then to make of the plan, announced recently, to build a “theme park” -type permanent installation near where the D-Day landings occurred, in Normandy?

With the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz happening on January 27th, people in countries around the world are hosting events to mark the historic day.

US veteran Raymond Wallace gestures as he arrives to take part in the “Carre de Choux” commerative ceremony, in Carentan.  LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images
US veteran Raymond Wallace gestures as he arrives to take part in the “Carre de Choux” commerative ceremony, in Carentan.  LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images

Those events will be solemn, dignified and respectful, fitting the tremendous seriousness of the occasion when prisoners barely alive were finally liberated by the Russian Army.

This announcement has outraged many people, who say it is an insult to the men who fought, died or were injured on those famous beaches.

Crosses of remembrance placed alongside a Union flag at dawn on the beach at Arromanches in Normandy. Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images
Crosses of remembrance placed alongside a Union flag at dawn on the beach at Arromanches in Normandy. Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images

Herve Morin, who is president of the Normandy region, told the UK press that he hopes to see the complex built by the 80th anniversary of D-Day, on June 6th 2024.

“All that’s left,” he said in an interview, “is to find building lands, not on the beaches themselves, but very close to Juno, Omaha or Utah,” which are three of the five beaches at which the invasion took place.

WWII US native American Indian veteran Charles Shay listens to the national anthem as he takes part in a ceremony on Omaha Beach. LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images
WWII US native American Indian veteran Charles Shay listens to the national anthem as he takes part in a ceremony on Omaha Beach. LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images

But some say such a complex would cheapen the invasion’s significance and be an insult to the men and women who fought, died or were injured there.

One of the project’s most vocal critics is the National Research Group of France. This organization is comprised of historians who specialize in the Second World War.

Canadian veteran Jim Warford during Canadian Ceremony at the Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery. Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Canadian veteran Jim Warford during Canadian Ceremony at the Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery. Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A spokesman for the group said in a statement, “The Normandy landings (are) a page in the history of France,” it stated, “which should be respected — and the theme park, if that is in fact what’s planned, is a grave mistake.” The proposed project has been derisively nicknamed ‘D-Day Land.’

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German military cemetery at La Cambe, north-western France.DAMIEN MEYER/AFP via Getty Images

Other opponents include Oliver Paz, who is mayor of Merville-Franceville, the place at which British soldiers parachuted into to help destroy a German gun battery just before the D-Day invasion occurred.

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Vera Hay, 96, who was a nursing sister in the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and landed on Gold Beach shortly after D-Day. GETTY.

He told the daily mail that the proposed project “should not be allowed to become Disneyland.”

That certainly sounds like a fair description of the project, which planners said will include movie theatres, light and sound displays, and battleground reenactments.

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WWII US veteran Norman Duncan (L) and British veteran Mervyn Kersh attend a remembrance ceremony at The Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer. DAMIEN MEYER/AFP via Getty Images

Millions of people already visit Normandy each year, particularly when anniversary celebrations for the invasions take place on June 6th, D-Day.

There already exists monuments, statues and museums in the region that commemorate the landings in what critics of the proposed site say are more dignified, and befitting the solemn aspect the invasion engenders.

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The Nazi propaganda image depicts soldiers of the German Wehrmacht with captured British soldiers in Saint-Nazaire in France which was occupied by the Wehrmacht. The photo was taken in March 1942. Getty Images

At the moment, it seems that many French citizens, not just nearby officials, are also against the proposed project.

An online petition against it has garnered almost 17,500 signatures since it was recently launched, according to a recent article published by the telegraph.

But Morin seems undeterred by the criticism he, and the site, are facing.

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A picture taken on June 5, 2019, shows some flowers led on graves at The Normandy British Cemetery in Bayeux, north-western France, as part of events for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.  JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images

He said he hopes to hire a Hollywood director to help stage events that will draw “thrill seeking” individuals to the area, even more than the millions who already make the pilgrimage each year.

Although respect for the veterans who fought at Normandy is the priority for the National Research Group, the statement issued by the organization also noted that the project “will do serious harm to the ecology” of the area.

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Gold beach. LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images

But it is the reaction of veterans that most concerns the group: “It…lacks respect for the veterans and the people killed during the Normandy landings, and the battle that followed,” the petition says.

Morin, however, claims that approximately 100 million Euros in private money has been raised for the project, and he is determined to see it through.

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WWII British veteran Mervyn Kresh walks among headstones following a remembrance ceremony at The Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer.  DAMIEN MEYER/AFP via Getty Images

So far there is no word whether federal officials, like President Emmanuel Macron, will get involved to either support or axe the project.

In many ways it is a local matter, but Morin’s plans are getting a lot of resistance, both online and in the media.

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One individual involved in launching the petition, Christophe Clement, told the telegraph, “this requires a certain elegance and dignity, and we want to be sure that politicians and private business respects that.”