US Govt. shutdown effects stretch across the Atlantic- Tourists enraged at US D-Day Cemetery site in Normandy

US Govt. shutdown effects stretch across the Atlantic- Tourists enraged at US D-day site in Normandy

Photo story:  (Clockwise from top left) (1) American troops wade ashore on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France (2) Ships protected by barrage balloons landing supplies at Normandy. (3) Normandy American Memorial (4) Normandy American Cemetery

US First Army built the temporary American cemetery on European soil, the Normandy Cemetery and Memorial on June 8th, 1944. After the war it was moved to a short distance away from the first site. France has allotted the US special perpetual concession to the Cemetery land, free of any taxes, like other overseas American cemeteries of WWI & WWII in France. Managed by the American Government under the Congressional acts, US flag flies over these granted lands. American tourists who had travelled thousands of miles to see the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in recent days were enraged to find it closed due to the US Government shutdown, reports.

US Government shutdown is a process in the US politics in which the Govt. Executive Branch must enter when the Congress creates a ‘funding gap’ by choosing to pass or by failing to pass legislation to fund the Government agencies and operations. The US new budget began on 1st Oct, 2013. But the Congress has failed to pass a single law to fund money for federal agencies because the Republicans have insisted on not approving stop-gap initiatives unless the Democrats blocks the funding for President Obama’s Health care reform programs which is according to the Republicans ‘too costly’. Democrats have refused to stop the reform. During a shutdown both Republicans and Democrats observes the public opinion and see which side gets blamed for the deadlock. US Federal Government had funding gaps on 18 occasions since 1976. Gaps resulting in shutdowns started to occur since 1981. Clinton administration also faced two shutdowns, one lasting 5 days and the other 21 days. The current shutdown started on 30th September 2013, the impasse already in its 13 days.

To see the beaches and stiff cliffs where the allied forces first made their entry into the Nazi controlled France during a massive offensive on 6th June, 1944, thousands of US citizens flock to Normandy. It was known as the D-Day Normandy. Military term D-Day is the day on which a combat offensive is initiated. The largest amphibious attack to ever take place was the Invasion of Normandy, codenamed Operation Neptune. In over eight centuries it was the first successful opposed landings across the English Channel. This Allied offensive inflicted defeat on the Germans here. The attack made sure Germans lost position in most of France and helped the Russians facing huge number of German troops on the Eastern front. Allied forces landed around 156,000 soldiers in Normandy, among them 73,000 were Americans, 61,715 were British and the rest from other Allied countries. Casualties among the Allied forces and the Germans both remained huge. Estimated 10,000 casualties including 4,413 dead have been estimated on the Allied side on the D-Day. German casualties on the D-Day are estimated between 4,000 to 9,000 soldiers. Battle of Normandy total casualties were over 425,000 including over 209,000 Allied casualties.

Many came to visit the Normandy Memorial and the pristine rows of the white crosses at the Cemetery a year ahead of the 70th anniversary of the invasion. A sign on the gate now reads that due to the US Government shutdown the site has been closed to the public. Underneath the sign dozens of roses had been strewn by the visitors. The shutdown included American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) that manages dozens of US servicemen cemeteries in foreign countries. The AMBC’s website confirmed the temporary shutdown.

Some of the tourists from the US said that they had been planning their trips for months. They blamed the opportunism of the congressmen that caused the deadlock that deprived them accessing the cemetery where their ancestors were buried. A couple from North Carolina, Danny and Elizabeth Ferguson were shocked not to be able to enter the cemetery after travelling so far and said that they thought it was ‘political’ and ‘terrible’. Another visitor Fred Oldman, whose father took part in the invasion at Utah beach, said that it was unfortunate that they could not go to a cemetery because their Government seemed to be shutting everything down ‘when they can’t get along’.

Mohammad Rafi Saad

Mohammad Rafi Saad is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE