Être libre comme l’air

August 25, 1944 marked the liberation of Paris. This was part of Operation Overlord that began on June 6, 1944 with the Normandy beach landings. My uncle, Bertie McComb, died in this battle, and my husband’s uncle, Gordon Scott, was badly injured. They represent two of the 226,386 casualties on the Allied side, between 209,875 and 450,000 for the Germans, and 13,632–19,890 French civilians who were killed or injured – in other words, the price was heavy, not just for my family.

Crowds of French patriots line the Champs Elys...

Occupied Paris was a mess. There were about 20,000 Resistance fighters, but few had arms. A general strike was called on August 18, immobilizing the city’s infrastructure. Women and children helped build barricades. Meanwhile, Nazi General Choltitz was mining Paris with explosives on the orders of Hitler to destroy the city. The 2nd French Armored Division swept into Paris and down the Champs Elysées on the morning of August 25. Paris was free after four years of occupation.

Memorial for a solder lost in the liberation o...

Memorial for a solder lost in the liberation of Paris (Photo credit: davepatten)

Today’s expression, être libre comme l’air (etruh leebruh come lair) means to be as free as the air, or totally free. One sad fact about the liberation of Paris was that black soldiers, from any of the Allied nations were not allowed in the parades on the Champs Elysées on the insistence of the Americans. Isn’t everyone’s blood is the same color on the battle field?

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About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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