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History As It Happens

Jun 6, 2024

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, a massive military campaign to begin liberating Western Europe from Nazi occupation on the way to victory in the Second World War. American memories are filled with heroism and sacrifice, as D-Day remains a touchstone in the U.S. self-image as a global superpower and defender of freedom and democracy. For the people of France, memories are more complicated, even painful, because the liberation came at a cost of thousands of French civilians. Moreover, the French defeat of 1940 continued to loom large in collective memory as a source of shame. In this episode, the Smithsonian's Kate Clarke Lemay discusses her work studying the war cemeteries in France, which stand as monuments to U.S. military and cultural primacy. Lemay is the author of "Triumph of the Dead: American World War II Cemeteries, Monuments, and Diplomacy in France."