“Each region has its hidden gems, but Normandy is special”

“Each region has its hidden gems, but Normandy is special”

On 6th June, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Robin Masse – director – and Marcella Lebeau – a 99 year-old veteran – will be at the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Eglise for a screening of the film ‘Angels in our Midst’. This moving documentary looks at the daily life of American nurses in Normandy during the Second World War.

We meet with Robin Masse, an ambassador for Normandy committed to promoting the links between the United States and France.

Could you please present yourself in a few words?

“My parents moved to France in 1974 and never came back. They loved it… looked for jobs…and stayed.  It was assumed we would go to college in France… But eventually – I’m the eldest – I went back to America… and I met someone, got married… he lived in New York, and that was that. … All the children on my mother’s side and my father’s side, ended up living in New York…. And they kept saying: “what did we do wrong, why did we not all stay in France?”. At the moment, I have one sister living in France and I live here in New York”.

What is « Angels in Our Midst »?

“Back in 2004 I was working for the French Tourist Board at the time of the 60th anniversary of D-Day.  At the time Franco American relations were not great. People joked about “Freedom Fries” rather than “French Fries” and there was a lot of negativity. During the commemorations in Normandy I met some women nurses and I immediately felt we don’t hear that story that much. I was struck with the desire to tell their story. I met up with three nurses during that trip and then I looked out for more. And that’s how the project was born.”

Why do you feel it is important?

“It was very important with the war in Iraq, and the Americans going to Iraq and the French not wanting to. My job was to help promote France.  It was a hard to sell France when Americans didn’t want to go. But then there was this amazing story about the role of American women in France! I’d heard a lot of men veterans talk, but I hadn’t heard the women’s side of the story. So, it all made sense to me.”

How did you find witnesses?

“A lot of them I found through the French government because they all received the Legion of Honour on D-Day. In 2004, the French government invited 100 veterans from America to fly from Washington, go to Paris, go to Normandy and come back and get the Legion of Honour. It was great that I managed to be part of that trip.”

Have you kept in touch with the different people involved?

“Yes, absolutely. Some have died. There were 11 at the beginning, all formidable women. I’ll be with one of them on 6th June at the Airborne Museum , Marcella Lebeau. Marcella is 99 years-old and has already been back to Normandy several times.”

“I loved these women, I think they showed that anybody can do anything when they decide they want to. One of the women said: “we had no idea, we’d never been 50 miles away from our homes, we had no idea what we were getting into.” They had courage. They went through it. And they talk about it. Their attitude was  “We had a job to do and we did it.””

What do you like about Normandy?

“So many things (laughs)! Each region has its hidden gems, but Normandy is special. I like the Beaches, I like Sainte-Mère-Eglise… I mean, there’s so many places I’ve been to. I’ve been to a lot. And I know the people from Normandy, they are especially warm and generous people.”

More informations here : https://angelsinourmidst-ww2.com/

Watch the trailer here : https://vimeo.com/232506012