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The Girl Who Wore Freedom book cover

The Story Of The Girl Who Wore Freedom

By Christian Taylor and PeggySue Wells

On the day I was born, France was free.
My mother named me Danielle
and clothed me in a soft, new dress she made.

My father held me up in the open window,
so I first heard the sounds of the neighbors
in our village of Sainte Marie du Mont.
I smelled the salt air of the nearby sea.

Soon, German soldiers arrived in my country.
Our cobble streets were filled
with the sharp clack-clack of their jack nail boots.
They guarded the beach
and used the church steeple as a watch tower.

We didn’t have enough food.
My mother, Cecile, didn’t have fabric
to sew clothes for our family.
My family and neighbors
were no longer free to move about.

My father, Paul, went far away to England
to fight for France’s freedom.
While he was away, my mother traveled to the
nearby towns where she sold items to buy food for us.
A kind German soldier named Grandpa Paul,
cared for my older brother and me
while Mother was away.
Grandpa Paul knew the French people
had little food and no sugar.
For a treat, he gave me a small glass
with water and sugar.

My Papa returned home.
For four years, as I grew up,
my family waited to be free again.
The people of Sainte Marie du Mont
longed for liberty.

In the pre-dawn hours of June 6, 1944,
I woke to the noise of bee-like buzzing.
The boom of planes rolled in from the English Channel,
shaking the church steeple
and rattling Monsieur Blaziot’s Butcher Shop window.
The fumes of airplane engines stung my nose.
I saw the sky  filled with green and red
and white parachutes.

Mother’s eyes were bright with excitement
as she hurried me into my worn clothes.
Gathered at the window,
my family watched gliders
sweep across the night
and gunfire spit from the church steeple.

“Is it possible?” Mother looked hopefully at Papa.
I held Mama’s hand. “What is happening?”
“Les américains, les Anglais.” My father
squeezed my shoulder. “C’est le grand jour.”
“The Americans, the English,” Mama repeated.
“They have come,” said my brother, Francis,
“to deliver the big blow.”

Papa stepped outside.
One by one, our neighbors came outdoors
until I thought all of Sainte Marie du Mont
had spilled from their homes into the night.
I clutched Mama’s hand. “Is it dangerous to go out?”
Mama shook her head. “This is our right.
We remind them not to damage our town.”

Too soon I felt sleepy. Tucked back into bed,
my mother’s quilt drawn up to my chin,
I heard Mother go out to stand next to Papa.
I fell asleep to the tat-tat-tatting of guns
and the buzz of airplanes.

In the morning, I woke to the sound of … Quiet.
No guns.
No airplanes.
No sharp clack-clack of boots.

As the sun rose, my parents, my brother, and I
peered out the window.
A man came from the beach
and calmly crossed the village square.

“They landed!” Papa lifted me so I could better see.
I squeezed his neck. “Who?”
“The Americans.” My father went to greet
the newcomer who nodded his thanks.

The big American soldier went to the church.
He returned with the four German soldiers
who used the steeple as a watch tower.

“Last night,” Mama said, “we went to sleep
subjects of Germany and woke Americans.”
“We are free.” Papa and Mama danced a circle
with my brother and me.

American soldiers came from the beach.
Looking weary, the men went to the fountain
in our village square
and eagerly drank the cool, clear water.

More soldiers arrived on foot from Utah Beach.
They passed right by my house
that stood where the village and the beach met.
With my parents and brother,
I stood along the street to greet
the American soldiers who fought bravely.

I had never seen Americans.
Perhaps the Americans
had never seen French people.

The American soldiers smiled.
I waved back.
Passing by, the men reached into the packs
they carried and gave me
gum, chocolate, and candies.

The day my village was liberated
was the first time I tasted chocolate and candy.
Small and round with a hole in the center,
my favorite came in orange, lemon, and cherry.
They were Lifesavers and they were all delicious.

With my apron filled, I ran indoors,
dumped the treats onto the quilt on my bed,
and dashed back outside
to see the first tank rumble past our home
and through Sainte Marie du Mont.

In the following days,
some American soldiers continued past our village.
Others built a temporary port on Utah Beach
to provide supplies for the soldiers
fighting to liberate other towns.

The grateful French people
of Sainte Marie du Mont
invited the American soldiers
into our homes for meals.
We made them part of our families.

Three soldiers who often visited our family
were “Tall Larry,” “Big Smitty,” and
Harry Kropnicki. Harry’s wife, Eleanor,
was an American journalist who wrote
about the new girl in her husband’s life.
Harry’s new girl was five-year-old me.

The Americans shared canned pineapples.
They gave their torn parachutes to my mother.
Red parachutes had delivered weapons,
and white parachutes delivered the men.

Mother used the yards and yards of silk
to sew shirts and aprons.
From red and white parachutes,
she fashioned a dress for me
that looked like an American Flag.

In November of 1944, the port closed.
Our American friends left gifts
– an Army jacket and the flag of freedom
that flew over Utah Beach.

Eventually the Americans returned to their own
homes and families in the United States.
But my family and I always remembered them
and the liberty they won for us.

In the spring of 1945,
the people of Sainte Marie du Mont
celebrated our freedom
with a D-Day ceremony on Utah Beach.
I wore my American flag dress made from parachutes.
In my new dress I was, “The Girl Who Wore Freedom.”

The Girl Who Wore Freedom, including original photos, is available in hardback, as an ebook, and in French. Get your copy HERE.

The Girl Who Wore Freedom is also available in French

Get your copy of La Fille En Robe Liberté HERE

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Meet PeggySue

We’ve heard of soccer moms and stage mothers. I’m a writer who trailers my kids and horses across the nation. My Apple computer, fondly christened MacBeth, is the essential I bring along.