SEPTEMBER 3, 1956
LA BAULE, France —As usual, our second day on our motor trip was begun in the pouring rain and we got out at Avranches to look at the monument to General George Patton and his Army command who liberated that city.
With the rain continuing to pour down, we were soon back in our cars after greeting the Prefect and the Mayor. We started on our way to the cemetery of St. James. Here, by good luck, the sun came out. The cemetery is beautifully-kept and I thought the memorial and the chapel are quite lovely.
I was delighted to find my husband's D-Day prayer engraved in the stone on the wall of the chapel. The man in charge told me that all the cemeteries are run alike, with two Americans on duty so that one can always be around. The employees are, of course, French who keep the grounds in order.
He pointed out to me that the graves fan out as the land broadens toward the outer edges of the cemetery but that all the lines are straight and all the bodies lie facing the West and their homes. It was a lovely thought, first brought to him by the mother of one of the boys who asked how the boys had been buried and remarked how happy she was that in death their bodies were facing home.
The maps on the wall are made of a special composition—a new method which is striking in texture and very colorful in the little chapel. They cover all the Army moves in that region, and the director told me that often veterans would come and spend hours refighting the battles as they picked out the various spots on the map.
One of our chauffeurs fought all through this area and he knew the countryside intimately and was very conscious of the improvements that have been made in rebuilding. He was a good guide and a wonderful driver, so I think we were in luck in having him with us.
We were joined yesterday by Abba Schwartz, who had come up to Le Havre to pick up his car which he had shipped over. It was a pleasant surprise to see him as we were driving through the streets in Honfleur.
Naturally, a sports car is more fun than a limousine. Mr. Schwartz had lunch with us, but we deserted him for the evening. He joined us again this morning. Our luck with the weather kept up and the sun shone as we approached St. Michel. The old rock had not changed and neither had the old abbey and the town below it, so it looked to me exactly as it did when I came here with Haven's father, my son John, and Franklin Jr., who was then 15.
As usual in France, eating took longer than we expected, so we were 50 minutes late in starting out for St. Nazaire and we arrived 25 minutes later than we expected. But the mayor and the Prefect patiently waited for us.
Two charming youngsters presented me with flowers and we proceeded on a tour of the town, which had been completely destroyed but now is nearly rebuilt. It has 45,080 inhabitants, nearly all working in the shipyards where the Normandie and the Ile de France were built.
We saw many merchant ships at different stages of preparation for launching. We looked at the square which will bear my husband's name and visited the French and American monuments to the war dead, continuing to the mayor's office where we had a glass of champagne and some cookies.
I had the pleasure of meeting the American officer in charge of a military installation in St. Nazaire and his wife, as well as his two subordinates and their wives. Then we left for the pleasant summer resort of La Baule, where our rooms face the ocean and, in spite of the cold, our young people have gone swimming.