The prequel for this post is necessary. Stick with me and learn about the history of this region before I tell you about the unique “Valentine’s Day Gift” from the United States to France.

66 years ago on June 6th, 1944, on what is now known as D-Day, the Allied Forces took Lower Normandy by storm in order to overthrow the Nazi control in France. An air assault of 24,000 American, free French, British and Canadian troops were dropped after midnight into German-occupied France. At 6:30 AM that morning, the largest amphibious invasion of all time commenced involving 175,000 Allied troops. 195,700 Allied Navy personnel and Merchant Marines in over 5,000 ships were involved. Total casualties are roughly estimated at 10,000 on the Allies’ side and between 4,000-9,000 casualties on the Axis side.

With sheer brute force and willpower, the Allies broke through the German “impenetrable” grip on Northern France although the odds were against them. With the help of firepower and guns, the Axis powers were pushed back into French countryside where other battles then raged with equal intensity.

66 years later, the city of Caen is still feeling the aftershock from this monumental event. It has shaped their culture in an extremely unique and beautiful way. Like a Phoenix, my current University’s symbol, this city has come back “from the dead” and has become more populous and beautiful than ever. (If you’d like to see pictures of Caen after the D-Day invasion and German occupation, check out the War Museum post from a few days ago or the Museum’s website.

With this kind of background, it’s only fitting to now introduce the ruckus that has the city buzzing. This weekend is La Saint-Valentin, a day known for roses, romantic dinners, chocolate and all around joy and happiness. It’s also known as Single Awareness Day. France loves Love. Everywhere you look there are ads for perfume, chocolate, French lingerie, Love Love LOVE and above all else, the mandatory evacuation for the entire CENTRE VILLE (CENTER CITY)!!!!!!

What?

Oh yes. In the process of expanding this beautiful university to its full capacity, the construction crew happened upon a 550 KILOGRAM AMERICAN BOMB FROM WORLD WAR II. In case you were wondering, 550 KILOGRAMS is 1,212 POUNDS. THERE IS, AT THIS EXACT SECOND IN TIME, A BOMB THE SIZE AND WEIGHT OF MY CAR LITERALLY IN MY FRONT YARD. Apparently this is not a very big deal, because the construction crew discovered the “little sweetheart” about a week and a half ago and have waited this long to defuse it.

We have to leave the center of the city, no questions asked. We must open our windows because if there “happens to be an explosion,” they’d like to “reduce the amount of glass shattering.” (Excerpt from email sent yesterday from the Universite de Caen Basse-Normandie) Caen residents and students don’t regard this as something very serious. There are no dooms day marches, no protests and no strikes. We Americans are sheepishly trying to disregard the fact that they are defusing a bomb from OUR country in THEIR country on VALENTINE’S DAY. We love France. We love the French. We love French Bread and French Toast and French Wine and Non-Creepy French Men. We do not want an American bomb blowing the entire historical section of the city into next week.

So please, get the best French version of MacGyver there is, some really high-quality paper-clips and chewing gum, and for goodness sakes, hold your breath and make no sudden movements on Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day, France. With LOTS of Love, America.

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