Fury over Omaha Beach seafood plan
PARIS, France -- American World War II veterans and Normandy villagers have joined forces against two seafood traders planning to market "Omaha Beach" mussels.
Two fishermen in the Omaha Beach area want to create a commercial mussel bed on the hallowed D-Day landing beach and even plan to use "Omaha Beach" as a brand name to sell their seafood products.
"Omaha Beach is considered sacred by the veterans and by locals. This plan has had a massive emotional impact on them," Jean-Marie Oxeant, mayor of the nearby village of Vierville-sur-Mer, told Reuters.
A Web site set up by a French World War II history buff has been bombarded with some 900 messages of protest, Oxeant said.
"I am absolutely appalled that anyone could think of using the area, which is a war grave, for commercial purposes," wrote one contributor to the site who identified himself as U.S. war veteran Brian Jacobs. "This is no better than tomb-raiding."
Detailed plans for the proposed mussel bed show it would make use of underwater metal structures that were part of a makeshift U.S. port constructed during the D-Day landings.
Oxeant said he had received about 700 letters, from U.S. veterans and their families as well as from local residents, protesting against the plan.
He said the idea of using the Omaha Beach name as a seafood brand was offensive to the memories of the soldiers who died on the beach in the D-Day landings.
"Can you imagine in a year or two finding mussels for sale with an Omaha Beach label? That would be shocking," Oxeant said.
Ludovic Robert and Pascal Guilbert, the two fisherman behind the project, could not be reached for comment.
Some 156,000 American, British and Canadian troops were transported across the English Channel on June 6, 1944, to land in Nazi-occupied France. Thousands died during 10 weeks of battles that proved decisive in the German defeat.
The strip of Normandy coast codenamed Omaha Beach was the scene of particularly heavy fighting as thousands of U.S. troops ran into heavy German fire.
White crosses mark the remains of 9,387 soldiers in the American Cemetery just above the beach.
The final decision on whether the project will go ahead rests with the prefecture, or local authority, which declined to comment.
Two weeks ago U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura visited the Normandy beaches during a trip to Europe and Russia.
Bush dedicates National D-Day Memorial in Virginia
June 6, 2001
Tom Hanks marks D-Day anniversary
June 6, 2001
D-Day Museum opens: 'Last hurrah' for WWII vets
June 6, 2000
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