One particular tweet that came through my newsfeed in the aftermath of the tragedy in France on Friday looked like it could have been ripped from the headlines during World War II: “Reuters: #Belgium is imposing new checks on French frontier, rail and air arrivals after Paris attacks.”
Flashback to 1940 when German tanks rolled into France, overpowering the country - eventually encircling British, French and Belgian troops - necessitating their withdrawal and evacuation from Dunkirk. Paris fell to the enemy on June 14, 1940.
The city was under Nazi rule until August 25, 1945 when the German garrison surrendered the French capital.
Seventy years later, France has once again come under enemy attack – this time from a smaller, yet potentially more powerful foe.
Some local vets who fought in combat during World War II see some similarities between the unprovoked, peace-shattering invasion of one of America’s oldest allies.
Leo Priest, 93, of Palm Springs, was stationed at Camp Malakole, Hawaii with the 251st Coast Artillery Regiment, California National Guard when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
“In a way, it has the symptoms, alright,” he said. As far as the shock, I just have to compare it with our own 9-11 and Pearl Harbor, in a milder way, of course. When a (group) starts doing things like that, I think they’re looking for a war … they want to antagonize them into combat, I’m sure. They know we’re not going to hold still for it, so what’s the alternative? We arm ourselves and we just go into battle.”
Priest said worldwide collaboration is the key to crushing the enemy.
“I think this should unite a lot of countries and we should all take part in it,” he said. “The allies – we have so many countries that are feeling this, that I don’t think it would be any problem at all. I think we could even lure Russia in to being on our side, as far as I’m concerned, with the proper negotiations. That would be the stimulating effort that would change the minds of the enemy. They can’t lick the world and they know that.”
U.S. Army Air Corps veteran, Ed Tunison, 93, of Palm Desert, served as a radioman aboard a C-47 transport plane during World War II. The aircraft carried Tunison on countless missions over enemy territory in Europe, dropping paratroopers, gliders and supplies. He participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France and spent some time stationed in that country.
“The French people are a great people – we helped them in World War II and we may have to help them again,” Tunison said.
Tunison worries the U.S. could suffer a fate similar to Friday’s attack.
“I think we better start to bear arms and close the border,” he said. “The Germans relieved all the people (German citizens) of their guns and nobody could fight back. I hope that doesn’t happen here. I think we’re certainly at risk and I think our administration ought to sit down and think about it a little bit.”