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Tags: d-day | france | attraction | theme park | normandy

D-Day 'Theme Park' in France Stirs Controversy

us navy veteran gilbert d. nadeau takes part in a 78th d-day anniversary in france
U.S. Navy veteran Gilbert D. Nadeau takes part in a 78th D-Day anniversary ceremony June 5 in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France. (Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 29 August 2022 02:02 PM EDT

Plans for a new D-Day attraction near the beaches at Normandy have sparked disagreement on whether the project is disrespectful to the soldiers who died and to their families.

Michael Reagan, the son of former President Ronald Reagan, understands the desire to get people to come those historic beaches and the Normandy American Cemetery, but he said the purity of the area already does it.

"They won't meet the heroes at the park," Reagan told Newsmax in an interview Monday.

"It is a religious experience to walk those beaches. This is a tremendous disservice to history. World War II wasn't a game.

"The area is pure, literally pure. These are little towns, beaches. Touch the sand, take it with you.

"Take them to Normandy. Take your family for a week, five days, like I did. See it, walk it, watch it, learn it."

Critics have likened the multimillion-dollar "Tribute to the Heroes" project to something found at a Disney-style theme park, including a hi-tech 45-minute "immersive show," built on a 75-acre site at Carentan-les-Marais, inland from the American landing beaches Utah and Omaha, The Guardian reported.

"Museums tell you a story," Reagan said. "You don't have to go to a theme park.

"You don't tell the story of Normandy with a theme park. Start selling Normandy other than trying get kids to want to come to a theme park to ride a roller-coaster. World War II wasn't a roller-coaster."

Project backers estimate the attraction will draw 600,000 visitors annually, paying about $28 for a ticket.

"Are the museums losing money?" Reagan asked. "Are they broke?"

Reagan said it is about France wanting to make more money around Normandy, collecting tax on $28, "because that's what governments do."

Promoters, who hope the attraction opens by 2025, told The Guardian the project will be a historically accurate and appropriate tribute.

A public consultation is running until Oct. 7 for the project, which still needs to be approved.

"You want to teach your kids about history? Teach history," Reagan said. "Teach your children.

"I don't know how you recognize history with a theme park."

Angry locals and veterans' families have nicknamed the project "D-Day Land," accusing business people of reducing one of the bloodiest events in European history to a money-spinning tourist attraction.

"They talk creating the 'wow factor' of a 'sensational show' that will take place near the beaches and cemeteries of Normandy, which seems fundamentally immoral and indecent," Bertrand Legendre, a former Sorbonne professor and novelist who is leading resistance to the plans, told The Guardian.

"The ethical principle of this commercialization of history is extremely shocking."

Proponents disagree.

"We want to transmit the story of what happened with great historical rigor using today's technology to make it interesting to the largest number of people. It’s a simple as that," project backer Régis Lefebvre told The Guardian.

"It's not a theme park, and we never called it D-Day Land. That's the name our opponents used. As for making money, who seriously sets up a business to lose money? In England you understand that."

Veterans who took part in the D-Day invasion denounce making it an attraction.

Charles Norman Shay, 98, an American veteran who took part in the first wave of landings at Omaha beach, lives in Normandy. He has called the project an "appropriate" tribute to the fallen.

Léon Gautier, 97, the last of the 177 French troops who took part in the landings, reportedly opposes the project, The Guardian said.

Project supporters include former French Defense Minister Hervé Morin.

"Honestly, as former minister of defense, do you think I'd be supporting this if I didn't believe that?" Morin told The Guardian. "We have 5 million visitors to Normandy every year. Are people suggesting we should shut down all the businesses linked to the Battle of Normandy? Did anyone demand the banning of the film 'Saving Private Ryan'?"

The D-Day Overlord website on Aug. 17 said that Morin, president of the Normandy administrative region, had announced the project in January 2020 by saying: "We were missing an event that would allow us to retain for one or two days more the numerous visitors who come to the D-Day beaches."

"The implication was obvious: Tourists were not spending enough in Normandy and it was urgent to find a solution," the D-Day Overlord website said. "This was all it took to trigger an outcry against this mysterious project: this clumsy presentation, which was more concerned with its commercial purpose than its historical content, immediately came up against numerous questions that remained unanswered for a long time."

In recent months, however, announcements have been made to clarify the content and historical objectives, D-Day Overlord said.

"The show … installed in a 1,000-seat theater that moves more than 400 meters," D-Day Overlord wrote. "The spectator will see about thirty ‘living tableaux’ allowing him to embark in New York, to find himself in the English training camps, to disembark before being in the heart of the fighting. The entrance fee would be 28.50 Euros per person."

Reagan recalled his own visit to the area and the Normandy American Cemetery, saying families should walk the sand, father and son, like he has.

"I don't want anything to take away from the American Cemetery," Reagan stressed.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Plans for a new D-Day attraction near the beaches at Normandy have sparked disagreement on whether the project is disrespectful to the soldiers who died and to their families.
d-day, france, attraction, theme park, normandy
Monday, 29 August 2022 02:02 PM
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