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Bernard Dargols was a French intern in New York in 1938, away from his family for what he thought was going to last only one year. When war started he realized he couldn’t go back to France where he would have been enrolled by Pétain’s army.
He stayed in New York and continued working as an intern on 25th street. His will to fight grew stronger as he heard news from Europe. He decided to join the American army in which he thought he could be more useful.
With a good friend of his, Bernard created Jeunesse France Libre an association – close to 42nd st – to gather French-speaking youngsters who shared the same goal to fight against Pétain and the Nazis. One day, Françoise came in to subscribe. That’s how he met what was going to be his wife for the next 68 years (but he didn’t know it then).
One day, the army called Bernard to start his training in Fort Dix, New Jersey. Time to learn what a soldier is and leave behind Françoise for a few years.
Training was harsh. After Fort Dix, Camp Croft and finally the very secretive Military Intelligence Service Camp, Camp Ritchie, Bernard had not only become a GI but an American soon to be going back to his own country and hoping to find his mother alive.
On June 8, as a special agent in the 2nd Infantry Division (the Indian Head), Bernard landed on Omaha Beach with his band of brothers. He was 24.
His mission consisted in interrogating French civilians. Hearing an American GI speak French with a parisian accent and his jeep « La Bastille » (name of his childhood neighborhood) was very surprising and emotional for French farmers who reckoned Bernard and his mates as their liberators.
His mission consisted in going by himself only accompanied by a MP in the villages that were not freed yet to gather as much information as possible and go back to his HQ to allow his division to enter the villages and fight the enemy.
During a leave, Bernard got to Paris in his jeep and got back to his mother who he hadn’t seen for 6 years. Part of the family had been killed in the camps.
When war ended, Bernard went back to New York where he married Françoise and he had 3 children.
Bernard Dargols had not told his story before 40 years after the war. His grand daugther Caroline Jolivet intrigued about her own family story started asking her grandfather questions when he finally started talking. She found and used hundreds of letters written between Bernard and his family who had remained in Paris just before and after DDAY to write the whole story.
Bernard Dargols received many medals of honors and celebrated the 70th anniversary in Normandy in 2014.
He and Françoise are still married and live in Paris, France. They have 5 grand kids.
Caroline Jolivet is a Digital Project Manager for a French news Magazine. She writes lyrics for rock music bands and Children’s books both in French and English. Caroline is 35 and has two kids. She lives in Paris.