June 14, 1940 , Paris, France
It had been a month since the Nazi war machine (Wehrmacht) had stormed into France. On this date, Paris succumbed to Hitler’s invading forces.
Life quickly changed for Evelyne LeSeurd , a vivacious young lass? Paris sidewalks were suddenly strewn with lifeless bodies, unsettling circumstance for a young lady, to say the least.
During World War 1, Evelyne’s mother had had a romantic interlude with a dashing American naval officer, Alfred Schanze. Evelyne had been born of that dalliance. Despite her half American heritage, she was a tried and true Parisian, her paternal Father having long since returned to America.
Life in Paris was abruptly transformed to a sullen matter of simply surviving, laying low and avoiding occupying Nazi soldiers as best possible. It was out of style for Evelyne to carry a loaded pistol under her overcoat, but the lady did what she had to do .
The war lingered. A full four years passed before combined elements of the French 2nd Armored Division and the American 4th Infantry Division encircled the city . On August 25, 1944 the Nazis surrendered their grip on Paris. After a five day battle, Paris was liberated.
Evelyne ultimately moved to America.
July 7th, 1968 Pittstown, New Jersey, USA
Mom and Dad were hard at work in the garden at Tuckaway.
A bit distant, they noted an unfamiliar car slowly motoring down the lane.
The car stopped in front of the fence near the house. A couple emerged hesitantly. Seeing Mom and Dad in the garden, they ambled in that direction.
Now within comfortable distance, they introduced themselves. Dressed quite properly, the lady of the couple had a pronounced French accent.
“Are you, by chance, Janet Schanze”, she inquired of Mom.
A bit taken aback, Mom explained that she had been Janet Schanze, some years ago.
“Very well then”, the lady enthused. “My name is Evelyne Powers. I am your sister from Paris. I can explain if you have a moment.
Actually half sister, but neither cared about that. Garden hoes were set aside. Mom had only vague understanding of this reality, but today she was quite taken by surprise. All four retired to the back porch for some iced tea. There was more than a little family history to discuss, not the least of which was Alfred Schanze’s adventures in France !
My dear Aunt Evelyne, over the years, counseled me on more than one occasion to never let my kids and grandkids forget what the Americans had done for Paris during those fateful years.
I’m sure that I would have received the same counsel from my Grandpa Schanze had he not died in 1950, three years before I was born.
Not long ago I was bequeathed a manuscript for a book that he typed while sailing on the Corsair during World War 1. Digitizing OUR NAVY IN FRANCE was as close as I ever got to him, but wouldn’t it have been nice to hear his own words about being a gunnery officer when the U.S. Navy was a smidgen of what it is today ?