Where fallen soldiers' bodies once stained the water red with blood, seven stainless steel columns emerge from the sea. A group of five columns curves upwards, like soldiers struggling to stand. Two columns extend upright, with the tallest soaring 30 feet high. Steel wings beckon to either side. Their gleaming reflective surface celebrates the sea, sand and soft muted light of Normandy.
Speaking prior to D-Day 60th-Anniversary dedication ceremonies in June 2004, sculptor Anilore Banon said her intent was that the columns represent "energy coming out of the sand, standing up straight." She said the "sacrifice and courage" of young American soldiers allowed us all to stand. It was the force of their will that three generations later we still have with us," Baron remarked.
Banon said she was affected deeply by childhood visits in the 1960s to the D-Day landing sites. Her concern that French children today should continue to appreciate the Americans' sacrifice inspired her to create the sculpture. "I want to remember that the soldiers died, of course," says Banon. "But I want to remember what they died for. And I want the ones who survived to see that after all these years, we are still free, and we are remembering."
The dedication plaque for Banon's "Les Braves" sculpture contains a poignant message: "The memorial consists of three elements: The Wings of Hope, so that the spirit which carried these men on June 6, 1944 continues to inspire us, reminding us that together it is always possible to change the future." "Rise Freedom!" the inscription continues, "so that the example of those who rose against barbarity helps us remain standing strong against all forms of inhumanity." The inscription describes the third element as "The Wings of Fraternity, so that this surge of brotherhood always reminds us of our responsibility towards others, as well as ourselves. On June 6, 1944 these men were more than soldiers, they were our brothers."
The memorial was funded by Jean-Paul Delorme, whose family founded Air Liquide. Delorme offered his assistance after reading a newspaper article about Banon's struggle to secure financial backing. Delorme paid all expenses as 25 workers in Cherbourg constructed the massive columns. When a strike at the factory threatened to halt production, the workers decided they would continue working to finish the sculpture.