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article imageOp-Ed: Novel spurs author on an unexpected 'Liberation Tour' Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Nov 30, 2015 in Lifestyle
Redwood City - When food and travel writer Carole Bumpus met a French woman to talk about recipes she did not anticipate that their meeting would take her upon an unexpected journey to the past — and subsequently open another door.
"That door" of the unexpected was opened by the French woman named Marcelle. "As she spoke, thru a translator (her daughter, Josiane Selvage),” said Bumpus, “Marcelle would mention things about WWII. I was inexplicably drawn into her life-story. Suddenly, questions about recipes seemed trivial. I knew there was a story there I could not walk away from."
Her conversations with Marcelle and the work she and daughter Josiane did to research and uncover the details of Marcelle's life and of the war, became the basis of the novel "A Cup of Redemption." This past summer the companion cookbook to the novel debuted. "Recipes for Redemption" contains all of the dishes mentioned in the novel. The response from the public has been overwhelming which Bumpus is very pleased.
John Shirley at the celebrations in Bennwihr  France to honor WWII veterans this past August 2014. H...
John Shirley at the celebrations in Bennwihr, France to honor WWII veterans this past August 2014. He is seen here with his son and grandsons.
Courtesy of Carole Bumpus
Yet what is even more amazing is that the novel and its companion recipe book opened a door to something much larger than one woman's life-story or a compilation of recipes. The backdrop of World War II presented Bumpus with a new outlook and quest.
When Josiane, who lives in Livermore, California, introduced Bumpus to WWII veteran John Shirley, the experience of the war as shared by Marcelle and then Shirley gave her something more to write about. In her travels to France to collect information for the novel, Bumpus discovered a tremendous amount of history.
On a recent "Liberation Tour" in the August of 2014, Bumpus was again, overwhelmed by the hospitality and generosity of the people. These were ordinary people in the villages and towns where American forces and the Allies defeated the Nazis. "The impact of war even seventy years later is still heavy on the living but all are determined to never forget the sacrifices given for France's freedom from Nazi Germany," Bumpus said.
This past August  the entire village of Bennwihr celebrated and honored the surviving veterans of Wo...
This past August, the entire village of Bennwihr celebrated and honored the surviving veterans of World War II.
Courtesy of Carole Bumpus
Since completing "A Cup of Redemption" and its companion recipe book, Bumpus has continued writing her travel blog of the ‘Liberation Tour’ “to keep the memories alive for those of us in the U.S., she said. "Making my way with the WWII veterans’ group for the 65th and 70th anniversary landings on the southern beaches of France, I can never forget how taken aback I was by the response of the literally thousands of people who showed up to meet the veterans, again and again. We were feted at every stop of the 40 village tour—parades, banquets, speeches by all the local and regional dignitaries—and more wine than a person has a right to.”
As she wrote of their day on August 22, 2014: "Our group began the day visiting the uniquely beautiful village of Turkheim and the fine military history museum. From Turkheim (which is in Alsace) we drove through the lush green hills and valleys, covered with vineyards filled with burgeoning fruit, to the lovely town of Bennwihr. We were met at the plaza known as John Shirley Place where the mayor of Bennwihr gave a speech telling the story of John having been wounded in this town. As a gift of peace, the children sang songs to our soldiers and read special messages of gratitude of which were pinned to a small tree in the plaza.
From there, the large crowd made their way to the war memorial and City Hall where a solemn wreath laying ceremony took place. The crowd was filled with not only present members of the community but also residents of Bennwihr seventy years before. Stories were shared of being frightened and so hungry while hiding in the cellars below their houses as bombing and the almost total destruction of the town was going on above their heads. Only when the house was burning above them, did the families race into the mountains. The WWI war memorial--a beautiful statue of two young girls representing the Alsace and the Lorraine--was one of the few remaining structures after the bombing was over. It had been one of the last major battles with the Germans before they were forced back toward the Rhine River and Germany. Another ceremony was held honoring our men followed by a wine reception and an incredible luncheon of traditional Alsatian foods."
The village of Bennwihr is not far from the German border. Each year they commemorate and honor thos...
The village of Bennwihr is not far from the German border. Each year they commemorate and honor those who died and served in WWII.
Courtesy of Carole Bumpus
From Bennwihr (in Northeastern France) we made our way away (which was not easy as there were so many new and old friends to leave) to a ceremony and laying of wreaths at the war memorial in the woods which honored Audie Murphy. From there we continued to the bridge which once stood beside the Maison Rouge (the Red House). Both bridge and house are now gone but the story of one of our veterans, John Petruska, (who is still alive but not well and is represented by his three children and wife on this tour) was shared. This was the location of the infantry division crossing the bridge and backed by a tank following close behind. Once the men reached the other side, the weight of the tank caused the bridge to fall. The men were left undefended as the German Panzers rushed toward them. Eventually caught and rounded up, two hundred men were sent to POW camps for six months."
Crucial to her writing of the "Liberation Tour" is her friend, and long time Livermore resident, John Shirley. Bumpus accompanied John Shirley, now age 90, who is still very active in commemorating the victories of WWII. He was only 19 when he was fighting in Italy and France.
Reporter Carol Graham of The Independent, wrote about Shirley and his experiences for a Veteran's Day feature.
"The German army had three and a half months to establish their defensive positions around the beachhead," Shirley says. "German artillery and mortars were zeroed in on the fields we would have to cross. It would be a formidable task to attack and overrun their positions. The day we would try it would be my first day in combat."
As he told Graham for her report, "I was 19 years old. I welcomed the adventure and excitement,” Shirley said. “But I didn't want to die."
The experiences of Shirley’s WWII recollections are in his book called, "I Remember: Stories of a Combat Infantryman in Italy, France & Germany in World War II," Shirley writes of the day his division broke out of the Anzio-Nettuno Beachhead on Italy's central west coast (south of Rome). “That day on May 23, 1944, was one of the worst single days of fighting any US Army division endured,” Shirley noted.
He and his fellow soldiers were under the command of Brigadier General John O'Daniel. As he told Graham, "during the ensuing battle, Shirley saw his Platoon Sergeant trip a booby-trapped land mine. ("He was blown into the air eight feet, and came down like a limp rag doll"). Shirley then shot a German rifleman firing towards the anti-tank ditch."
Shirley is grateful to have survived and often ponders the mystery of life, why he made it and others even more battle-accomplished than he, did not. Ever since the war, Shirley like so many of his fellow WWII veterans, went on to accomplish many things in civilian life. Serving as mayor of Livermore was just one of them.
Even though World War II was more than 70 years ago and surviving veterans are in their 90 s  the vi...
Even though World War II was more than 70 years ago and surviving veterans are in their 90's, the village of Bennwihr will never forget them.
Courtesy of Carole Bumpus
Through the years, Shirley has helped coordinate or participate in many WWII reunions and commemorations. One recently was the Wings of Freedom Tour at Livermore airport, this past May. When I spoke to him by phone from his home in Livermore, he told me he was pleased with the book that Bumpus had written. "I am honored that she wants to now write about 'The Liberation Tour,' There is so much to remember," he said.
While at 90 he admits his memory is not able to remember every detail, he hopes the efforts of Bumpus and others will be able to chronicle a very important part of 20th Century history.
And, as he said to me, "I hope I am able to go back to attend the 75th Anniversary celebrations. In fact, he said, that will be my goal, God willing."
To learn more about "The Liberation Tour," visit the Carol Bumpus web site.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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