In 1942 Bernard Blin joined the French armistice army. He joined an artillery unit in North-Africa which, after the Allied invasion, came under American command. During the war Blin would fight in Italy, Southern France and Germany itself. In 1946 he volunteered for the war in Indo China.
Bernard Blin was born in Falaise, France, on 31 July 1922 as the son of a First World War veteran. He was educated as a coachbuilder, but two years after the defeat of France Bernard joined the French Armistice army. He enlisted for the colonial artillery hoping that, one day, he could continue the fight against Germany.
In June 1942 Blin reached North Africa with his unit, the 10th Regiment of Colonial Artillery. After the Allied landings in Africa his unit joined the Allies and came under American command. After one year of training he landed in Naples with his unit, heading for the Garigliano river that was part of the German defensive zone. What Blin experienced in the Battle of Garigliano near Monte Cassino left its mark on the rest of his life: “All these ripped bodies, corpses everywhere, horses mixed with the men, the pieces of human bodies in the trees, many wounded persons who called for their mother…”
On 2 June 1944 Bernard Blin entered Rome with the American army. But the war wasn’t over yet. In September 1944, after the Italian campaign, he landed in Marseille with the U.S. 5th Army and participated in the pursuit of the German army.
After the German defeat Blin returned to his ruined town of Falaise. In April 1947 he enlisted again for the War in Indochina. He returned in 1950, settled down in Normandy and started a professional career in the building trade sector.
Rome was the first capital to be liberated from Nazi German occupation on 4 June 1944. Rome had been declared an open city which meant that it could be captured without any fighting. This was a welcome relieve after the heavy fought campaign of Cassino.
The abbey of Monte Cassino was founded in the 6th century by St. Benedict. During the Second World War it formed a key part of the German Gustav Line. On 15 February 1944 the abbey was bombed by the Allies who wrongly believed that it was being used as a German observation post.
The last major battle of the Normandy campaign was fought in August 1944 in the so called Falaise-Argentan pocket, where the Allies encircled and destroyed a substantial part of the German forces. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of German soldiers managed to escape. A memorial on the spot traces the various stages of this bloody confrontation.
The Allied campaign of Monte Cassino was fought in four phases between January and May 1944. The town of Cassino was a key stronghold on the Gustav Line, the German defence line in Central Italy designed to prevent Allied advance towards Rome. The Allies suffered about 55,000 casualties, the Germans 20,000.