This thesis comprises my translations from the original French to English of Clément Horvath's Till Victory: Lettres du Jour J à la Victoire (Till Victory: Letters from D-Day to Victory). The collection contains letters written by WWII soldiers from D-Day to Liberation; soldiers from many countries, including France, the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. The book is organized in chronological order incorporating these testimonials to paint a picture of what the war was really like. Although arguably more real, it can feel almost unbelievable to read about what these soldiers went through—including the restlessness and long waiting—required for the Allies to join the French Resistance and French Forces of the Interior to win the war. The stories also show the heroism and selflessness of these ordinary individuals as they answered the cries for help without asking any questions, many of whom were fighting for and in a place they knew little to nothing about. Given that World War II is falling further into our past, it is important, as editor Clément Horvath reminds readers, to recover and preserve these testimonials as they reveal to us the horrors of war. This sentiment is clearly expressed by an American soldier Horvath quotes in the introduction to the collection: “If only we could transcribe on paper what we see, I am sure that there would not be another war for many years, and maybe never again.”
Editor and author Clément Horvath is a French amateur historian who has spent the last fifteen years researching World War II and collecting these personal letters that serve as precious testimonials. In 2018, he released the critically acclaimed, prize-winning first volume of his Till Victory series, titled The Second World War by Those Who Were There. Interestingly, as he explains in his introduction, he is neither a trained historian nor a professional writer. He simply wanted to share these recently gathered firsthand accounts of the war that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Horvath has dedicated himself to interviewing the dwindling World War II veteran population in his efforts to collect any remaining testimonials. He reminds us that having a future means never forgetting the past.
My main motivation for studying and then translating these letters was to better understand the French’s appreciation of the Allied forces. When my dad, an American born after the end of the war, first met my great grandmother, a French woman born in 1898, she thanked him for World War II. This story always stuck with me as I could not understand why she was thanking a man who clearly had no part in fighting for her freedom. Ultimately, these vivid descriptions of the war helped me understand her appreciation. The soldiers who came from abroad were willing to risk their lives and live through horrific conditions alongside French forces to free a land that was not their own, making them truly heroic.