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The landing in France


The chaos of war
François Jacob Scientist
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I got back on a boat, on a LST, the landing boats where the tanks were placed, it must have been in March 1944.

[Q] And did you know it was D-day?


[Q] How was it for you psychologically?

It really was the... It was the end. As soon as we knew... until 1942-43, it wasn't clear at all. It really wasn't obvious that we would ever see France again. That was... but from Stalingrad, it had been over.

[Q] In your opinion, was Stalingrad the turning point of the war?

Yes. Stalingrad really was the turning point. There was Stalingrad as well as the North African war.

[Q] El Alamein?

Yes, that's right. That was the turning point.

[Q] And then you knew that the landing meant that the end of the war was near?


Je suis revenu en bateau, sur un LST, les bateaux du débarquement là où on mettait les chars, ça devait être en mars '44.

[Q] Et là, vous saviez que c'était pour le débarquement en France?


[Q] Qu'est-ce que ça faisait psychologiquement pour vous?

C'était vraiment le... C'était la fin. A partir du moment où on savait... Jusqu'en 42-43, ce n'était pas clair du tout. Il n'était pas du tout clair qu'on reverrait jamais la France. Ça c'était... Mais à partir de Stalingrad, ça a été terminé.

[Q] C'est Stalingrad qui a été pour vous le basculement de la guerre?

Oui, Stalingrad, c'était vraiment le tournant. Il y a eu Stalingrad plus la guerre d'Afrique du nord.

[Q] El Alamein?

Oui, c'est ça, ça c'était le tournant complet.

[Q] Et là, vous saviez que le débarquement, ça voulait dire que la fin de la guerre était proche, pour vous?


François Jacob (1920-2013) was a French biochemist whose work has led to advances in the understanding of the ways in which genes are controlled. In 1965 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, together with Jacque Monod and André Lwoff, for his contribution to the field of biochemistry. His later work included studies on gene control and on embryogenesis. Besides the Nobel Prize, he also received the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science for 1996 and was elected a member of the French Academy in 1996.

Listeners: Michel Morange

Michel Morange est généticien et professeur à L'Université Paris VI ainsi qu'à l'Ecole Normale Supérieure où il dirige le Centre Cavaillès d'Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences. Après l'obtention d'une license en Biochimie ainsi que de deux Doctorats, l'un en Biochimie, l'autre en Histoire et Philosophie des Sciences, il rejoint le laboratoire de Génétique Moléculaire dirigé par le Professeur François Jacob à l'Institut Pasteur. Ses principaux travaux de recherche se sont portés sur l'Histoire de la Biologie au XXème siècle, la naissance et le développement de la Biologie Moléculaire, ses transformations récentes et ses interactions avec les autres disciplines biologiques. Auteur de "La Part des Gènes" ainsi que de "Histoire de la Biologie Moléculaire", il est spécialiste de la structure, de la fonction et de l'ingénerie des protéines.

Michel Morange is a professor of Biology and Director of the Centre Cavaillès of History and Philosophy of Science at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. After having obtained a Bachelor in biochemistry and two PhDs, one in Biochemistry, the other in History and Philosophy of Science, he went on to join the research unit of Molecular Genetics headed by François Jacob, in the Department of Molecular Biology at the Pasteur Institute, Paris. Together with Olivier Bensaude, he discovered that Heat Shock Proteins are specifically expressed on the onset of the mouse zygotic genome activation. Since then he has been working on the properties of Heat Shock Proteins, their role in aggregation and on the regulation of expression of these proteins during mouse embryogenesis. He is the author of 'A History of Molecular Biology' and 'The Misunderstood Gene'.

Tags: D-day, Stalingrad, El Alamein, memories

Duration: 1 minute, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008