Alain Chesnel was born in October 1954 in Paris, France. Prior to starting Overlordtour, he was an engineer and contractor for 20 years in various parts of France and the world. Being well travelled, and versed in many cultures, Alain was then led by his true passion and knowledge of WWII and Normandy to start Overlordtour and leave the field of engineering.
Alain spent his boyhood years in France listening to stories about WWI and WWII as related by his parents, and grandparents. His two grandfathers fought for France during WWI. At the age of 13, Alain learned of the moving and impressive stories of the Battle of the Marne, Verdun, the Chemin des Dames and the landing onto the Dardanelles coasts.
On the right: Pierre, Alain’s maternal grandfather. Pierre fought for 4 years and participated in every battle on the Western Front during WWI. An artillery shell almost buried him alive at Fort Douaumont, in Verdun, France, but he was miraculously rescued by a comrade in arms. Pierre also fought at Le Chemin des Dames, where the French Forces courageously sustained and sacrificed more than 110,000 casualties and losses. He also landed in the Dardanelles, and was wounded twice in action.
Alain’s family history and involvement with WWII and the German Occupation of France is diverse and deep rooted. His father, Roger, was born in Brittany, France. At age twenty, in 1942, Roger, was conscripted during the gruelling German Occupation to work for the German Organization “Todd”. The Germans attempted to force him to work on the massive construction of the famous bunker system then being developed along the Atlantic Wall, but he refused, and joined the French Resistance in Brittany. An attempt to arrest him for his refusal into forced labor was later made by the German Police at his home in Brittany, but somehow Roger managed to escape on a bicycle to Paris hundreds of miles away, and join his uncle who was a Paris Police officer at the time.
Roger’s uncle was also a chief operative in a resistance network called the “Ajax Group”. His uncle safely hid Roger in Paris from the Germans, and gradually, Roger began working with British Intelligence during the war from 1942 until 1944. He remained in Paris until August 1944, when he Roger was Alain’s father. This photo depicts him after entering into the police force in 1942.
A very humble man, Roger never really spoke much during his later years about his actions as an operative for the Resistance during the war. He passed away at age 68, when Alain learned of some of his father’s memories and experiences.
Not unlike his father’s dedication to the liberation effort, Alain has always had a compelling and passionate interest in the United States Forces Invasion of Normandy which liberated his country. He has also developed a specialized interest and knowledge in the American 29th Infantry Division. His reverence and admiration for the bravery and sacrifice of the American forces as part of the Allied invasion is unique and unprecedented as a trait in a historical guide. He considers the United States as his “second country” as evidenced by his kindred spirit and many acts of respect for the United States.
Founder of the French Reenactment Association for the 29th Div. he, also, was in charge of the Commemorations of the 50th Anniversary of the Landing for the “Blue and Grey Division”. He was also Appointed “Director of Field Operation” where he worked for 3 years for preparing for more than 500 Veterans and relatives that were welcomed to Normandy due in part to his efforts and coordination of the event.
Alain’s dedication to the United States Veteran has gone further to include other significant contributions in their memory. He conceived and initiated the idea of the dedication of four major monuments throughout Normandy in memory of the “Twentyniners” (the 29th Infantry Division – Alain’s passion). With the assistance of French volunteers, he also designed and built another monument to the 29th Division, on his own French farm in Normandy, called the: “The Wall of Remembrance”. The wall is peppered with memorial plaques from members of the unit who have visited Alain’s farm, and the monument which was lovingly built in their memory.
The Wall of Remembrance: This Wall was built by Alain Chesnel, who conceived of the idea, and constructed it as a purely volunteer effort, in honor of the United States forces in the 29 th Infantry. This photo shows the completed wall on Alain’s former farm in Normandy. The plaques and many honorary displays are dedicated to the Americans who fought in the 29 th Infantry Division. One cannot imagine a more appropriate and respectful memorial to those who sacrificed their lives and courageous effort in the liberation of Normandy.
Honorary CaptainAlain Chesnel was appointed and promoted to the rank of Honorary Captain, and received an honorary Membership in the National Guard for Life. Alain’s uniform shown in these photos is the original uniform of one of his many American Veteran friends, Ray Moon, of the 115 th Infantry Regiment, 29 th Infantry Division. Moon retired at the rank of Colonel.
As a resident of Normandy, Alain has developed a keen knowledge of the Norman countryside and significant areas of the American and Allied battles. He has significant contacts with the Norman people, many of whom own private properties which only permit Alain to enter, and which are the hidden, but really exciting areas of conflict that no other tours or tour guides take their clients. These assets, along with his exhaustive knowledge of the Invasion and WWII provide an added and unique advantage to his ability to guide clients of OVERLORDTOUR. But what really distinguishes Alain from many others guides is his deep respect and admiration for those who liberated his country. He is one that will never forget, and will not let you forget either. For Alain, guiding is not just a job, it is his passion. One of his favourite hobbies is to work on the After Action Reports and maps coming from the National Archives of Washington and to follow the steps of the American forces through the Norman countryside.
If you desire a guided tour of some of the most unique, untraveled places of the Invasion, along with the sites that are most visited, come and follow Alain! You will not be disappointed!!