A Journal, with Pictures

Normandy, France

by on Sep.19, 2015, under Happenings

We arrived Wednes­day Sep­tem­ber 2nd. in Paris and our driver/guide Antoine was wait­ing at bag­gage claim and we were off to Caen to the D‑Day muse­um. This turned out to be one of the best treat­ments of the sub­ject of the lead up to WWII and the inva­sion that we have ever expe­ri­enced. After this vis­it we went to Cateau La Cheneviere where we would stay while in Normandy.

The next day we start­ed our tour of the Nor­ma­day area with a vis­it to the Ger­man Ceme­tery which con­tains the graves of over 21,000 Ger­man sol­diers from WWII. It is a somber reminder of the cost of war and inter­est­ing­ly they are buried stand­ing up, which was a mat­ter of space con­ser­va­tion. It was sad to see the head­stones for 17, 18 and 19 year old men.

Our guide was excel­lent and he then took us to the small vil­lage of St. Mere, which is famous for the para­troop­er who’s chute caught the church tow­er. There is a mock para­troop­er that hangs from the church today, inter­est­ing­ly the para­troop­er survied to fight on. This gave Antoine the oppor­tu­ni­ty to explain the role of the air­born (101st and 82nd) who cap­tured key vil­lages, bridges and dis­rupt­ed the Ger­man defense. We learned that they had the high­est casu­al­tys on D‑Day of any units with over 3000 lost. Sev­er­al of the church­es have stain glass win­dows with the unit patch­es or para­troop­er dis­played in hon­or of their sac­ri­fice. We then trav­eled to Utah Beach one of the two inva­sion beachs the Amer­i­cans stormed. Here our guide gave us the big pic­ture of how the inva­sion was planned and exci­tuded. We saw the high ground where the Ger­mans poured machine gun and artillary shells on the beach and saw pic­tures of the obsti­cles and mines. Today it was a calm peace­ful place far removed from the incred­i­ble destruc­tion that occured June 6, 1945. Our guide showed us places where small parts of the big event hap­pened mak­ing it more real and per­son­al. We saw the hedgerows, the flood­ed fields where para­troop­er drowned and glid­ers crash land­ed, We vis­it­ed the Pointe Du Hoc where the rangers scaled the cliffs to silence guns that wern’t there and viewed Oma­ha Beach where the heav­i­est beach fight­ing occured with 1500 casu­al­ties on D‑day the most of any beach. We vis­it­ed the Ger­man posi­tions and saw that bomb craters still are very vis­i­bile all these years lat­er. At the end of the day we had both the big pic­ture and lots of the threads that made up the fab­ric of one of the great­est mil­i­tary events ever. Just one of the incred­i­ble num­bers that sticks in our mind is the allies land­ed over 175,000 troops on Nor­man­day on D‑day. Though­out the area there are mon­u­ments to var­i­ous units that par­tic­i­pat­ed in the inva­sion as well as mon­u­ments to all.

Our last day was spent vis­it­ing the Amer­i­can Ceme­tery which is locat­ed over­look­ing Oma­ha beach. Amer­i­can sol­diers who fought through the bat­tle of Nor­man­day until Paris was lib­er­at­ed are interned there. The 9387 buried here are only a frac­tion of those fall­en, since next of kin could elect bring love ones back to the U.S. or be buried in the coun­try they fell. In addi­tion there is a wall where the 1557 miss­ing in action are list­ed. In some cas­es a bronz mark­er indi­cates that their remains were lat­er recov­ered. There is a muse­um about the inva­sion with movies and dis­plays, then you can vis­it the cemetary. There are many cross­es of uniden­tied remains, who’s names must be on the MIA wall, in addi­tion the Nilan broth­ers are buried side by side who inspired the movie sav­ing pri­vate Ryan. It is a sad but very beau­ti­ful place that every­one should vist. Inter­est­ing­ly the Amer­i­can cemetary only shows date of death. After vis­it­ing the cemetary we drove to Arro­manch­es the site of the man made har­bor that was con­struct­ed to sup­ply the allied armys before Chebourg was liberated.

After lunch in Arro­manch­es we drove back to Paris where we overnight­ed then flew back to the Unit­ed States the next day. It was an incred­i­ble trip with great sights, new and faci­nat­ing places that are steeped in his­to­ry includ­ing more recent his­to­ry that was made in Normandy.

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