It seems my hubby is always watching a show about World War II and I thought I knew what there was to know about D-Day. A visit to Normandy was on his bucket list and not really on mine, but after spending a few days in and around Normandy I gained a huge appreciation of D-Day and this area. A visit to Normandy highlighted to me one of the biggest benefits of travel. That is gaining first-hand experiences that bring history to life and creating a connection with the past that is far more meaningful than learning about it in a classroom, a tv show, film or a book.
Growing up in America, what I knew didn’t really touch on how much D-Day affected the French people–in Normandy, you really get to see a different side to the Invasion and realize how important this event truly was in world history.
Sainte Mere Eglise was one of the first towns liberated on the night of June 5th/6th, 1944. Private John Steele hung with his parachute at the church tower during Operation Overlord. The tower has a paratrooper hanging in memory of Private Steele. Can you see the “paratrooper” hanging from the tower?
Unique stained glass windows were created for the church, in order to commemorate the liberation of the town by 82nd Airborne Division on June 6, 1944. I thought it was fantastic that one of them depicts the Virgin with two paratroopers.
Children from all over Europe write notes about their hopes for world peace. They replace them weekly with new notes.
I thought this hair salon embraced the spirit of this town.
From the Sainte Mere Eglise we headed to Omaha Beach and the monument to the D-Day landings. This huge stainless steel art installation known as The Braves, commemorates the 60th anniversary of the landings. They keep it roped off to prevent the locals from hanging their towels on it to dry.
To the locals, it’s a beach. I didn’t expect to see people laying in the sun but it makes sense, to them it is a beach and they should enjoy it.
Our next stop on our D-Day Landings was Pointe Du Hoc. It was a heavily defended German installation and lookout point. I was overwhelmed when I saw how high the cliffs actually were. I knew from films that the allied forces thought that the destruction of this stronghold was going to be critical to the success of D-Day. They believed there were six 155mm guns and they would have destroyed many of the soldiers landing at both Omaha and Utah beaches. To accomplish this mission, US Rangers in the early hours of June 6th had the mission of scaling the 100ft cliffs and destroying the guns.As it turned out, the guns had all been moved. The Rangers did find them and destroy them. The battle for Pointe Du Hoc had 70 percent casualties, it was successful but costly.
Many of the original concrete bunkers, bomb craters and installations are still in place, and you can wander all around the area, and marvel at the challenges that must have faced the men landing here. There is also a visitor center that is also worth a look.
This is a view from one of the bunkers. I just thought it was interesting. I wonder what the soldiers were able to see tuck inside a bunker.
The American Cemetery looks over Omaha Beach. The American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer is one of the most famous of its kind in the region. It has a museum dedicated to the D-Day landings as well as a beautifully maintained cemetery on the cliffs above Omaha. It is the final resting place of over 9,000 US military personnel, some are unknown graves.
At the beginning of the cemetery, there is a reflecting pool that ends with the Memorial and Colonade in the background. It’s a quiet place where the visitors are filled with awe and respect for those who so bravely gave their lives.
At 4 pm there is a Retreat Ceremony when a recording of taps was played and they took down the flag. Everyone was respectful but to be honest it was simple and not as impressive as the changing of the guards at Arlington.
I learned so much and gained a new appreciation for what had to have been a terrifying task that our brave soldiers faced.