D-Day: Sites and impressions - France on a roll -- depending on charm - CycleBlaze

June 21, 2011

D-Day: Sites and impressions

A little while ago I left the American Military Cemetery at Omaha Beach and I'm having a hard time writing about the D-day sights along with the every day fun stuff that is happening on the trip.

I'm kind of a history buff and know a lot of facts about WWII but being here where it happened is a different thing entirely.

Like I said in a previous post, for some reason, seeing real clothes and objects from those days really got to me, but mostly the clothes. I'm not sure why? Except that when you see it on T.V. it's 'costumes'. These are the actual uniforms of real life Germans, holes and flaws in all, who occupied France. They are made of wool. You can touch and feel them in some museums, if you reach over the ropes that they probably don't want you to reach over. Same with the clothes of the French citizens---and of the concentration camp prisoners.

Utah Beach was the most dramatic for me. I think because I got there very early, before most people; the tide was out and it was still and quite; overcast and cool and it was easier to imagine it, though I know I could never imagine it. Then, there were the little towns nearby with plaques on the exact spots, with the exact name of the soldiers who died there and exactly HOW they died.

I am really surprised at how LARGE the operation was. I spans a HUGE stretch of coast. The logistics are astounding!

I met a couple from Britain at the campground last night. 'We were kids on the south coast of England during the war. There was barely a patch of land that was not covered with men and material preparing for the invasion. The scale was immense. How they kept it a secret from the Germans is astounding!' I agree. Astounding.

But of course, today, seeing all of those graves representing all those men (and yes, a few woman) anyone who is not choked up seeing that is someone who must not have any feelings.

Although some of the smaller museums had some good exhibit, and I liked the airborne museum at Saint Mere Eglise, I think the best two museums were the ones at Utah Beach and the Memorial at the American Cemetery (which happens to be free by the way, the only one). The Utah museum just opened June 6th of this year. What I liked the best there was many different videos of real people being interviewed. From American soldiers to French citizens who lived under the occupation. I especially remember one woman who said she was a girl during the occupation and a German officer would bring her family bread. One day he said to her, "I have children your age. I just want to go home."

The American Cemetery mainly highlights individual soldiers and how much the French citizens appreciate the sacrifice. 'They came from 4000 miles away and liberated us," one Frenchman said in one of the films. "We were amazed at how bravely and courageously they fought...and when we helped to bury them, we became one with them..."

All those boys... I have heard numerous French people say, "We will not forget them." None of us should.

I think I'm done with D-Day sights now, at least planned ones. Though in this part of the country the whole country has memorials and related things.

I'm glad I came and will always remember these days.

(FYI--there are two pages of pictures for this entry--you will see a link at the bottom to click to page 2)

Utah Beach
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What they were fighting for. Read the last line.
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This was in a small museum in Sainte-Marie-du-mont. My friend Leo translated this for me ... NOTICE
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At the same museum... These were painted by the German officer who lived in this house, which was made into a command center.
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...the same with these paintings. Notice the real uniforms.
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These are real too, with holes and all.
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Nazi chess set. Notice the bishops.
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One of the many plaques outside Sainte-Marie-du-Mont
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Saint-Mere-Eglise church. Notice paratrooper tribute hanging from steeple representing actual soldier on D-day.
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These dot the countryside. I think the best way to see them is on a bike. They are all over and clearly are meant to honor those who fought but the French people here.
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This was a German battery near Omaha Beach. It had a complete network of trenches.
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German gun at same battery
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Point du hoc
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View from Point du Hoc looking west
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This was from the German Bunker on Point du Hoc. This is exactly the view the Germans had on D-day. What a sight that must have been!
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Inside the bunker walls at Point du hoc
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Bomb craters at Point du Hoc
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American Military Cemetery at Omaha Beach
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American Military Cemetery at Omaha Beach
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Looking up from Omaha Beach
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Omaha Beach
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American Military Cemetery Memorial at Omaha Beach
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American Military Cemetery Memorial at Omaha Beach
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American Military Cemetery at Omaha Beach
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American Military Cemetery Memorial at Omaha Beach
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At the town near Omaha Beach
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Is this woman's reaction any wonder?
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