Friday, April 27, 2012

Normandy, D-Day, Saving Private Ryan

Long before we ever left for Paris, I had shared with everyone how to get train tickets from Paris to Caen.  I also hired a tour guide and bus for us.  To be sure we were on the 7:07 am train to Caen, we did a dry run of the two Metro trains we needed to take to the train station and the platform we needed to be on.  It all worked and we had a lovely morning ride passing the Basilica of St. Therese, the Little Flower, in her home town of Lisieux.  It was consecrated on July 11,1954 and has become a centre for pilgrims from all over the world.  Bob and his family had visited it the day before and pointed it out to us.

Dominique met us at the train station as planned and we were off in the rain to Utah Beach.  It was raining, windy and cold.  As I maneuvered my way to the edge of the cliff to look out, I thought this is what our servicemen encountered; however, they were being shot at.  I worried what the rest of the day would bring with such bad weather.

I took a picture of this monument listed as 00 for the beginning of the war.  The town of Ste. Mere-Eglise had erected a monument as Ground Zero so Utah Beach became double zero.

 The beach looked pretty much like it did on June 6, 1944.

Our next stop was Ste. Mere Eglise, the town taken by members of the 505th led by Lieutenant-Colonel Edward C. Krause. At 04:30 the stars and stripes were hoisted over the town and Ste. Mere Eglise was the first town to be liberated in France. The town was made famous by the paratrooper John Steel and by the film "The Longest Day". John Steel managed to land on the church and his chute caught on the steeple. He hung there while the fighting continued on the ground for two hours before being cut down by the Germans, taken prisoner and later released by the Americans. An effigy of John Steel is still seen on the church. Inside the church there are two stained glass windows, one shows the Virgin Mary surrounded by paratroopers, the other shows St. Michael (patron saint of the paratroopers) and was dedicated in 1972 at the 25th anniversary of the liberation of the town.

Ted and I took just long enough to see the movie presented at the museum where we encountered this C-47 used in combat.  The dummies were made up to look like the actual men who flew her as they appeared in the film.


Pointe du Hoc is a clifftop location on the coast of Normandy in northern France. It lies 4 miles west of Omaha Beach, and stands on 100 ft tall cliffs overlooking the sea. It was a point of attack by the United States Army Ranger Assault Group during Operation Overlord in World War II.

The terrain marred by huge craters caused by shelling by our destroyers.

A German bunker in the cliffside.

Hooks that held German bunks.

Omaha Beach.  I didn't realize this is a resort area where people vacation.  We were told that the Allies asked people to send postcards and photos of the beaches along the Normandy coast to help them plan where they would land during D-Day.  It's a beautiful, wide beach.



"Signal Monument" to 1st Division (US) and 116th RCT in St-Laurent-sur-Mer.

This monument remembers the landing on Omaha Beach. One can see two inscriptions carved on the sides of the monument, one dedicated to the 1st Infantry Division, and the other to the 116th Infantry Regimental Combat Team of the 29th Infantry Division.

Omaha Beach is the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during World War II.

The beach is located on the coast of Normandy, France, facing the English Channel, and is 5 miles long, from east of Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to west of Vierville-sur-Mer on the right bank of the Douve River estuary. Landings here were necessary in order to link up the British landings to the east at Gold beach with the American landing to the west at Utah beach, thus providing a continuous legmen on the Normandy coast of the Bay of the Seine. Taking Omaha was to be the responsibility of United States Army troops, with sea transport provided by the U.S. Navy and elements of the Royal Navy.

AMERICAN CEMETERY, Colleville-Sur-Mer (Colleville By The Sea)

The cemetery is a 70 hectare site overlooking Omaha Beach with 9,387 perfectly aligned headstones and a Garden of the Missing bearing the names of 1,557 more soldiers.  There is also a chapel, a memorial and a visitor center.

The chapel ceiling.

Teddy Roosevelt's son's grave

The view of the Atlantic from the edge of the cemetery at Colleville.

This has been the hardest post to do.  We saw so much, some of it in bad weather, and were on the road for over nine hours.  For the mistakes I may have made, the paragraphs I plagiarized from brochures, I apologize.  It is just important to be sure no one ever forgets.

1 comment:

Rick and Brenda said...

A nice history lesson from a different perspective.