Normandy Journals

Utah Omaha Gold Juno Sword

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A November 2003 trip to Normandy by Idler

Utah...Omaha...Gold...Juno...Sword Photo, Normandy, France More Photos
Quote: These are the names of the D-Day beaches, west to east, names seared into a generation’s memory. After visiting landing sites and battlefields in Normandy, they’ve become emblematic for me as well.

Utah Omaha Gold Juno Sword

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Overview

Utah...Omaha...Gold...Juno...Sword Photo, Normandy, France
Quote:
They are humoring me, my husband and son. I’ve plied them with coffee and croissants, then worried them like a sheepdog into the car. It’s seven a.m. in Normandy and the villages and towns are still cloaked in a gray blanket. We’re on the road early, slicing through swirls of fog, heading for the coast. Outside Ranville, the sun breaks free of the clouds. Light cascades over the countryside, scouring the white headstones in a British cemetery. "Stop here," I croak. "Stop here." Jack pulls over with a sigh. He reclines his seat all the way back, pulling his hat down over his eyes. He’s obviously discounting my promise to be back "in a moment." And he’s right, o...Read More

Pegasus Bridge to Juno Beach

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Story/Tip

At Ranville Cemetery Photo, Normandy, France
Quote:
RANVILLE CEMETERYIt is perhaps fitting that our first D-Day stop is at Ranville Cemetery, the final resting place of the first Allied soldier killed on D-Day. His name was Den Botheridge, and he was a member of the British 6th Airborne glider infantry, whose mission was to secure the two bridges linking Ranville to Bénouville, the major artery between Caen and the sea. (Map of the area.)Just after midnight on June 6th, 1944 three Horsa gliders landed silen...Read More

Arromanches to Longues-sur-Mer

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Story/Tip

Arromanches, vestiges of a Mulberry Photo, Normandy, France
Quote:
MULBERRIESI am trying to explain to my son, with scant success, what a mulberry was, "mulberry" being the code name for artificial harbors constructed off the Normandy coast. "They deliberately sank old ships," I explain, "and flooded hollow concrete cubes with seawater to form a breakwater and pier."He’s having none of it. "So how does that make a harbor?" "Wait and see," I tell him. "One of the mulberries is still partially there."We’re on the D514 running parallel to Gold Beach, on our way to Arromanches. One of the most interesting things to ...Read More

Colleville-sur-Mer and Omaha Beach

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Story/Tip

The Normandy American Cemetery  Photo, Normandy, France
Quote:
THE NORMANDY AMERICAN CEMETERY Anyone who’s seen Saving Private Ryan is familiar with the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. There’s that final scene, when the surviving veteran comes to pay his respects; the camera pans through the cemetery, across row upon row of perfectly aligned white crosses, intensely green grass, and reverent stillness. I knew in advance what I’d see at Colleville-sur-Mer. I had all the facts at my fingertips: 9,386 graves at the site overlooking Omaha Beach; 172 acres of French soil granted in perpetuity to the United States. But that had not prepared me in the slightest. ...Read More

Pointe du Hoc to Sainte-Mère-Église

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Story/Tip

Pointe du Hoc Photo, Normandy, France
Quote:
Pointe du HocIt is late in the afternoon when we reach Pointe du Hoc, a rugged headland jutting out to sea west of Omaha Beach. The Allies believed a powerful artillery battery was in place at the top of the sheer cliffs, and it was vital that it be neutralized so that it could not fire down upon Omaha and Utah beaches. Unfortunately, the only way to attack the position was to climb a sheer 100-foot-high cliff face, a task assigned to two Ranger battalions. Equipped with special grappling hooks and using modified ladders provided by the London Fire Brigade mounted onto DUKW amphibious craft, the Rangers began their attack at 6:30 on D-Day. They were supported by the 16-...Read More

Epilogue

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Story/Tip

Smokes  AKA Bob Helle served under Patton Photo, Normandy, France
Quote:
May 29, 2004: The Final MusterThe build-up has been massive; week after week we’ve been bombarded with stories and rumors, but now at long last it’s the big day.No, not the invasion of Normandy – the dedication of the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.Thousands of veterans are converging on the Mall to mark an occasion that has been a long time coming. As long-time Washington area residents, we’ve seen one monument after another go up on the mall: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, The Korean War Memorial, The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.For 17 years, plans for a World War II memorial were mired in bureaucratic wrangling....Read More