June 6th, D-Day 70th Anniversary

by farrah on June 6, 2014 · 9 comments

Last month my family and my father went on a trip to Normandy. It was the one thing that my father wanted to do while visiting us as being the 70th anniversary, and being a region I wanted to see as well, we were happy to oblige. In my previous Normandy posts, I discuss what we did, and today with my final installment on the actual anniversary of the D-Day invasion itself, I wanted to talk about what we felt while on the beaches.

Normandy D-Day Pointe du Hoc

First and foremost, I have to say that I had been thinking about this trip since my father mentioned it back in 2012. I do not know a war like this war. I do not know what it must have been like to be a parent, a mother, who said goodbye to her children as they went across an ocean to fight an enemy she did not know. I thought about it in an abstract sense, from outside and far away looking in and back. I still do not understand.

Normandy D-Day

Seventy years ago shortly after midnight, soldiers landed on what had to be the most chaotic and terrifying event of so many lives. I try to imagine what many of the ground soldiers and paratroopers must have felt, and simply put: that’s impossible. I cannot fathom what those men must have gone through- leading up to what was most certainly a harrowing experience. There were men jumping out of planes that were blown by the wind miles from their drop points. There were boys who had to scale the cliffs here- and face some of the most intense resistance alone. They were scared, seasick and groggy from medicines that they took for the plane and sea. They had to be cold. I hate all of those things.

Normandy D-DayMap of Pointe du Hoc 

When we arrived at our first stop of Pointe du Hoc I envisioned the scene. Alas, on a sunny day my brain couldn’t compute the history. I knew what I was seeing: a large beautiful cliff that jutted out into the sea surrounded by beach- but the burned out bunkers in sea grass and beautiful water in front of me didn’t sink in. ‘Operation Overlord‘ was the name given to this invasion.

Normandy D-Day

As we wandered around, children ran through gigantic craters. I thought about how bizarre that was. They were running and playing through bombed out holes in the ground. Most likely where people were killed and injured. People that were only children themselves- since most were in their late teens, early twenties, unmarried and without a family of their own. Blood lines that would not continue. They were once just like the children running through the bunkers today.

Normandy D-Day

We went inside and noticed the burned out ceiling where a flame thrower had licked the wood and turned it black. I tried to imagine being a German soldier in that bunker, afraid, fighting, and suddenly I’m being burned alive.

Normandy D-Day

As we stood in front of this bunker I thought how bizarre it was to be smiling. This isn’t a place to smile. This isn’t a place for a photo to share and say ‘Look where we are!’. So this picture bothers me very much, but it’s with my dad so I kept it.

Normandy D-Day

Inside  you can see some of the darkened ceiling where the flame thrower went in, trying to flush the Germans out into the open.

Normandy D-Day

The biggest thing that struck me at Omaha Beach (above) is how beautifully long and graceful it appears today. About a four mile stretch of sand here- that was once stained red with the blood of American and other Allied soldiers. The water was tinted and the remains of boys strewn across the beach. Our guide told us that the people of Normandy do not use this beach for recreation or holidays. This is a place of remembrance and honor. It is not where they choose to come and play.

Normandy D-Day

At Utah Beach we took the boys and threw rocks into the waves. As the sun set, I watched my children and hoped against hope that they would never know themselves what a war like that felt like. I do not want to feel what those mothers endured. There are women like the mothers of the Niland and Sullivan brothers- who lost all or most of her children. I cannot comprehend my children harming an animal- let alone picking up a gun, shooting someone or being shot themselves. I simply cannot.

Normandy D-Day

Since returning home, I’ve revisited the films Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers– both which were told to me by our Normandy guide as accurate and realistic portrayals of what actually happened. After being there and seeing the grounds, I still cannot understand how they did it. How some survived and many were killed. If you haven’t seen either of these film adaptations- I highly encourage you to do so. Thank you American soldiers for your service, and thank you to the people of Normandy for remembering them.

Normandy’s 70th commemoration lasts throughout the summer. There are many activities being held by Normandy’s Tourism board- and you can look up the information at their website and their Facebook page.

You can find my other Normandy posts here. All photos taken by me.

Happy to link up with SJ and her Sunday Traveler linkup. So many fabulous places, so little time.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Leighann June 6, 2014 at 3:05 pm

your pictures are amazing. I will watch those films and think of your post. My grandfather was there and talked very little about his time there. I can’t imagine.

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2 farrah June 9, 2014 at 6:10 am

My great uncle was there too- I wish I was able to talk to him about it!

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3 Corinne June 8, 2014 at 7:22 am

Farrah, Chilling. Poignant. I find it such a great testimonial to the past that the French do not use the beach recreationally. I have not been to the Normandy beaches yet, but we will probably get there in August. Great post.

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4 farrah June 9, 2014 at 6:11 am

That really struck me too, Corinne. Our guide talked about the love the Normandy French have for America- I could see it in the way the town was completely decked out in flags. I asked her if it was always like this or if it was just for the 70th, and she said no- they always have the US flags out.

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5 Catherine June 8, 2014 at 1:56 pm

This is such a well-written and thought provoking post. It looks like such a beautiful beach on a bright sunny day. Impossible to imagine what it would have looked like 70 years ago, never mind what those standing on it must have been thinking and feeling.

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6 farrah June 9, 2014 at 6:12 am

Thanks Catherine. It’s hard to really put into words what it was like being there, knowing the history and what happened. It’s really beyond my comprehension level to be honest.

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7 Elizabeth June 9, 2014 at 7:21 pm
8 Kirstin June 2, 2015 at 11:05 pm

I’ve enjoyed reading your posts on your trip to Normandy. I am currently planning a few days for our family to visit this area. We are a USAF family living in England. You had mentioned a guide that you had for the beaches. Is this someone you would recommend? My girls are older than your children and I want them to be able to learn some while visiting this historic area. Thank you!

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9 farrah June 3, 2015 at 5:36 am

Thanks Kirstin!

I took this one: http://www.viator.com/tours/Bayeux/Normandy-Beaches-Half-Day-Trip-from-Bayeux/d909-3193NSTB

And YES, I would recommend it. Our guide was a local, passionate about the subject and a student at the university. I had to laugh at the challenge she gave my father on historical events 🙂 They offer many, many other tours- you’ll just have to go through each one and see what’s the best fit. And I wouldn’t splurge on on a ‘private’ tour. My father and I were with a mother and daughter and it was just lovely. You might want to ask how large the group might be, but I had no issues.

Have a wonderful time!

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