Awakening To The D Day Beaches of Normandy

Bonjour mes amis,

Let me take you to Normandy. My french awakening could not have imagined a more sobering experience than at the D Day Beaches of the beautiful Normandy coastline.

To get more of a feel for what our Allied Forces experienced in Normandy, France during WWII, visit the five main landing sites of Juno, Omaha, Sword, Gold and Utah- making up an 80km stretch of lonely coast today.

Walk down to the now deserted beach and along the way observe tiny pieces of rusted shavings in the sand – tiny remnants of the horrific battle…

The D Day Beaches takes about three hours in a westerly direction from Paris by train (from Gare St Lazare  via Bayeux ) or less time via Caen and believe me mes amis, this destination will rock your soul and burn unforgettable memories in your heart long after you’ve returned home.

Standing on the shores of Omaha Beach, footprints embedded in the sands around me serve as a reminder of the feet of young boy soldiers who scurried across its bloody sands for the love of freedom.

The air is blowing cold and I imagine the shrill of terror in the nearly two hundred thousand soldiers’ hearts as they burst forth onto shore on the 6th June, 1944-carried by a spring tide which guarantees deep water in a strategic operation famously known as “Operation Neptune”. Even ‘Midget Submarines’ waited at the bottom of the sea until the timing was right to join forces.

The first wave of Allied soldiers took heavy losses on Omaha beach and many referred to this bloodbath as ‘Bloody Omaha”. Even with strong German resistance, the Americans eventually won back the village of Vierville and a whole mile back from the beach.

Allied Battalions came by air too. Mostly consisting of Canadian, American, English, French Resistance soldiers and from other places including Australia were flown in, guided by the light of a full moon and as they surged towards the German brigades they were pelted with gunfire from machine guns in concrete bunkers constructed by Germany.

These bunkers dot the shoreline and are still intact today. Enter the bowel of one and peer out to sea as Germans did long ago awaiting action. It won’t take you long to feel an eery reminder of the tragedy of man…

The American Cemetery in Colleville sur Mer, overlooks Omaha Beach.

It’s fitting that all these soldiers who died here would want to be be buried beside their comrades in arms. Especially poignant are the crosses of thirty three pairs of brothers included in the death toll of Americans alone.

Shiny white marble crosses mark the graves of the nearly nine and a half thousand American soldiers who gave their lives here. Each cross serves as a fine memorial of pure courage and the pristine rows and rows of crosses accumulate to symbolise the undying respect and devotion of families, friends and countrymen of the entire free world.

The American Memorial adjacent to the cemetery, has a lithe bronze figure at its semi circular centre entitled, “Spirit of American Youth Rising From The Waves”. Its arms are  outstretched in the grasp for greater glory, justice and freedom and it stands as custodian for the nearly two thousand American soldiers who are remembered on the ‘Walls of the Missing’ behind.

Each cross pierces a pristine and peaceful green lawn of the American Cemetery in Omaha- a stark restful contrast to the action on the beach in World War II.

Visit the entire Normandy American Cemetery Visitors Centre while you are there. It will relive the  D Day Battles in real life footage on wide screen and you’ll begin to understand the enormity of the struggle for freedom and the military operations of all Landings.

It’s a very moving experience as you listen to the deep throated voices of patriotic Generals and emotional stories of the saga of soldiers. Come face to face with personal items of the dead and learn the history of the Normandy Battle in all its gruesome and heroic detail.

Likewise at Juno Beach, the landings of the Canadian Infantry were  invaluable to the Battle of Normandy and you can pay your respects to the over five and a half thousand troops who died there. Take time to visit the Juno Beach information Centre. For more information go to:

http://www.junobeach.org/

Each of the five Landing Sites in Normandy will give you the same picture. Different countrymen displaying the same unbelievable courage and infallible hope in themselves and in their battalion and in their country.

The Allied troops on D Day rose to glory after horrendous loss of young lives. As I walked outside towards the beach at Omaha and passed the beautiful water feature, a thought crossed my mind that it looked so serene in all its reflective glory and it seemed to become one with sea and sky…

Perhaps like those young soldiers who had fallen for the love of Freedom.

Do go and be reminded of how lucky we are!

Au revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

Copyright@ 2010 Therese Waddell

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2 Responses to “Awakening To The D Day Beaches of Normandy”

  1. I love going to the D-Day beaches. It’s always very moving.

    About 10 years ago, soon after Spielberg’s”Save Ryan” was released in France, I took my 3 boys (young teenagers at that time) to Omaha beach. It was low tide. we went close to the water, and there I told them: “now, this is not a movie anymore, this is real life: imagine you have a 40 kg bag on your back, a 3kg gun in your hands, and thousands of bullets coming from the dunes, friends fallind dead everywhere, and run! RUN!”.

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