10/04/2009 Normandy Beaches

Today we bussed through the entire region of the D-Day invasion.  Starting with the Pegasus bridge where British and Canadian paratroopers landed to take and hold this critical bridge, then Sword, Juno and Gold beaches where the British and Canadians landed.  Today the area is dotted with pretty coastal towns filled with vacationers in the summer months.  Milk cows and agriculture (we saw cabbages, lettuce, leeks, and carrots growing) still dominate the area.  After lunch at a nice chateau, we had an emotional visit to the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha beach, where I believe over 9000 Americans are buried.  We heard rumors that Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen was visiting that day, and were surprised to meet him walking down the path overlooking the ocean.  He had a small posse with him…

As you look down Omaha beach, you wonder how the troops ever got off the beach.  It is a much bigger climb than I had imagined, much more than at the flat British beaches.  Next stop was Pointe du Hoc, where 225 Rangers climbed the cliffs to take and hold a series of German gun emplacements.  This is the only area we saw that had not been cleaned up since the war.  The concrete bunkers are still there, and the area is pockmarked with the scars left by bomb and shell explosions.

Last stop was Ste Mere-Eglise, site of the massive American paratrooper drop.  The French have a mannequin of an American hanging from his parachute from the steeple of the church to remember the event (watch The Longest Day to learn more about this).


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