Normandy and WWII

I’ve forgotten a lot of my history about the Americans (and other countries) landing in Normandy. My sister’s husband is a real history buff and he wanted to take a tour of the beach areas. We hired a guide which turned out to be a very good idea as he could tell us all of the history and could take us right where everything happened. His name was Christophe Rault (christophe_rault@hotmail.com).

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St Mere Eglise is the village where the paratroupers first dropped into France. One of the parachutes of an American got caught on a steeple of a church of this first town liberated in France and he hung there for hours pretending to be dead. This was all shown in an old American movie, The Longest Day. They have a dummy hanging on the church now to show how it happened. The whole town seems to be devoted to this happening. There is an interesting museum there showing tanks, airplanes, photos, German equipment and more to give you an idea of all that went on during this battle.

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Our guide also took us to some German bunkers. We went undergound. It was amazing how huge they were with tunnels, air ventilation and communication lines everywhere. I think the main way to “take them out” was to get rid of the large gun which stuck out of the hole shown here. Ships from the nearby ocean were bombing them to accomplish most of this.

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Another church in which Bob Wright, and Kenneth Moore -two medics from the 501st and 101st Airborne division-tended to over 80 American and German wounded men after the early hours of the American paratrooper drop into Normandy. Here for over 72 non-stop hours, Wright and Moore attended to the wounded from June 6th to 7th. The Germans took this town more than once during several days of fierce fightings and let them continue what they were doing.

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A window dedicated to those two men. All of the churches suffered horrible damage during the war and most windows were new and many in Normandy have windows showing paratroupers or American symbols. No where will Americans feel more welcomed and appreciated than in Normandy. When the paratroupers knocked on the doors of the French after dropping into various villages, they were welcomed inside and allowed to set up headquarters.

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Just as we were leaving the church, the sun came out and illuminated a stained glass window of a bishop in a red robe. You can almost see it exactly in the image on the floor.

7 thoughts to “Normandy and WWII”

  1. Although not alive during the Second World War I heard lots of stories from parents and their friends who were children during that time. It has a weird effect to imagine Americans coming ashore on the foreign beaches, guys who would have been at home enjoying their normal work, time with family and friends. No wonder the people of Normandy are grateful they did this instead.

    At Arromanches there is an astonishing museum built above one of the main landing beaches where ships pulled in and the huge equipment or war was unloaded onto ingenious pontoon platforms and then onto the hard packed sand. These floating platforms that linked like a huge puzzle to support the weight were designed in England and floats over at night.

    You can stand there and somehow “see” the thousands of men surging off the boats and into battle. Truly frightening. In the museum there are so many personal artifacts, clothing, helmets, notebooks, binoculars, and letters that the people in this struggle become quite real. There are also lots of blown up photos and some video clips of various incursions, the brutality of the German invasion and horrors of the life ordinary citizens were forced to adopt. The reality of it strikes home and after a while all I could do was stand there and cry.

  2. This sounds like a great place to visit. I don’t think “great” is the best word here, interesting, enlightening and yes, sobering.

    We owe a debt of gratitude for our freedom. It didn’t come “free”, did it?

    Thanks for waking me up to what a whiny little mouse I’ve been lately, I have so much to be grateful for.

  3. Paula has hit the nail on the head. We take for granted what other people bought with their lives. To stand on ground hallowed by that sacrifice in the recent past is a stunning experience.

    France and the United States share the tie of having paid dearly for each other’s freedoms at various times – in the Revolutionary War and again in World War II. We have a certain “blood tie” that is a bittersweet memory. You can feel that living in this part of France, as Linda said in her post.

  4. My husband insisted I watch Saving Private Ryan the other night. I only got through the beginning and then had trouble sleeping as all the horrific scenes stayed with me all night. It made me more thankful for what I have and thoughful about what my family and my husbands lived through.

  5. On this trip with Linda (I’m her sister) I was inspired by how well-loved and respected the American soldiers were. They were their heros, which is in sharp contrast to how we’re pretty much hated around the world now. I wasn’t afraid to admit I was an American in this area of France.

  6. My dad landed in Normandy on D-Day, so this part of history has always been especially meaningful to me.
    To actually visit all of those villages and the beaches in 1985 was something I’ll never forget. Our trip back there this past May got canceled, due to my husband being sick, but we’re heading there this coming May with our son, so he can finally see where his grandfather landed.

  7. Hi Linda – I know this was a somewhat sobering place to visit. Everyone should watch ‘Saving Private Ryan’ to see what those men went through to save the free world. I don’t think the movie exaggerated the terrible situation on the beaches – I grew up hearing the stories firsthand from English neighbors who were actually there too.

    Thanks for sharing your visit and the photos. Guess I should have commented on your next post – both are great.

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