Thursday, September 6, 2012

Normandy: Day 2

After snuggling this little munchkin in my mummy bag all night, we grabbed a bite to eat and headed to out first stop, the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach.

We visited a lot of WWII sites over this trip, and this one was the most meaningful for me. It was the most informative and of course was hugely emotional. The cemetery was overwhelming.

There are no words to adequately describe this place.

The true "Saving Private Ryan" story-

We finished our rounds right when the cruise tours started arriving...perfect timing to head to our next stop.

Point du Hoc.
On D-Day, elements of the 2nd Ranger Battalion scaled the cliffs, to seize German artillery hazardous to the landings on Omaha and Utah beaches. ( i didn't write this, Shane made me quote it from the pamphlet.)
It's on the cliffs west of Omaha Beach. The ground was cratered by bombs. The kids had a lot of fun running up and down the hillsides. I wasn't sure if kids running wild was the "proper" behavior in this kind of place.
 But I quickly decided that it was okay. I think that it was one of the reasons D-Day happened, so that children could run freely. I felt like those men were smiling down on my loud and irreverent children.

Shane asked for the camera and went off into a zone. He's dreamed of walking on these grounds for "half of his life," as he told Cannon.

Once we got our children off of the giant weapons, we were off to St. Mere Eglise, the first town to be liberated on the western front.

This is a little village where American paratroopers landed before dawn on D-Day. The church in the town square is famous for the paratrooper, John Steele, whose chute got caught on a church spire. He hung from the church and pretended to be dead for 2 hours. The square that he landed in was crowded with Germans.

He was eventually taken prisoner, then escaped and was able to re-join his division.

We ate lunch at a little cafe, and then made our way to the Airborne museum.

The kids souvenirs, the Crickets. Replicas of the clickers given to the American paratroopers so they could distinguish friend from enemy in the dark.
(we would later learn that purchasing these for them might have been the biggest mistake of the entire vacation)
There were so many symbols throughout that little town square that communicated just how grateful the  townspeople were to those paratroopers. It was nice to feel so welcome, just because of our nationality.
Inside the church
Even the church stained glass windows were designed to honor the those men.
Theo blowing a kiss to the paratrooper dummie. Equally sweet and weird.
We packed up for Utah beach. On the way there were a couple of stops Shane wanted to make. One was Brecourt Manor. It's currently a private farm, but the tree line in the back was where Lt. Winters and the men of Easy Company took out four artillery guns. Lt. Winters was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. (Shane says this is important.)
 A statue of Lt. Dick Winters. He led Easy Company in Normandy on D-Day.
(watch Band of Brothers, this guy is awesome)
These two monuments were pretty far off the beaten path. We got a lot of stares from the locals as we stopped and took pictures. It seemed like everywhere we turned there were more statues or monuments. History everywhere!
The other beach stormed by Americans on D-Day.
I loved this beach. Just judging it as a beach, I mean. The tide was way out and the locals were taking advantage of clam digging. I picture beaches in the far northeast like this one. (i've only been as far as New Jersey)

We all got pretty wet and sandy, even after pleading from me to stay dry...(remember, we were camping)
Our stomachs began to growl, and the kids were pretty much done with sight seeing by this point.

We called it a day and went back to camp. We fixed an easy dinner of sandwiches and a salad, took showers and crawled into our tents for the night.


Liz said...

what an awesome experience!

Jeanie Whitelaw said...

I never read about the WWII Invasion... but your pictures and narrative put me right there. Thank you.

Eric said...

Wow, what an amazing experience. I've heard Shane talk about going for a long time. Your pictures make me want to go too! You'll have to let us know how it was with the little ones :)