My first impression of Omaha Beach in Normandy was of summer fun. Alongside the massive stretch of sand, there was a boardwalk dotted with summer beach rentals, ice cream stands and the occasional creperie. The laughter of a visiting group of British school children added to the ambiance of carefree days. But anyone who has studied the D-Day landings of June 6, 1944 knows that Omaha was the bloodiest of battlefields of D-Day with some units in the first wave suffering up to a 92% casualty rate. How do we memorialize the 4,000 who died in a few hours? Today a bold, modern memorial stands out along the relaxing beach and marks the critical military objective that the American soldiers sacrificed so dearly to achieve.
Posts tagged ‘war’
It’s actually pretty hard to find the World War I battlefields in Northern France. Infamous for the bloody stalemate that lasted there for years, the land has now returned to tranquil fields. While contemplating this change driving through the Somme Valley, I happened across the American Cemetery. The front gate and chapel door were unclosed, but there was not a single person to be seen. I thought it fitting on Veterans Day (also known as Remembrance Day in the UK and Canada, and Armistice Day in France) which commemorates the November 11, 1918 end of World War I, that we visit this quiet cemetery in the French countryside and think about these forgotten battles that took the lives of these soldiers.
This past weekend, Americans celebrated Memorial Day and spent some time remembering all those who gave up their lives in service to our country. This last March I had the chance to visit the D-Day Beaches in Normandy, France. I learned a lot in my visit and was struck at several points by the incredible difficulties faced by the Allies in leading such a massive and risky invasion. But what I returned to this Memorial Day were the individuals interred at the Normandy American Cemetery on the Landing Beaches. The cemetery was impressive in its size but also its reverence and honor of those buried therein.