Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Visiting American Assault Beaches of Normandy, France

What a week! My son finished his stay with us and my great friend and her daughter came to visit for five days. I have been over almost every part of Paris...and beyond.

The last big trip we did with my son was to Normandy. It was an emotional two-day visit. It's a little over a two-hour drive from Paris to the beaches of Normandy. The first day we visited the American Cemetery and Memorial at Omaha Beach in Colliville-sur-Mer. The United States has procured land for U.S. military cemeteries around the world. According to Wikipedia,

"France has granted the United States a special, perpetual concession to the land occupied by the cemetery, free of any charge or any tax. This cemetery is managed by the American government, under Congressional acts that provide yearly financial support for maintaining them, with most military and civil personnel employed abroad. The U.S. flag flies over these granted soils.[1]"

This site is the resting place of 9,387 American military. Most died in the invasion of Normandy. Families of military were given the choice of burial places with only 30 percent choosing to have their loved ones buried in the country where they died throughout these international locations of American cemeteries.

There is a great museum at this sight with many moving displays. Most moving of all though, is the sight of all the grave markers on a bluff that overlooks Omaha beach. Here's a quick video of the view from the Memorial's statue, "The Spirit of American Youth Rising in the Waves," across the reflecting pool to the cemetery.

This is the cemetery where Steven Spielberg shot the opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan," where the WW II veteran is visiting the grave of John Miller, Tom Hanks fictional character. The real name of the brothers that inspired the movie is, Niland, and two of the brothers are buried in this cemetery.

The second day we drove farther northwest to Utah beach where there is a spectacular museum. According to the museum's website,

"The Utah Beach museum was created in 1962 by Michel de Vallavieille, mayor of Sainte Marie du Mont from 1949 to 1991. He spent a lot of his time and his energy in creating and maintaining this museum to preserve the memory of those who landed on UTAH BEACH. The museum opened inside a old German bunker known under code name WN5. It is today the historical and symbolic center of the museum.
The site of Utah Beach is in permanent evolution to thank and pay tribute to all the men who gave or risked their life for our freedom."

 Bring your tissue. There were so many moving displays. One of the most memorable was a letter American Naval Admiral Moon wrote to his wife prior to the beach invasion. He wrote so many loving thoughts to her and to his children. He even asked that she remarry should he not return because he wanted her to be happy. There were also video testimonials playing throughout the museum by veterans retelling that day in their lives. 

These were dresses made from parachutes for French girls to wear in victory parades. 

I wish every American could visit these two sites.


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I would love to visit that place some day. My uncles late wife had a brother who is buried there - they found his grave when my uncle was stationed in France with the air force in the 1960's. I can understand it being emotional - even if one doesn't know anyone who had been buried there. A war like that affected everyone it seems.

Luann said...

I too, wish every American could and would visit both sites.