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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Le Havre, France and the Normandy Beaches


Le Havre, France and the Normandy Beaches

The Emerald Princess sailed across the English Channel last night and docked in Le Havre, France.  Le Havre is France’s second largest port and sits on the mouth of the Seine River which flows through Paris.  Our interest was Normandy and the D-Day beaches.  We elected to go on a ship’s excursion along with 300 others.  The day began early with breakfast in the room.  The weather was foggy and almost cold.  I am glad we brought along some warm clothes.  We disembarked and we were off on a really nice bus.

The drive west from Le Havre took us through the Normandy countryside.  It is dotted with small villages, green fields with cows and sheep and bright yellow fields of canola flowers used in making the oil. Our first stop was a rest stop on the equivalent of a French expressway.  The ESSO facility is close to a “Bucky’s” if you know what that is.  It had everything including a bakery. 
Our drive then took us past some important WW2 battle places like Caen. Our first stop was Pont du Hoc.  I mentioned that the weather was foggy earlier.  Well it started raining but we ventured forth anyway and it soon cleared up. 

Pont du Hoc was taken by the 2nd Ranger Battalion led by Colonel James Rudder, a Texan by the way, and 200 men on D-Day.  The objective was the big guns on the overlooking Omaha Beach.  The men had to scale the cliffs.  The assault and battle on the 6th and 7th took the lives of 135 of them but the mission was accomplished.

Our tour took us next to Omaha Beach a short distance away.  It looks nothing like I remember in the movie The Longest Day.  The high tide obscured the beach below and the water came right up to the now concrete wall.  I can just imagine the thousands of ships just off the coast on that fateful morning.  Some of the original German bunkers remain but they are filled with concrete.  There are memorials to the units who came ashore on D-Day, Big Red One and the 29th Division.

We boarded our bus for a short ride to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleyville.  There are 9,387 headstones made of white marble with the name, state and unit engraved on the marker.  There are 1,557 missing in action and unknown marked only with the inscription, “Known but to God.”  There is a sense of reverence as you walk among the thousands of white crosses and Star of David headstones.  We can’t imagine the horrors that these men endured on that day, the day that began the end of Hitler’s Nazi domination of Western Europe. 

It was time for lunch and our tour took us to Arromanches and Juno Beach.  We had lunch at the Le Normandie Hotel and Restaurant.  After lunch MA and I walked around the town.  Arromanches is the site of the Allied floating harbor.  The artificial harbor was towed across the English Channel and set in the beach at Arromanches.  Some of it still remains and is a visible reminder of what happened on June 6th, 1944.

5 comments:

  1. DAY TO REMEMBER US NAVY ARMY AND US AIR FORCE HELP FRANCE TO WIN THE WAR AGAINST GERMAN SOLDIERS ...GOD BLESSED AMERICA ...I SEND A PRAY TO THIS PLACE AND HOPE IT WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN THANKS WAYNE FOR THE MARVELLOUS PHOTOS FROM EVERYWHERE AND SPECIALLY FOR THIS DAY ..D DAY WE ARE WITH YOU ON THE D DAY 8 JUNE . YESTERDAY WE VISITED AGAY ALSO AN DESEMBARKING WAR US SHIP FROM THE SOUTH NEAR CANNES .we missed you

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  2. I still remember that there were bunkers around Bitburg when I was stationed there and the history of the city and Trier when Patton came thru in WWII. Keep the pictures and writing comming.

    Jerry Brenner

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  3. Wayne,

    I've been looking forward to this update. As you know, I really enjoy WW II history and this is truly a remarkable place. Looking forward to your forthcoming gallery from this trip.

    HAVE A GOD BLESSED DAY - dave b.

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  4. Hi Wayne,
    Thank you for honoring and remembering all of our boys and men at the American Cemetery. It must have been a very moving experience. I teared up just reading about it. Beloved heroes, one and all.
    Love, Nola XO

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  5. Sadly it seems that the American kids are forgetting Normandy and all that means before the French kids.

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