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Published: September 12th 2018
Good thing we set our alarm last night. After almost nine hours of sleep, it rudely woke us in time for a wonderful breakfast. We set out for our first destination, Ste mere Eglise. This town was the first town liberated by the US forces on D day. The 82nd Aiborne parachuted and glided in. Located in town is a wonderful museum packed full of D Day artifacts and videos that will bring a tear to your eye. It does a great job of paying tribute to the brave soldiers and airmen that participated in this assault. From there, our next stop was Utah Beach. This location has special meaning, as Ray's uncle Arthur, a Navy Seabee, was injured on that beach during the invasion. While taking a photo at one of the memorials, a French woman came over and asked Ray if we were America. When he replied that we were, she shook his hand and thanked him for America saving them. One of the gentlemen with her told us that his uncle was a French musician that had performed for General Eisenhower, and had even gotten him to sing. He said they had a letter from Ike thanking him.
Was a very pleasant interchange. We took a short walk on the beach, trying to visualize the scene 74 years ago. Sure was a different breed of young men back then. No "safe spaces" or "trigger warnings" for them. The museum here is very good, loaded with history and artifacts. My favorite is a completely restored A26, used to bomb and strafe the German fortifications.
Onward To Pont du hoc, the site where two ranger companies scaled the cliffs, under heavy machine gun fire and grenades, to destroy the big gun batteries located at the top. It's incredible to see the hundreds of shell/bomb craters covering the landscape, some as deep as 30 feet. The rangers suffered heavy casualties, only to find the guns had been removed from the bunkers. These men surely were unbelievably brave. Looking at the massive concrete bunkers left us wondering as to how they got so much material to this remote site to construct such formidable structures.
Leaving this site at 1:30, we were all getting quite hungry, so we set off to find a restaurant. Well, we found that they were all closed right after lunch. We finally found one in Careton.
Between their lack of English and Ray's limited French, we were finally able to order some sandwiches. Very nice people. Diane has been practicing her French, but let's just say she's not ready for prime time.
After lunch, we're off again, this time to Omaha beach. Looking at this long, beautiful stretch of Beach, it's hard to imagine the carnage that took place here. While most of the fortification are gone, one can still visualize the tremendous effort and courage needed to fight their way through the many obstacles to get off the beach. There are a few memorials placed here, but not much else. We didn't visit the museum, as time is becoming an issue.
Our next stop was a brief visit to the American cemetary. This is still one of my favorite spots in Normandy. Its beautifully kept property provides a peaceful, respectful resting place for the thousands buried here. To say this is a moving experience is to understate how you feel. As we were starting to leave, a pair of British Spitfire fighter planes did a low level fly by right down the center of the Cemetary. What a treat to see that.
Next stop was Longues sur mer, the site of the only remaining German heavy gun batteries that still have the guns in them. This site sits far back from the coast, but was able to put fire down on the beaches and ships.
After checking the time we realized we'd better head back as we had 7:30 reservations for dinner, no nap today. Dinner was very good, except for Diane's cut of meat which needed a hack saw to get through, and the wine a welcome treat at the end of a long day. So back to the B&B for some sleep, and blog writing
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