We had an amazing opportunity to visit the Normandy Beaches on our trip. We rented a car in La Havre, and drove across the Normandy countryside. This was one of my favorite days. The countryside in Normandy is so picturesque and beautiful. We drove trhough many small villages, with cobblestone streets and stone manors. It’s so far removed from the industrialized cities, it was a wonderful day.
Our first stop was some battlements that were left from the German army. The fog was rolling in, so as we walked through the fields to get to the bunkers, it was a little eerie. We had to be almost at the bunker before seeing it. The bunkers were each very large, and well built. I was amazed at the permenant appearance of them. Surely these were not built quickly, in the middle of fighting and war. It was amazing.
The bunkers were in various degrees of destruction. In some, you could see the explosion holes, in others the roof had been caved in in areas. The most horrible part was imagining that on this very ground had been soldiers laying dead and dying. Right here, there was a horrific battle.
There were several other buildings as well, closer to the ocean. There was a municians bunker, which was built underground, and another battlefield bunker right by the edge of the cliffs. Yet, even from there you could not see the ocean in the fog. If the Battle on the Normandy Beaches took place on a foggy day, it would have been incredible to be able to see far enough to shoot the enemy soldiers.
We went to the US Memorial and Graveyard next. We were planning on going to some of the museums, too, but the Memorial actaully had a very nice museum as a part of it. It was well worth the visit. I think that it and the Pearl Harbor memorial are the very best historical sites I have ever visited.
The museum gave a lot of information about the Battle of Normandy, and the role that the US troops played in it. It also highlighted certain people who died or survived the attacks.
Outside of the museum, we walked down well kept path through the brambles onto the beach. It was a long and sometimes steep walk, and imaging the soldiers fighting their way, not only through the other soldiers, but through the forest kept running through my thoughts.
The fog continued, and might have been getting thicker as the day wore on. Once we reached the beach, we could turn around and not make out the top of the hill anymore. It was easy to picture soldiers emerging out of the fogs of the past. Again, walking on the beach where so many people died was memorable.
At the top of the hill we walked into the graveyard. There are buried 9,387 US soldiers. There is also Walls of the Missing, with the names of 1,557 more soldiers who were never found or identified.
Some of the memorable quotes that were inscribed on walls at the memorial are as follows:
You can manufacture weapons and you can purchase ammunition but you can’t buy valor and you can’t pull heroes off an assembly line.
– Sergeant John B Ellery
“If ever proof were needed that we fought for a cause and not for conquest it could be found in these cemeteries. Here was our only conquest, all we asked… was enough… soil in which to bury our gallant dead.”
– General Mark W. Clark
“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.”
– President Harry S. Truman