June 6, 2012

Remembering Heroes at the D-Day Beaches, Normandy

*In the highest remembrance of our fallen heroes!*

Today, 68 years ago was one of the most heroic days in history, the infamous D-Day invasion in Normandy. On June 6, 1944, Allied troops planned an attack to regain Nazi-occupied France. This invasion was one of the biggest turning points during WW2 and resulted in the loss of an estimated 10,000 Allied soldiers.

If you've seen the D-Day invasion scene in Saving Private Ryan, it's unimaginable to think what it was really like on D-Day. The task of invading bullet-ridden Northern France seemed like almost certain death. I'm sure a Hollywood movie can't even fully capture the terror that soldiers faced on D-Day. It wasn't just the Germans that soldiers had to fear, but the weight of heavy gear meant that in some cases soldiers drowned before they reached the beaches. And once they reached the beaches, the sand was riddled with bodies, metal traps and barriers, barbed wire, almost nowhere to hide and the enemy shooting right at them. Some soldiers were so young, with their whole lives ahead of them, both forced and volunteered to face unthinkable circumstances worlds away from their families and safety of their hometowns.

My parents (especially my mom) have been itching to see Normandy for years and I'm so happy I had the opportunity--and honor--to visit Normandy with them a few weeks ago. During the days that we visited Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, Pointe du Hoc, Longues-sur-Mer battery and machine guns and the infamous American Cemetery, my mom (originally from a small town in South Dakota) recounted research she had done on plenty of WW2 veterans who fought so bravely. My mom tracked down several soldiers from her hometown in Beresford, South Dakota, and found their graves at the American Cemetery in Normandy to pay her respects (one of them was killed by a German sniper)--I know this is why she's fascinated with WW2.

It was pretty amazing when she told me that both my great uncle (fought in the heart of Normandy) and my step-grandfather (an air bomber) fought in Normandy. Both of them would never talk about their experiences during WW2--ever, she said. Some museums we visited in Normandy had real-life accounts of grown men who were brought to tears instantly when remembering their days in the war and recalled their comrades who died fighting right next to them while they were just plain lucky to make it out alive.

It was emotional and incredible to visit the D-Day beaches of Normandy. I am forever grateful to those paid the ultimate price (and still do!) to make sure we have the freedoms we have today.

Your sacrifices will never be forgotten.


Jenna said...

Wow! Can't even imagine what it would be like to visit Normandy in person! Must be so surreal. Your photos from your visit are amazing!


Skip to Malou said...

what a lovely, heartfelt post with beautiful photos! I really enjoyed reading this.

Jeanelle said...

LOVE that picture of the flags... beautiful post Rachael!!

Abby Kruger said...

My family and I will be visiting Normandy while in France in 2 weeks at my bother's request. I found your post after following the link from http://www.exploredreamdiscoverblog.com. Your'e posts and photos are wonderful and touching - thank you. Where is the second photo from (the beach with the algae encrusted military equipment)?


Abby Kruger said...

I believe I just found it - Arromanches-les-Bains? Thank you again for posting.

Rachael said...

Hi Abby--Yes! That's correct. We stayed in Arromanches and it was our base for exploring Normandy. It was such a cute little town. We got dinner by the harbor every night and the sunsets over that beach with the batteries covered in algae. IT was so beautiful!! Local delicacies are steak au poivre and pork with cider gravy!!

If u need any help or tips let me know! Have fun! We LOVED Normandy...totally in awe and had no idea the countryside in Normanday was so beautiful

Abby Kruger said...

Hi Rachael -

Thank you so much for the response. Also, thank you for the advice on the local specialties - I will make sure to watch for those.