A Normandy Review in Pictures
Looking back at time spent on the beaches of Normandy
As I approached the edge of the cliff overlooking the English Channel, I could hardly help but notice the pristine beauty of Normandy, France (Normandie in French). While my mind drifted from beauty to chaos, I could nearly imagine the tragedy of death and war, which littered the banks just a few scores earlier.
It is difficult to imagine such utter death and destruction in such a pleasing area of the world. Present-day Normandy is tranquil and peaceful. Its coasts are much like those that exist a few kilometers across the channel in the British Isles and Ireland. However, nearly 69 years ago, complete turmoil broke loose.
The section of Normandy that I visited, seemed to be very serene and isolated. Omaha beach and the town surrounding was very small.
Seeing the coastline gives one a much greater appreciation for what happened on D-Day and the days of the Allied invasion. How daunting the task must have been to climb those cliffs in the midst of heavy gun fire and artillery.
Several Nazi bunkers and pillbox still exist on the cliffs overlooking the English Channel. Most of them are sealed shut with concrete, but a few of them are open for viewing. I remember sitting in one and trying to imagine what it must have been like for someone, likely my age or younger, to participate in such a battle. I soon realized, this wasn’t a video game or a some movie produced in Hollywood. This was ground zero, where a lot of tragic events happened, and blood was shed. You may know about historic events, but the reality of them never seems to set in inside of a classroom.
Nazi pillboxes in Normandie, France.
Even more contrasting than the beautiful coast line coupled with its tragic history was the American/Allied cemetery just a short walk away from the beach. In many ways, the cemetery was paradoxical. It was sad the headstones marking so many lost lives, but the grounds were very well-kept and the cemetery honored the fallen soldiers in a good way, if you can do that. In some ways the cemetery reminded me of Arlington, just outside of Washington, D.C.
There is a display area showing the movement of the Allied forces to help better understand and grasp the Allied campaign of retaking northern France.
Flying proudly in many places were the flags of all the nations who sent troops to aid in the Allied effort. America sent by far the most troops, but it was not the only country who lost men or sent troops. Others, including France, Canada, United Kingdom, Poland, Belgium, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Czech Republic, and even Greece sent troops to aid in the effort.
I definitely recommend you taking the time to visit Normandy France if you get a chance. It is a few hours from Paris, but worth it in my opinion. As with other places I have visited like the Balkans, I gained a better understanding and respect for what happened after visiting the place and seeing it first hand. No book or magazine, let alone a blog post, can show you what it must have felt like to look up or down those steep and rigid cliffs into the eyes of a fellow human.
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