Thursday, March 22, 2018

Normandy Exchange 2018: Tour of D-Day Landing sites and Cemeteries

This afternoon we visited various places associated with the D-Day (jour-J) landings and the Battle of Normandy. Our tour began with the very sober German Cemetery at La Cambe, where 20,000 German soldiers are buried.

  The opening in the gate to the German Cemetery is very narrow—only one person can pass through at a time—because each person must face death on their own.

From there we proceeded to the Pointe du Hoc, where we climbed into bomb craters, explored German bunkers, and admired the outstanding view (which is of course why the Germans had their guns positioned there in the first place!)  The story of the Rangers who scaled those cliffs and disabled the guns, with so many odds against them, always leaves me in awe.

 The cliffs at Pointe du Hoc

From there we went to Omaha Beach, where 34,000 Americans landed on June 6th alone! There were 4000 casualties on that first day. Unfortunately, the tide was quite high this afternoon, so we were unable to walk on the beach, but we gathered above it where we had a good view of the German gun emplacements and how they were angled to shoot up and down the beach, with guns at each end, covering the whole 8 miles of beach.
 It was rather cold and windy...

Our final stop was at the American Cemetery at Coleville, where we stood silently to watch the American flag lowered as Taps was played, a small ceremony that takes place every day at 4pm. A few minutes later we we treated to the sight of a fighter jet flying over, dipping its wings in salute to the fallen. Apparently, although there is an airbase not too far away, this is not a particularly common sight, so it was special to see.

Despite the cold (and when Mme Van Way posts the photos, you will get a sense of how very cold and windy it was this afternoon), the students learned many sober lessons about history today, and I trust  they will also have learned many lessons from history as well. I would like to share a quote from the walls of the information center at the German Cemetery at La Cambe:
A a nation must be prepared to soberly review its history. Because only those who remember what happened yesterday also understand what is happening today and can grasp what could happen tomorrow.”

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