The Beaches of D-Day , June 6th 1944. The day that good won over evil and Hitler’s defeat began
One of my most moving travel experiences happened to me in Normandy France in the American Cemetery. Thousands of white crosses are lined up in perfect regimental rows, on a cliff overlooking the D-Day beaches where America and her Allies stormed the Nazi-controlled French territory open the door to ultimate victory.
After a beautiful ceremony at the cemetery entrance, where the assembled crowd sang our national anthem, honoring our fallen soldiers, I was strolling through the peaceful cemetery when I came across a French school child who was writing down, in English no less, all the information on an individual cross grave marker. I asked in my less than stellar French what she was doing. In reply, she told me in near perfect English that she was studying this soldiers life for a school report to honor the American heroes that freed France from Nazi Germany. She told me that all Normandy students pick a soldier to research, his life and family, then prepare an essay for their class, to be read out loud. She told me annually they remember and thank these men for their bravery and ultimate sacrifice so they can live free today. Needless to say, I was in tears of sheer joy thoroughly charmed by this little French girl and the French custom of gratitude for the Allied invasion. Before this trip, I certainly knew the history but did not feel the experience as I did while visiting this region of France.
That afternoon, after a delicious lunch of galettes the Normandy style of French Crepes, we visited the D-Day beaches. What first struck me was how quiet and serene they were and devoid of people. The local French people do not use these beaches for picnics or parties. They honor our fallen soldiers with their respectful ways. The modern metal sculpture, named Les Braves Memorial, on Omaha beach is utterly breathtaking. Located in the village of St. Laurent-sur-Mer in Normandy, France and it commemorates the fallen American soldiers, of World War ll who lost their lives on the D-Day beaches, June 6th, 1944.
The memorial sculpture has three parts named: The Wings of Hope, Rise Freedom, and the Wings Of Fraternity. The French sculptor Anilore Banon, designed it in 2004, as commissioned by the French government to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion Of Normandy. In the middle section, there are seven stainless steel columns and a group of five columns that curve upwards, two columns stand upright, with the tallest reaching 30 feet. Stainless steel wings gracefully stand on both sides. Meant only to be up temporary. The sculpture still graces Omaha Beach because of such intense public interest and appreciation of the art. Les Braves Memorial has been called a rare and beautiful blend of art and natural beauty
Next day we visited the WWII Museum called Memorial of Caen. One of the best museum trips I have ever experienced. The layout design of the museum gives you a visceral experience of the descent into the dark, hellish depths of war. They build the exhibit in a loop that is a timeline of the war from start to finish. As you stroll into the exhibit, beginning at the ground level, the walls are painted white. Then as you proceed further into the museum, and the years pass, the war develops it becomes darker, more hellish. I viscerally felt the encroaching terror on a personal level. Displays of everyday objects and stories of the residents of captured countries vividly communicate how people struggled to survive this horrific war, both on the battlefield and at home. I went with my Mother who lived in London as a child and survived many bomb attacks. The item which affected her most personally was an old ration card. Upon seeing it, she burst into tears as she remembered all the misery and deprivation of her wartime childhood. I held her, and we cried together for all those who suffered at the hands of Hitler. This was bittersweet, and a greatly cherished moment of love and compassion between an American daughter and a European mother.