|View from a German bunker at Pointe du Hoc|
Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force,
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. . . . I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!
General Dwight D. Eisenhower (Listen to the entire message)
|Clouds building over Utah Beach.|
Imagine that you're a twenty year old soldier far from home listening to General Eisenhower's message to the troops just prior to the D-Day Invasion. You've got a sick feeling in your gut and your best buddy looks as if he has seen a ghost. But you're a man and your comrades are watching, so you do what men do...
Since I haven't watched that many war movies or read any books about the Allied Invasion of Normandy, I didn't know what to expect when we visited Utah and Omaha Beaches. If pressed, I guess that I would have said that I envisioned broad stretches of windswept sand. My imagination proved to be correct for Utah Beach, which was a military success thanks to accurate naval and aerial bombing, but proved to be incorrect with respect to Pointe du Hoc and "bloody" Omaha Beach.
Seeing the 100-foot cliffs towering over the narrow beach at Pointe du Hoc, the thick walls of the strategically placed German bunkers and the 155 mm gun emplacements, I started to have an inkling of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles facing the Allied troops on June 6, 1944. I felt humbled by those who gave their lives and understand General Eisenhower's subsequent wish for eternal peace. For as he explained, "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity."
Related post: The American Cemetery in Normandy and the story of Pvt. John A. Daum
Here's a list of movies that our guide, Bertrand Saudrais, suggested that we watch. Please feel free to make suggestions for additional movies or books in the comment section:
The Longest Day (1962)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The Big Red One (1980)
Band of Brothers (2001)
The Sorrow and the Pity (Le Chagrin et la Pitie) (1969)
If you're planning a trip to Normandy to visit the D-Day beaches, please take a look at this very helpful thread started by Troggs at TripAdvisor with valuable information about how to plan your trip and lots of links.
|Utah Beach, Normandy|
|"To the Officers and Sailors of the United States Navy whose |
competence, courage and sacrifice enabled Operation Overlord."
|Pointe du Hoc, Normandy. One of the 100-foot cliffs scaled by the 2nd Ranger Battalion.|
|Pointe du Hoc's lunar-like landscape shows the force of the Allied bombs.|
|The broad unprotected expanse of "bloody" Omaha Beach.|