Monday, July 11, 2011

D-Day history in France, Omaha Beach, US cemetery, Caen, Pointe du Hoc

Matt wanted to make a trip to Normandy to visit WW II places since we arrived in Europe. This summer seemed the logical time to go ahead and plan that Normandy trip. I openly admit, I was not exactly looking forward to this visit, and definitely didn't want the kids to be exposed to "World War". Yes, it happened.  Yes it's history. But I didn't know what we might come upon and  prefer to have the opportunity to pick and choose what they encounter regarding military, militia, weapons, holocaust etc. We're planning a visit to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam though, so a general explanation and careful introduction to the World War history would help segway things a bit.

(Omaha Beach at sunset)
The visit turned out to be quite moving. It's a surreal experience to stand on the beaches where war took place. (This was the case in Guam as well.)   Especially hard to grasp because life is so incredibly peaceful in those places now. If those men had known their fate, they should have also known the peace, playfulness, and laughter from children on places like Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, and Caen today.

Omaha Beach- D Day landings took place here and on nearby beaches all around. A long and open beautiful beach today. We actually camped one night just above the beach on an overlook.  The kids found seashells and played in the pools of seawater left behind by the tide.

Does anyone know what this seashell is called? We found several, in delicate yet perfect condition. Arleigh though, crushed them. Addie cried....

On to the US cemetery, where Christian and Jewish gravestones marked endless lives. The stones stretched from the ocean where they landed all the way into the forest behind. Each marked with the date of death, hometown, and name. Or they were marked for unknown soldiers.

We asked the kids to be sure to mind the signs for "silence and respect". As we were leaving though, I caught a glimpse of this....

I have to believe that if those soldiers could look up from their tombstones, they'd have chuckled too.
(and FYI we did stop to pull those short up to a more respectable level).

Caen had a moving museum, with free childcare for kids. They said at the entrance that it was not appropriate for kids to go through the museum and I'm glad we heeded their advice. Cold, black and white images of hangings, the horror of Holocaust, and starving women and children were located throughout. Matt and I perused the museum a bit, but missed having the kids with us. At lunchtime, we decided to pull them from the childcare and move on to something the entire family could do.

We found a museum that, although not so sophisticated, seemed to meet our needs and was safe for the kids viewing.

Pointe du Hoc was well worth the venture beyond Omaha beach. It lies just a few miles to the west of Omaha Beach and was the point where US Rangers scaled tall cliffs to take possession of the area.
 The kids were able to climb into and out of holes left by bombs. This kinda thing puts D-Day, what the soldiers faced, and the cost of American lives into perspective...

1 comment:

scott davidson said...

I had fun choosing this particular painting online that now hangs in my downtown office, from, who sells canvas prints of art masterpieces. While the original is treasured in some art museum in England, my print, of this painting by Edward Burne-Jones is very much appreciated by my staff and clients. The print quality is really excellent.