Day 7 of our trip was June 6th – the 68th anniversary of D-Day. We did the only thing possible – visited the Normandy coast.
We made a brief stop in Bayeux to see the Bayeux Tapestry – no pictures of that, as photos aren’t allowed, but it was extraordinary. By itself it would have been impressive – a 230ft long embroidery, for goodness sake!! But viewing it, realizing that it was made over a thousand years ago…incredible.
Afterwards, we headed up to Arromanches-les-Bains, where the artificial harbor was built in 1944. Since this was the anniversary of D-Day, there was a big party – tons of people, lots of veterans, period costume and automotive relics.
Poppy wreath at the statue for Royal Engineers – “They shall now grow old as we that are left grew old, age shall not weary them or the years condemn…”
We also made a stop in Longues-sur-Mer, where the German Artillery battery stands.
Looking back at the artificial harbour in Arromanches from the German Battery
Next, we headed on to Colville-sur-Mer, where the American Normandy Cemetery is located. We walked down to Omaha Beach in the rain and looked out to sea and up the hill, imagining what those who saw it 68 years ago were thinking.
Looking down onto Omaha Beach from the bluff
Looking up to the bluff from Omaha Beach
I’ve heard the cemetery described as memorable, touching, moving, beautiful, somber, heart-wrenching. It’s all those things. You cannot truly appreciate those words in association with that place unless you experience it yourself. Yes, rows upon rows of white crosses and Stars of David, some with names, some without. Thousands of people walking around in almost complete silence. The weight of what you are seeing is immense.
We purposely stayed until the flag was lowered at 5:20pm. There was a little old lady there, all of 4’1″, who was apparently a nurse in the war and being honored that day. The man in charge of the flag lowering invited any WWII veterans up to help with folding the flag – there were nine men there who stepped up. Next the man in charge asked for any other veterans to please help with the flag folding, some who might be “a little stronger” than the elderly men up there already. It was a windy day, and that flag was snapping around like crazy. The flag was lowered, and folded, and to be in that place, at that time, was something special.
The flag being folded
“Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.”
“Their graves are the permanent and visible symbol of their heroic devotion and their sacrifice in the common cause of Humanity.”