What an emotion-filled day, visiting Omaha Beach and Point du Hoc, along with all the memorials for the US forces here on the northern French coast of Normandy. Omaha Beach, we were told, looks exactly as it did in 1944 – wide, long, and undeveloped. As far as the eye can see, there are no hotels or even beach cottages on the beach. We didn’t look for any, but we read that they recently found mortar shells and shrapnel in the sand; experts said it would all still be there in a few hundred years, as there was simply too much of it to ever clean it up completely.
As Americans, we absolutely can feel the gratitude of the French for our efforts to liberate the country from Germany. All the memorials are well-kept, pristine even, and are decorated with fresh flowers. Photos of American soldiers are celebrated on banners lining the streets. There were many flags representing the Allied powers on the streets, on businesses and even on homes. The American Cemetery is exceedingly beautiful, with careful attention to the landscaping. Even the crosses marking each grave are clean and debris-free. It is so impressive!
As you walk to the different areas of the beach you find memorials telling stories of individuals and groups of soldiers. One memorial told of a group of rangers who were landed three miles away from their target area due to a navigational error and had to fight three miles down the reinforced beach before they could even start the mission they were sent for. Other memorials recall areas being taken that the Germans had thought were unassailable.
Today, this whole area that was chaotic in 1944 is serene and calm. There were a lot of buses, though! We ran into many groups touring the sites, especially students, and loads of buses filled the parking lots. As we drove away in early afternoon, in the rain, we encountered at least two dozen buses heading toward the memorials. A busy time! – and only early June.