In search for something different than the fast pace, lights, glitz and glamour in Paris, my friends G, Matt, and I decided to take a day trip from Paris down to Omaha Beach, which is located in the Normandy, France. On June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory”. More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end on June 6, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Normandy. The D-Day cost was high- more than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded — but more than 100,000 Soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Hitler. ~ http://www.army.mil/d-day/
G, Matt, and I took a two hour train ride from Paris to Caen and from there, a two hour taxi drive to Omaha Beach. Our driver did not quite know the area well, but he was good about getting the right directions and making sure we got to our destination on time. What we were fortunate to have in our driver was the fact that he knew all the history of the region. This meant that, everything of historic importance, we got a brief or long narrative about.
It was a pleasant change driving through the country side enjoying the opened air view, bright flowers, and of course the narrow highways – nothing like what we have in the United States. Upon arrival to Omaha Beach, we made arrangements with the driver on what time to meet back at the taxi to return to the train station. We drove on the banks of the beach, and he showed us where the American troops attacked from. It was unbelievable that we were driving down a sacred historical site where, just almost 70 years ago, was the site of a bloody fight to liberate France from German occupation.
Those brave American troops faced enormous odds. Any German soldier who was on the banks on the beach could easily pick off American troops coming from the waters. However the Germans weren’t just on the banks, but high up above ground, which made the success of their mission a whole lot more remarkable in my opinion.
I took a quiet reflective stroll on the beach and paid my respects to those WWII veterans who sacrificed their lives and to those who lived to tell of the battles. Before traveling, a patient of mine in Daytona Beach told me that if I ever went toFrance, I should visit Omaha Beach and see ‘what we overcame’. “I lost a lot of friends there,” he said, “go there for me and pay your respects to my brothers-in-arms.” This patient was always referred to as WAL-E. Thinking back to those words and reflecting on the stories he had shared with me about the war rendered my time on Omaha Beach an emotional moment; emotional in part because of all the military servicemen and women on active duty today, those who served before, and those who gave their lives for their country. Let’s not forget the families that had to live on with the memories of their loved ones who were lost in battle. But above all, I had kept my promise to WAL-E, and that gave me a sense of accomplishment.
After our time on the beach, my friends and I took a walk to see the German bunkers. Along the way, we saw a tour group gathered around an individual. We later learned that this person was a former military member of the British or Australian force who was doing the narration of what occurred during D-Day. The top of the cliff gave unparallel scenic and panoramic views of the beach and the little town below. Though peaceful, the German bunkers – still in original shape – left remnants of the war vivid in my mind. After an hour, we returned to the meeting point, and headed towards the American military cemetery and the area that America was directly involved in, completing our tour of Normandy.