A Memorable Visit to the D-Day Beaches
For me, the day began with a visit to the Mémorial de Caen and it is a must-see … a series of rooms and areas with photos and captions, copies of documents, placards with text, some video clips, and appropriate artifacts on display along the way. It’s extremely well done — much of it almost riveting — the displays explaining how the world spiraled down into chaos and world war in the years following World War One. In fact, visitors proceed down a circular ramp as they move through the various display areas … spiraling down right along with the history they’re seeing.
After the Memorial, we went to the site of the D-Day invasion. More specifically, our first stop was Pointe du Hoc, which is an area of several acres on top of a cliff several hundred feet high and overlooking a narrow, stoney beach. Very early on D-Day, a few hundred Army Rangers had to scale that cliff and knock out the big guns the Germans had up there … guns with an 11-mile range that could shell our invasion fleet. Our guys went up that cliff using grappling hooks and long flimsy ladders, taking enemy fire the entire time. They finally made it and discovered that the guns weren’t there … the Germans had moved them farther inland days earlier. Standing up on the edge of that cliff, there is only one thought in your head: “My God! They were way up here and we were way down there.”
Our last stop was the American cemetery: an impressive and moving memorial, overlooking some 9,400 white marble headstones, all set into a meticulously manicured lawn; row after row, stretching almost out of sight. Our little group was quiet on the walk back to our van. Craig, from Connecticut, finally spoke. “Did you notice?” he asked. “The rows of headstones are in absolutely perfect alignment.” Sandrine, our French guide, spoke up. “When I first started doing this guide work,” she said, “I asked one of the visiting generals about that. He told me the rows had to be perfect because it was their last formation.”