Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Omaha Beach, Normandy

 It is hard to conceive the epic scope of this decisive battle that foreshadowed the end of Hitlers dream of Nazi domination. Overlord was the largest air, land, and sea operation undertaken before or since June 6, 1944. The landing included over 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes, and over 150,000 service men.

 After years of meticulous planning and seemingly endless training, for the Allied Forces, it all came down to this: The boat ramp goes down, then jump, swim, run, and crawl to the cliffs. Many of the first young men (most not yet 20 years old) entered the surf carrying eighty pounds of equipment. They faced over 200 yards of beach before reaching the first natural feature offering any protection. Blanketed by small-arms fire and bracketed by artillery, they found themselves in hell.

When it was over, the Allied Forces had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties; more than 4,000 were dead. Yet somehow, due to planning and preparation, and due to the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Forces, Fortress Europe had been breached.

This was the stop on our Viking Cruise from Paris to Normandy, that we had all been looking forward to.  Words can't explain how moving and emotional it was.  Our tour guide gave amazing details on our ride to the site and there is not other way than on a guided tour to experience the Normandy beaches.
 One bunker our troops demolished, one below shown not hit.
 The German bunkers were so far from the ocean, but could send shells 12 miles out.
 Towards the end of the tour we entered the American cemetery near Omaha Beach.
 There was a special ceremony for our group of 150 visitors from our cruise.  There was an inspirational reading that a military soldier had written from WWII, prayer, praise and recognition for all military veterans on our trip, (11 men) and finally our group singing our national anthem.  I am tearing up right now just remembering the moments. 
 They then gave each of us a rose to place at a grave site.  If you actually knew someone buried there, we had two in our group, they took them for a private ceremony at graveside.  Me below placing my rose on a soldiers buriel site.  So thankful for their bravery.
 Omaha Beach
 I bought my first truck for my new grandson, MrHayes, at the gift shop!

 Our last stop was on the beach itself.  I think this may be the only group shot where our whole group was together.  We were great at wandering off into little groups.  It was the most wonderful bunch of friends.  Some of the group had never met when we started the trip, but were great friends all by the end of the trip.
 It was really dreary but not cold and there were two horses and riders racing on the beach!
Such a wonderful lifetime experience! Such sacrifices for our freedom.  

The cemetery is located on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach (one of the landing beaches of the Normandy Invasion) and the English Channel. It covers 172 acres, and contains the remains of 9,387 American military dead, most of whom were killed during the invasion of Normandy and ensuing military operations in World War II. Included are graves of Army Air Corps crews shot down over France as early as 1942 and three American women.
Only some of the soldiers who died overseas are buried in the overseas American military cemeteries. When it came time for a permanent burial, the next of kin eligible to make decisions were asked if they wanted their loved ones repatriated for permanent burial in the U.S., or interred at the closest overseas cemetery.

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