Monday 29 March 2010

Jour J

Omaha Beach Memorial perpetuates the memory of the American soldiers who landed there on June 6, 1944. The first waves of the 1st Infantry Division and the 29th Infantry Division launched out to the attack of the beach of Omaha Beach on this day.

As I looked over the cliffs at Omaha Beach, the presence of what took place here so long ago came alive to me. A strange silence filled the air and it seemed fitting. For a moment, in my mind, I felt as if I was there, a witness of that day, on D-Day. Through it, I experienced the terror, heard the roar of the heavy bombardment of the Atlantic wall fortifications, felt the land tremble as the massive movement of the special armored vehicles moved forward, and watched in horror as the enemy persisted to fight for its life against the mightiest military force that had ever been gathered in history.

It is unreal to think that such a beautiful beach was once covered in soldiers’ bodies and that its crystal blue water was once a dark red from blood. Walking down the steps, over the rocks, and along the soft sand of the beach gave me chills just thinking about it. At first I didn’t know whether to feel happy or sad, but I decided to appreciate what these people did for us and how different the world might be if they hadn’t lost their lives for us.

While the Caen peace museum captures the history, the cemetery captures the overwhelming price that was paid. As I walked through the stillness of the cemetery, a sudden chilling wind swept over the tens of thousands of graves and I shuddered at the coldness of it all.

The Normandy American Cemetery sits on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach. The cemetery site contains the graves of 9,387 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. On the walls of the memorial of missing bodies, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified, however, thousands of bodies were sent back to the U.S. to be buried closer to home. A reflective pool stands in front of the memorial with a youth statue that represents the thousands of young soldiers who lost their lives that day.

I find it very fitting that France gave this land to the U.S. as a thanks for what happened throughout WWII.

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