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Listening for Ghosts in Normandy

June 10, 2018

The image of soldiers in a landing craft is from

Normandy is a green and lush place with historic buildings, vast fields of wheat, and fat cows.I visited the place in the first week of June along with many thousands of people; I wanted to see it for myself, to make a personal connection with the story I had heard for so long. The French haven’t forgotten- these photos of the liberators in each community were common. This is Utah Beach at low tide. The water is very shallow and quite a distance from the beach. The landings here went well for the Americans. Today nothing but monuments remain. This is Omaha Beach at almost high tide. There was tremendous loss of life here, only 50% of the soldiers in the first waves survived the landing to engage the defenders. The heroism shown here by soldiers great and small was humbling. Pont du Hoc is a promontory between Utah and Omaha: this view is looking down to a beach. A soon-to-be-famous Texan led the Rangers up here to destroy the big guns. Col Rudder had 220 Rangers, but only 90 were able to reach the top of the cliffs to destroy this and other fortifications. This perfectly designed and kept cemetery belongs to the American people. This final resting place of almost 10,000 is above Omaha Beach. There are many other cemeteries in Normandy, and the number of men buried from just a few months of battle is staggering. I did not see the German cemetery, but it has 22,000 graves. It is hard to get the scope of this place in a day. I met an American in the customs line who walked the length of each of the five beaches over 6 days; he said it was a profound experience. If I ever go back that is what I will do. I read a book ( Stephen Ambrose) and visited 3 museums. Being there only increases my curiosity. I would like to re-visit at a time when it isn’t overrun with tourists and people wearing US battle dress as costumes.

D-Day was certainly the most significant experience of my parent’s generation; both served, my father as a B-17 navigator in England and my mother as a Marine (chaplain’s assistant) at Cherry Point. I left humbled by the sacrifice made by so many men and women.

I didn’t hear any ghosts, but I may return to listen for them at a more quiet time of year.

From → Writing Fiction

One Comment
  1. Must have been very powerful, Robert

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