Gordon Judges, Wireless Operator

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Remembering The Fallen of WWII Normandy

The Normandy countryside is dotted with monuments, cemeteries and dedications to memorialize the turning point of WW II marked by the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day.

We started with a monument honouring the participation of the 101st Airborne, the Parachute Infantry Regiment. If you saw the brilliant mini-series Band of Brothers you may recall the river valley strategically flooded by the Germans. The monument is perched on the higher ground looking over the area where many of these men hit land. I loved the detail on this bronze monument that tells the story of their paratroopers dropping into Normandy in this flooded plain.

St. Mere Eglise was the first town to be liberated by the Allies. Today, tourism has made this a busy town. Everyone looks for the famous church where John Steele hung by his parachute, trapped for hours like a sitting duck (Red Buttons portrayed him in The Longest Day).  He was captured briefly by the Germans but made his escape in the confusion. John Steele is quite the local hero.

The stain glass window of the Ste Mere Eglise church is now decorated with the 'patron saint' paratrooper and is one example of thousands that reflects how the French commemorate their appreciation for the sacrifices made by the Allied forces for their  liberation. Can you see the paratroopers? 

The highly informative Airborne Museum shed a lot of light (for me) on how the Allied forces pulled off this massive scale invasion. The museum has a sample of a glider and plane used by the Allies to transport men, gear and artillery for the soldiers. This is a must see museum for any enthusiast of the D-Day battles and is highlighed with personal stories and artifacts from this incredible historical day in military history.

From there we began our several day tour of the D-Day beaches. A picnic lunch of meat, Normandy cheese, duck liver pate and rose wine by the ocean was followed by a visit to a local small museum dedicated to everyday life of the French civilian in German occupied France (it would have been better had we found the English translation pamplets before starting our visit!).

The end of the day was marked by our first sightings of German bunkers and Utah Beach memorial. Greg was just in his glory.

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