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June 6, 2013

The Echoes of War Remain

My travels in northern France have always provided vivid reminders of the battle for Normandy, which raged from D-Day through the summer of 1944. Though partially healed by the decades, scars still remain in the rolling countryside, picturesque villages, and gentle beaches.

Sixty-nine years ago today, the Allies waded ashore on the beaches of Normandy, France, and began the liberation of Europe from Hitler. A US veteran of the Normandy campaign said recently, “Out of my squad of 13, only 3 survived.” His story was not unique. The fighting was ferocious, and casualties on both sides were severe.

Normandy, France, today. Peaceful and pretty.

Normandy, France, today. Peaceful and pretty.

On each of my visits to this beautiful area, I have been struck by the locals’ affection for Americans. The French are not normally known for their liking of the US tourist, but in Normandy, the appreciation for the US sacrifice is strong. Several coastal villages fly American flags and bear plaques in the town square commemorating the day of their liberation by US troops in June of 1944.

D-Day in Normandy--June 6, 1944

D-Day in Normandy–June 6, 1944

Some reminders are particularly evocative for me. For example, I find few sites as poignant as the rusted ports lurking in the waves just off the coast of Arromanches-les-Bains.

Not far from the immaculate rows of gleaming marble headstones of the US cemetery at Omaha Beach, the tiny beach village of Arromanches-les-Bains was chosen to be the main port of the Allies. Still visible in the surf are the ghostly hulks of the prefabricated ports known as “Mulberry Harbors”, designed to move those millions of pounds of Allied men, vehicles, and supplies from ship to shore in the fight against Hitler.

"Mulberry" Port in action on D-Day

“Mulberry” Port in action on D-Day

The skeletal iron beasts, now rusted and worn away by decades of tide and salt water, serve as a reminder of the world-changing event that came to Normandy’s shores. And they remind us of the ordinary people—most now passed away—who found themselves swept up in the gale force of history.

A ghost in the waves.

A ghost in the waves.

The years go on, but the echoes remain.

Posted by | Comments (2) 
Category: Adventure Travel, Europe, Notes from the collective travel mind, Travel Writing


2 Responses to “The Echoes of War Remain”

  1. Margie Says:

    This is one of the most moving articles I have read on Normandy. Most are just the facts. This is real emotion. I have been there and this account makes me feel it all over again. Very well done!

  2. Doug Says:

    I hope to one day go there and pay my respects to all those that gave their lives for freedom. It just sounds like an overwhelming experience.

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