Friday, May 30, 2014

Memorial

For Memorial day we wanted to go somewhere special.  Memorial day has become a day that people remember the dead, but it was actually started after the Civil War to remember the fallen soldiers that had given their lives in that bloody fight.  It became a day to remember all fallen soldiers after World War 1.  I keep getting it mixed up with Veteran's day which is a day to remember all those who have served.  So for this Memorial day, we took the opportunity to drive 9 hours across France and visit Normandy.  We tried to make it to each of the beaches.  We went to Utah first



 and St. Mere Eglise where there is still a mannequin hanging on the church from a parachute.




At least one, if not two guys, got caught on those spires as they came down out of the sky.  Both were capture by German's but managed to escape in the general confusion.  St. Mere Eglise was under Allied control by 6 am.  We also made it to Point Du Hoc (where the Ranger's had to scale the cliffs to get to the big guns) and Omaha beach that day.




We had a former medic who landed on Omaha beach in our ward in Shelley.  He came to tell the kids about his experience one fireside and most of them weren't even paying attention.  I figured they didn't understand the history.  Omaha beach was the bloodiest of all the beaches.  While control of the other beaches was taken within half a day by the allies, Omaha was still pinned down getting fired at continuously until after 6 pm.  Of their 2000+ shipments of ammo that were supposed to come to them, only 100 made it- so basically they were sitting ducks!  We ended the day by going to see the American Cemetery.

They were building a stage and putting up chairs for performances both on Sunday and Monday.  We met the guys glee club from Miami University that was singing at the wreath laying ceremony on Monday.  I wish we could have stayed to hear it, but as it was we didn't get home until 8 pm.

It was all decorated for Memorial day.  The area is beautiful and overlooks the water.  The crosses and stars of David are all perfectly straight and beautiful white marble.  Two of the 4 brother's that the Saving Private Ryan movie is based on, are there.  Also there is a little museum that tells you about a few of the others in the Cemetery.  There are a father and son- what a horrible day that must have been for the poor mother and wife at home.  There are at least 2 Generals.  One was killed in the attack, the other one was Teddy Roosevelt's son.  He went with his men into the fighting and made it through, but then died 6 weeks later of a heart attack.
The next day we went to see the Pegasus bridge by Sword beach.

It was the first thing that was taken.  British Paratroopers took it.  I guess the "taking of it" wasn't the hard part, it was the "keeping control of it, so that the German's couldn't counter attack" that was the hard part.  There were at least two major attacks by the German's to try to regain control, before the few men that were holding it, got any reinforcements.  Then we went to Juno beach (the Canadian beach) and skipped rocks in the English Channel.  The beaches are all so serene and beautiful.   They are quiet and you can hear the sea gulls calling and the water lapping.  In a world full of fighting and horrible things, seeing my boys and their father skip rocks at a beach with so much significance gives me hope.





Our last beach was Gold beach where you can still see remains of port Winston- the biggest man made port.

During all this fighting they sunk a bunch of old ships, which had come over on their own power.  The engineers then laid stuff on top and fixed anti-aircraft guns on them to protect it.  One of the reasons the German's thought there wouldn't be an attack there, was because there is no natural harbor.  Winston Churchill was the one who came up with the idea to create an artificial one.  They created one on Omaha too, but there was a really bad storm 11 days after the fighting that dislodged it.
The final thing we saw was the gun battery at Longues Sur Mer.


These big guns are the only ones left where they were.  They could shoot in a 12 mile arc- hitting Omaha and Gold beaches.  There are huge craters everywhere, because the Allies tried to bomb those targets over and over, before the landing.  One of the bunkers was hit and they still have the gun in shambles inside of the partially ruined bunker.  
Two others are still intact.  We also got to see the forward observers bunker and told the kids that that is what their Grandpa was in the Vietnam war.  People had commented on-line about families that let their kids run in the craters and how disrespectful they thought it was, since it was basically considered a burial place for many people.  I tried to keep the kids subdued, because I didn't want to offend anyone, but in the end I just couldn't stop them from running those craters and climbing on the bunkers.  Maybe it's because, to me, it is another sign of hope for a better life, a new beginning, life after death, that things can be beautiful again.  If they wanted to run and laugh in a cemetery, I would let them too, as long as it wasn't rowdy.  I would definitely control rowdy!
To cap off our trip, we ran down to Mont St. Michel.

This is an island at high tide.  Because of the causeway they built so us, pilgrims don't have to cross the mile or so of mudflats and quicksand, they have stopped the water.  They are in the process of building a bridge and getting rid of the causeway.


We didn't get to see much of it, though, because we had to run right back and see our friends the Bedell's, who we knew in Ohio and who have moved to Germany also.  They live 3 hours away from us, so we don't see them often, but they just happened to be in Normandy at the same time.  We had a lovely dinner with them (except for the eggs and stinky cheese.)

On our way home, we stopped at Giverny and walked through Claude Monet's home and famous gardens.















I have always loved the lily pond pictures and the Japanese bridge picture, so of course we had to buy prints of those.  Emma also got a hair clip with the water lilies on it.  Everyone complimented her on it.  I tried to get Emma to take a picture of Rob and I on the bridge, but Sam thought that he should be able to take the picture, so he annoyed her so much that she could only get two quick pictures- neither of which came out awesome!  Darn Sam!

Besides the French tolls, which were over $100, I really got an appreciation for the beauty of France.  It is a gorgeous, rural place.  We didn't see a soul most of the time, except at the monuments, but all the fields are beautiful and straight and the places are clean and neat, so someone must be doing something at sometime!  It was quite the contrast to Paris, which is big and dirty.  I suppose it is like  people who come to visit the United States and only go to New York and/or LA.  We went around Paris on our way home and we took a fly-by picture of the Eiffel tower, because the rest of the family said they were done with France.

It was mostly due to the food, I think.  The whole idea of the French making the best food, was proven false by us!  There was raw eggs on everything- pasta, pizza, calzones, crepes.  They serve raw hamburger with a raw egg on top.  Seriously!  Disgusting!  We quickly learned the word for egg and tried to remember to ask for no egg, but Rob forgot the last time.  I also decided to try some of their famous cheese in a salad.  It tasted like what B.O. smells like.  I pushed it all to the side and enjoyed the rest of the salad.  We watched Ratatouille on the way home and wished we had found that amazing French restaurant.  Hopefully, one of these days we can make it to Paris, but I think it has moved way down on the bucket list.

2 comments:

Robert Kress said...

It was a great trip and a wonderful post. Thanks.

Love, Me

Searls Stuff said...

One of the teachers from my school is traveling in Europe with her grandfather this spring. He was a pilot in WW2 and was invited back to attend several memorial events. She has posted several things on Facebook and it has been fascinating. Thanks again for sharing your adventures.