Monday, June 29, 2009
Tuesday, 30 June '09: What passing bells...? Omaha Beach, Normandy is part of My World
Grey and ominous, the silver stainless steel sculpture by French artist, Anitore Bacon, entitled: 'The Braves' commemorates the brave men of the 1st and 29th Infantry Division of the US army who began landing a half an hour before dawn on June 6 1944 at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France. A gently curving beach of silvery-pink sand and gentle ripples which occasionally washed up a whelk at my feet hardly seemed the setting for death and destruction on such a scale.
My day visit to the Landing Beaches at Normandy was the highlight of my recent overseas trip. No passing bells sounded from the spires of the grey stone churches of the surrounding villages of Colleville, St Laurent and Vierville (all rebuilt after apocalytic destruction in 1944) for those young men who died here - and at Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold. But, in awe, I paid a deeply felt tribute with my heart.
The main strip of beach is surprisingly narrow, rising to a bank of shingle up against a low sea wall beyond which is a short stretch of grassland, today dotted today with holiday homes. Several of these roofed with thatch.
In the distance you can make out the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc.
I was struck, and still am, by the significance of the D-Day landings by Allied troops at the Normandy beaches, code named: Omaha and Utah (US), Juno (Canada) and Sword and Gold (British). The French Resistance, Free French and Polish troops also made their heroic contribution. This was the largest sea based invasion ever launched in history.
One erroneously thinks that once the longest day had ended, things were virtually over. But the ensuing battle of Normandy was savage and relentless. From 6-20 June over 11 000 US men were lost; over 4 000 British troops and a similar number of Canadians. This excludes the thousands wounded. On these beaches where toddlers paddled and holiday makers strolled? In the lush surrounding meadows where well-fed white cows feed?
The Allied flags flutter at the memorial on Omaha beach.
Well you may ask: is this part of Your World? Yes, it is. South African troops fell in North Africa and Italy; South African pilots over the mountains of Yugoslavia and over a beleagured Warsaw. And, of course, the brave men of many other nations.
Visit many other interesting posts on My World this Tuesday. And do join me for the rest of trip to Normandy, Paris and Riga, Latvia in the next few days. I am now back home and will also be dropping my calling card at your front door in the next few days. I missed you all!