D-Day, June 6, 1944- France Will Never Forget

2011 marks the 67th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, which was the major turning point of WWII in Europe.  Early in the morning of June 6, 1944, the largest military operation in history began as 135,000 Allied soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy, to begin the liberation of Europe, and change the course of history.  The Normandy invasion was a true international alliance, with troops from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.

Allied Forces disembark from amphibous Ducks

Allied Forces disembark from amphibious landing craft LCVP. Photo by Robert F. Sargent, US Coast Guard, provided by USCG Collection in US National Archives.

France will never forget the sacrifice of Allied soldiers who came to free them from Nazi occupation on D-Day, and each year, French residents of Normandy host numerous commemorative events to mark this historic date (scroll down for amazing video – I cry everytime I watch it). Normandy pulled out all the stops in 2009 to honor and remember the “Greatest Generation”, as many recognized this could be the last major milestone for veterans to re-visit the site.  However, there are always commemorations every year to remember the extreme sacrifice.

One of the many things I love about the French, they are great “preservers” of history, with such dignity and reverence.  Standing on Omaha Beach, or seeing the German cannons still embedded in Longue-sur-Mer, and the cliffs and bomb craters at Point du Hoc, you feel the years slip away, and imagine what it was like for these brave young boys, so far from home, and so cognizant of the imminent danger all around them.

These are some of my favorite photos of the region:

U.S. troops were met by German cannons embedded in the heavily fortified cement bunkers at Longues-sur-Mer

Allied troops were met by German cannons embedded in the heavily fortified cement bunkers at Longues-sur-Mer

Cliffs at Point du Hoc, where U.S. Army Rangers 2nd Battalion used fireman’s ladders and grappling hooks to invade the German stronghold.  Two-thirds of the Rangers perished in the assault.

Cliffs at Point du Hoc, where U.S. Army Rangers 2nd Battalion used fireman’s ladders and grappling hooks to invade the German stronghold. Two-thirds of the Rangers perished in the assault.

Bomb craters at Pointe du Hoc

Bomb craters at Pointe du Hoc

American cemetery at Colleville sur MerOmaha cemetery 1

American Cemetery at Colleville sur Mer...9,387 simple white marble crosses and Stars of David mark the final resting place of the brave men and women who lost their lives in the conflict.

American Cemetery at Colleville sur Mer...9,387 simple white marble crosses and Stars of David mark the final resting place of the brave men and women who lost their lives in the conflict.

Unfortunately, American troops suffered the largest casualties, because of their landing position on Omaha beach.

Caen Peace Memorial, extremely well done museum documenting conflicts throughout the 20th century.

As a tribute to peace, this sculpture says it all.

As a tribute to peace, this sculpture says it all.

Non-profit group “The French Will Never Forget” organized an extraordinary gathering of 2,500 people on Omaha Beach, July 4, 2007, to commemorate D-Day.  The crowd formed on the sand the letters of the phrase: “FRANCE WILL NEVER FORGET”, aimed at honoring the fallen American heroes who sacrificed their lives to liberate France from Nazi occupation. OMAHA_BEACH_2007_PHOTO

“Our goal is, once again, to demonstrate the deep respect and gratitude of the people of France, for their recovered freedom thanks to America’s extreme sacrifices during the Second World War and which no one can, or will ever forget.” declared the co-founders of the organization. Click here to watch the incredible video of the event.


Here is the link to the Normandy Tourism Office, and where you will find a schedule of events and all the “must see” sights in Normandy.
There are so many sites to tour here in Normandy, I would allow a full day for the D-Day sights, one day for Bayeux, plus a 3rd day to take in the magnificent Mont St. Michel.  You could do the D-Day visit on your own, but I strongly recommend choosing either a full day or half-day guided tour by one of several reputable companies, in order to fully appreciate the history and importance.  Rick Steves site describes the Caen Peace Memorial, and mentions several of the top tour companies (sidebar), so choose your tour, and reserve in advance.
To understand the historical perspective of D-Day, and help set the tone, go rent The Longest Day, and Saving Private Ryan.  Sobering…..sad……but essential to remember the past, and honor those who served.
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31 thoughts on “D-Day, June 6, 1944- France Will Never Forget

    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      Liz, thank you so very much for the kind words, and for the Lovely Blog Award! I am honored and very grateful!

      Reply
  1. nat014

    You are right. France will never forgot it was such a big time. Visiting Normandy and all the beaches out there really retraces what happen. When out there you can really have a feel of what happened.
    It is amazing to know how everything has been planned and how they managed to keep it secret.
    Thanks to remind us of the past, some important moment in history that should never be forgotten.

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      Thanks for your comment. It is amazing how it was kept a secret. We learned through touring the Spy Museum in D.C. how “misinformation” was leaked to the spy community that the invasion would take place farther up the coast, near Lille, and that German troops had amassed more firepower in that direction. Also the decoy tanks and boats that were actually inflatable models that were station in the UK to simulate the debarkation. Just amazing.

      Reply
  2. Andreas Guibeb

    Omaha Beach or Obama Beach as Grodan brown in afraudian slip dubbed it at this year’s memorial service is an endearing legacy of the ultimate sacrifice made by so many young American, Canadian, British and Commonwealth troops to liberate France and Europe from Nazi occupation and through that the entire world from a possibly disastrous destiny. We will should make that pledge repeated by young cadets to the few remaining surviving veterans that we will keep the memory of those events alive in the minds of future generations.

    Reply
  3. enchantedtraveler Post author

    Thanks for your comment Andreas. You are right that we must keep these memories alive for future generations. Our family toured Normandy two years ago, but my son was too young to understand the importance. He’s ten now, and we watched all the D-Day commemorations last week, and now he understands. He read my blog post with great interested, and he said “Mom, that video of the people on the beach makes me cry.”
    So yes, to your point, we must be sure that future generations remember and continue to honor the sacrifices made in the name of freedom.

    Reply
  4. ianharper

    I have been watching the coverage on TV and its been thought provoking. they say that with all history you should go and touch and smell to get a connection. the connection that i want to feel is the thanks that i give to those brave guys. your in my thoughts.

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Ian. Yes you are so right…to touch, to smell and see up close…it is breathtaking, standing on the Pointe du Hoc and seeing the bomb craters, exactly as they were 65 years ago. And also the German cannons embeded at Longues sur Mer. The French are wonderful at leaving things intact, and trying to preserve the history as much as possible, to make it more “real” for visitors. In the US, we would probably bulldoze the bomb craters, pave it over, and build a shopping mall.

      Reply
  5. Amy @ The Q Family

    Wow! what a great story. My eyes were tearing up as I read your post especially the picture of the non-profit group on the beach. What a moving event! Thank you for sharing. When I visit France, this will be one of my must-visit destination.

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      Thanks Amy for your kind comment. I love the video too! I probably should move it up to the top of the post, so people can’t miss it!

      Reply
  6. Jim

    Thanks for the great pictures and moving article. It is so easy to forget not just what we, America, did for the French, but the horrors the French went through during the war. I plan on going to Normandy soon and to see all of the locations photographed above and more.

    Reply
  7. rod francis

    you know history is there as a lesson if we don’t pay attention & learn from history human nature is bound to continually make the same mistakes over & over again.

    so we should not forget history but we should not hold on to thoughts of hatred, anger & revenge either.

    in australia we celebrate anzac day which is a celebration of the diggers that sacrificed their lives at gallipolli in turkey …

    lest we forget !!!

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      Rod, you are so right. We have to teach our children tolerance. Thanks for your comment.

      Reply
  8. MoxKirby

    That’s beautiful, I’ve managed to visit Pearl Harbor and several memorials in Washington D.C.

    May we all never forget the sacrifices made to retain the freedoms we enjoy.

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      Thanks MoxKirby. Pearl Harbor is so moving too. I took my daughter there when she was about 5 years old. We remember the oil still leaking from one of the smokestacks. Very sobering.

      Reply
  9. Jim Hickey

    Being a WWII buff as a young person, I was always interested to learn about the battles and outcomes but never really considered the toll of those actually there. After listening to my father-in-laws stories from his days over there it definitely shed a new light. As with the French, there are many people here in the US that will never forget everyone’s sacrifice either.

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      You are so right, Jim. Our generation has no idea what it means to truly “sacrifice” as our parents and grandparents did. While the men were on the front lines risking their lives, the women were working long hours in factories and assembly lines to manufacture war-related goods. On a much smaller scale, I remember my grandmother talking about all the rationing during war times. Staples we take for granted like coffee, sugar, etc were rationed. Nylon too was rationed, so ladies had no stockings to wear. She said ladies would draw a line up the back of their legs with eyebrow pencil, in order to look like the seams of stockings, to give the appearance they were wearing stockings! 🙂 And for the most part, from the accounts I’ve heard, they didn’t complain because everyone felt they were doing their part, however small it might be, to help in the war effort. Such different times we live in today.

      Reply
  10. Julie McClelland

    That was a big day for all Allied Forces. My father was in the New Zealand Army, I don’t have his rank and number just handy, it’s in my ‘to keep box’. He wasn’t one of the ones on the beaches that day, thank goodness, but the RNZAF was there on the day though.

    Thank goodness we have had no War to like this since then.

    Sir Winston Churchill did pen a most wonderful and inspiring speech at the begining of WWII, “We shall fight on the beaches…we shall never surrender…”

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      Julie, thank you so much for your comment, and I’m sorry to be so late in my reply. You are absolutely right. They were truly “Allied” forces, not just American. British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand. God bless your father, and all those who serve.

      Reply
  11. Brenda Bunney

    Very moving article and pictures. Hard to believe such horror took place there. It looks so peaceful and beautiful now……

    Thank you for reminding us all of our freedoms and those who fight for them.

    Reply
  12. Debra Berndt

    What beautiful photos from what was once a place of death and destruction. Hopefully we will always remember those who served to preserve our freedom from tyranny. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  13. Jon Clayton

    As an American, I sincerely appreciate and value the remembrance of the high cost of American lives on foreign soil defending not only freedom of the USA, but of other countries and peoples as well. Thank you for such a tasteful post. The photos were excellent. Thanks!

    Reply
  14. Dianne Hansen

    I love France and French people and all things French!

    Thanks for the reassurance that the French people are preservers of important historical events and that they honor and respect the ones who sacrificed their lives.

    Viva la France.

    Reply
    1. enchantedtraveler Post author

      Thanks, Tim. I greatly appreciate it. Thanks for stopping by. D-Day is an important part of our history, and we should keep the memories alive for future generations.

      Reply
  15. Michael

    I was in Normandy last summer. It’s a very moving experience. Those that are interested in this sort of thing should also check the “Flanders Fields” exhibition in the Belgian town of Ypres, a commemoration of the 1st World War. “The Last Call” is played close to the centre every night, even after all these years.

    Reply
  16. enchantedtraveler Post author

    Thanks, Michael. I’d love to see the Flanders Fields too. Haven’t made it there yet. Thanks for letting us know about that important exhibition. Such history and sacrifice.

    Reply
  17. BobSinPA

    Great article – well done; nicely written. Luv your photos.
    My wife and I were there in ’06. My dad was in 458th Bombardment Group and they flew thousands of sorties trying to clear the beaches of defenses, but fog and other conditions affected accuracy. Also, Germans were dug in very well. I would recommend at least TWO days to tour the beaches. Hard to beat BattleBus Tours – highly rated/reviewed by many, including Rick Steves.

    Reply
  18. enchantedtraveler Post author

    Bob, thanks so much for your comment and recommendations. I’ve heard great things about BattleBus. And yes, when I go back again, I’ll definitely take 2 days. You right, you really need that to understand the scope and magnitude of what went on. That’s amazing that your dad was was part of the effort. Once you see the German cement bunkers and artillery, you can understand why it was do hard to overcome the defenses there.

    Thanks again for your comment, and sharing your story. Take care.
    Mary Ann
    Enchanted Traveler

    Reply

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