Over 9,000 heroes memorialized for their valor has a way of socking it to you gut. Seeing video footage of what they actually went through in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944 and for the months afterwards will bring you to tears. It was not until after stepping out of the Cimetiere American de Normandie (American Cemetery of Normandy) and seeing the perfectly manicured grounds alongside the rugged coastline do you fully understand the magnitude of their sacrifice. It is a moment I will never forget. It is a place I feel privileged to have visited. It is a thankfulness to their sacrifice and service that my words and actions will never be able to communicate.
In less than 24 hours time that we had in the area, we only touched on a small part of what the area had to offer. If you have less than a day here like we did, then I highly recommend the following three sights.
- The American Cemetery – above Omaha Beach it sits in the middle of the landing sights with Sword, Juno and Gold beaches to the east near Caen and Utah to the west just past Mont St-Michel. Bayeax provides a nice central location with many tours (bike, minivan and private guide) based here. The grounds and museum here rival what you see in Arlington, VA at the Arlington National Cemetery.
- Musee Memorial d’Omaha Beach (Omaha Beach Museum) – described by some as a museum of rusted junk in someone’s garage I’d say my expectations were low and easily exceeded. The movie at the end is worth waiting to watch. The war trinkets they have collected were excellent and interesting. This museum deserves 90 minutes minimum and could easily take 3 hours.
- Pointe du Hoc (U.S. Ranger Memorial) – this memorial had a modest museum and brief movie but the power was found on the cliffs above the ocean. Seeing what the Rangers scaled was unbelievable. Seeing dozens of bombing craters 20+ feet deep from the air strikes preceding the invasion makes it hard to understand how the Germans were still holding ground here at the time of the D-day invasion. The coolest part of the exhibit was walking through the bunkers and imagining the scene that took place 71 years ago.
The kids seemed to really enjoy the time here and I think over the years the kids will appreciate it more as they learn about this important period in history. Several times during the day Cindy and spend time talking about both of our granddads who spent time in the war. My grandfather on my Dad’s side was in the infantry in the days following D-day (Dad – I’ll need to learn much more about what you know about his time over there – this time I promise I’ll listen). Cindy’s Grandpa spent time in the Phillipines during WWII and had many humorous and colorful stories about his time during the war. When Cindy asked to see his uniform he emphatically stated (paraphrasing) “I burned that damn thing the very minute I could. It smelled like all the smells I want to forget.”
While I would advocate spending 2-3 days in the area, if you want a good taste of D-Day you can absolutely get it with 24 hours in Normandy and a zippy car like our Clio. Below you will find our day in pictures.
A brief but amazing tour of Omaha Beach. Without a doubt a worthwhile stop for anyone visiting France!