26 November 2009

the normandy enigma

i visited normandy yesterday, and spent a day as lovely as it was somber, with my mind grappling with the serenity of the scene and the horror that succombed those beaches in june of 1944.

on d-day, 6 june 1944, general eisenhower launched the world's greatest invasion. allied forces, more than 150,000 in number, stormed five beaches along the northern coast of france, taking the nazi army by complete surprise, and turning the tide of world war ii. within months, germany surrendered, and the end of the world's greatest and most destructive war came soon thereafter.

i can only imagine what normandy felt, sounded, and looked like during that fateful invasions. bombs rocking the ground, the blood of fallen soldiers coloring red the waves crashing onto the shore, bullets flying, planes soaring overhead, screams of injured troops and civilians filling the air with terror, and the general sense that the hope of the future lie only in the success of this battle. fear, terror, hope, and the stench of death abound.

yesterday, though, it was serene. the beaches extraordinarily beautiful, the weather perfect. off the coast, remains of the temporary harbors remain in tact, providing only an overview of what the coast might have resembled that morning. the day was beautiful, albeit chilly (it is november), and because it's off-season, it was quiet, lonely, and barren. had i not known these beaches are best known for a military battle, i'd never've guessed as much.

the american cemetery is also very beautiful, serene, and because it sits on the cliff overlooking the english channel it's got an incredible view. the pride i felt standing amongst those thousands of crosses and memorial, overlooking the harbor from whence those men and women sacrificed their lives in furtherance of freedom, cannot be expressed. there are some feelings the english language is far too paltry to impart...

though 'twas not an easy journey (it's long and far), the landing beaches, memorials, museums, and cemeteries of normandy are places all americans should experience.


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