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DDay and My Father

I am in France now and was in Paris for 8 days after which we went to Chartres and then Normandy to visit the DDay sites.

One of my goals for this trip was to visit the US landing beaches. My Father and 4 of my uncles all fought in France to help liberate this continent from the Nazis. My other uncle served in the Pacific. My Father landed at Omaha beach.

It was an incredibly moving experience. My friend Mick and Marg from England came to join us here, Mick’s Dad landed at Sword Beach on DDay. He wanted to stand on that beach where his father had been so long ago.

I brought my Father’s Dog tag with me and wore it while I was there. He landed here and was later injured badly at the Battle of the Bulge but survived. (Or I wouldn’t be here)

I urge Any and all of you coming to France to visit these sights and remember the great sacrifice that was laid down here 70 some years ago.It is a sobering and amazing experience. It is great to see all the young kids with their fathers and grandfathers visiting and the huge numbers of French visitors still paying tribute to the Allied effort.

You will not regret visiting Normandy for sure.

Posted by
8293 posts

Thank you for giving us this report. It was moving to read. It is good that people still visit the landing beaches and remember what took place there. I recall meeting a young couple in Normandy, from the UK, still in their twenties, who were taking a motorcycle tour to France. The young guy said they stopped off to visit “Sword” beach to “pay our respects to our lads”. He was just a lad himself.

Posted by
784 posts

I visited the DDay Beaches in 1994, shortly after the 50th Anniversary of the landing. My father served in the Aleutians, but visiting Omaha Beach was one of the most moving experiences of my life. Seeing the cliff the young men had to scale, then turning around and seeing all those crosses and Stars of David brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this.

Posted by
8293 posts

Carolyn, we were there in 1994, too. Do you remember how all the shops had windows decorated with the flags of the Allies, and there were signs everywhere saying "Thank you to our Liberators". That was the 50th anniversary.

Posted by
83 posts

I have told many that I feel like every American should stand on Omaha Beach. I have never been anywhere that felt so big and so small at the same time. The other emotional memory from our 2005 visit was walking through the American cemetery and spotting a headstone with the same name as my grandfather (who didn't get drafted until the war was almost over & never went overseas) - it brought home how many people's grandfathers were buried there and how many young men didn't get to be grandfathers due to their service.

Posted by
763 posts

An emotional experience to be sure. My Dad also landed on Omaha Beach (not first day) and almost lost his life in the Battle of the Bulge.

To make it 10X more meaningful and moving, I urge everyone to take a tour. We used Alan Bryson (mentioned in Rick's France book) and he was great.

Posted by
4479 posts

We visited on July 4, 2002. Very moving. My father flew C-47s that dropped paratroopers and towed gliders during the invasion.

Posted by
4509 posts

We were there a couple years ago, and agree that it is very moving. You hear comments occasionally that the French are rude or don't like Americans. I would disagree, we've been to France three times and have always been treated well, but there is no doubt that the French in Normandy are so appreciative of the allies. I have never seen that many U.S. and British flags in one location before. I was very proud to be an American when I toured Normandy.

Posted by
8293 posts

Canadian and Polish flags could be seen also.

Posted by
1058 posts

I couldn’t agree with you more about visiting the invasion beaches. I have been all over Europe, but visiting Normandy, the invasion beaches, and the American Cemetery has been one the highlights of all my trips. On one of my trips to Europe with my wife’s parents, we were driving down the Autobahn when my wife’s dad said to get off at the next exit. The exit took us to the town of Julich. When we approached the town, he asked to stop the car just before entering the town. The road led over a bridge and thru a gateway into the town. When we got out, he went over to an irrigation ditch next to the small river that went under the bridge. His eyes teared up and proceed to point to specific places in the ditch and say all the names of his WWII comarads that were killed there trying to take the town from the German soldiers. He was able to return to the exact spot where he spend several days during the war. He had never talked about his experiences and rarely talked after that about it. It was a very moving moment for all of us. When the movie “Saving Private Ryan” came out, he could only watch it for 20 minutes at a time. It was to realistic and most of the soldiers in the movie belong to the 29th Infantry that landed at Omaha Beach and that was his unit.

Posted by
2058 posts

Father in law was a medic in the legendary 101st Airborne. Was trapped in Bastogne and received the Bronze Star for treating casualties while under fire during the Battle of the Bulge. My wife and I will visit the DDay beaches June 1. He barely discussed the war and came ashore the day after DDay.

Posted by
546 posts

One of the best things for me while there that I didn’t mention in my OP was the sight of all the kids playing, running, the boys on their skateboards and bikes having fun. It is a reminder of why it was all done.

And another thing that caught my attention again was the kids in the museums. There were many of them and many, even ones as young as 8 or 9 were enthralled with the exhibits and were paying very close attention. Some were speaking English but most were speaking French.

I also highly recommend a visit to the British Cemetary. The British families were allowed to compose or choose short epitaphs to their loved ones to be engraved on their headstones. So many are just heartbreaking.

While walking into the American Cemetary on the path that runs along the beach we came across a large group of Germans with a tour guide. This seemed to me one of the best things I saw and heartened me. I think after all these years my Dad would have approved too.

Indeed it was very emotional for all of us but wearing my Fathers Dog Tag while there gave it for me a closeness that I don;t think I would have otherwise had. I wore one for four years in the Air Force and it was a strange feeling to put one back on especially my Dads.

Posted by
31620 posts

I would also encourage everyone to visit Normandy and other sites, to remember the sacrifices that were made by so many of our relatives. The conditions and experiences that many of them endured were unimaginable, and in many ways they really were "The Greatest Generation". I also had an Uncle that served overseas during the war with the Canadian Army.

Posted by
8643 posts

Normandy is a very special place for my son and me as well. My dad landed at Omaha Beach during the Invasion.
When I was about 7 yrs old, my family went there, I walked along Omaha Beach with my dad who was deep in thought and didn’t say a word. Even at that age, I understood a lot of it and what he had been through and I didn’t say a word either. I’ll never forget being there with him. My dad also went on to fight at the Battle of the Bulge.

I agree about how friendly and wonderful the French are. They will never forget, they pass the history down to their children, and they still express their gratitude all these years later.

Glad you’re having such a good trip aarthur, I’m enjoying hearing about it.. : )

Posted by
784 posts

Reading all of these tributes has brought tears to my eyes. Even though I was born 2 years after the war ended, it is a time-marker in my life because it was such an important event in my parent's life. When I was young, it seems like everything happened either "before The War" or "after The War." It changed my parent's life, so it has had a huge impact on mine. Visiting the DDay Beaches will always be a vivid andemotional memory for me.

Posted by
1005 posts

Like the others posting, my dad landed on Omaha Beach--lucky for him is was on D-Day +1. Visiting the beach is certainly one of the most memorable travel experiences of my life. I'd like to add that if you do some research before you go, you may be able to visit other important locations in your relative's WWII experience. My dad was stationed at an airfield in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, and the airfield is still there and run by the Belgian Air Force. I let them know I was in Europe and would like to come to see it. When I visited, I was given a royal welcome by the commander of the air base and a full tour. Europeans are well aware of the sacrifices made and are so gracious and welcoming when they learn that your father or grandfather liberated them during World War II.