Monday, June 15, 2009

DATELINE: Omaha Beach

It' serenely quiet as I walk the beach at "Bloody Omaha" of Normandy. No seagulls, no voices, just the soft lapping off the English Channel against the beach. It's a rather unremarkable beach as beaches go, and I seen a whole lot of them. Rather it's the remarkable events that started here before dawn 65 years ago that make this place special. Remarkable young men did the unnatural, they poured out of landing craft and plunged into battle, many for the first time and many for their only time. When you see the terrain you can see why it turned into a killing field. At high tide you still have quite a distance to cover to get to the rise of the land from the beach. The berns and hills above Omaha are tall and imposing. Looking at those steep approaches from their landing craft must have caused a fear I can't identify with. The courage to suck it up and burst out of the Higgins boats and dash for the shore took strength and conviction. Many never made it past the lowering of the ramps, yards from shore would be as close as they get before their lives would end. As I leave Omaha I stop to pick up a couple of peices of trash and walk up the short hill the ends at a draw that gives you driving access to Omaha Beach. German tourist look at me in a curious way as I drop the trash in a receptacle near the parking lot. It clear to me that the don't feel that "Bloody Omaha" is sacred ground, every bit as sacred as Gettysburg or Iwo Jima. I say nothing as the tourists fall silent and munch on apples and boot a soccer ball around as I walk past. Perhaps the look on my face said all that needed to be said.


2ndRangers said...

Did you happen to visit the American cemetary? My friend Pete Swedo is buried there. He carried a flame thrower that morning and a bullet hit his fuel tank and he went up like a roman candle. This was at Pointe-du-Hoc.

The Big Red One said...

I hope young people like you continue to remember the sacrifice men made on behalf of liberty. It is nice to see that people still recall things like the Higgins boat.

Individualist said...

I have been to Gettysburg James. You know reading your post makes me think of my trip there. IT is funny the only thing I had to go on were my feeble knowledge of what happened before I went there, the landmarks and notices placed by the park, the description of the event, numbering the men on both sides that died there and finally the tale as told by the park ranger on duty at the time. Despite this meager amount of information it still had a chilling effect on you as you imagined the horror and bravery of those who were there. Thanks for this post. It is very good.

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