Remembering the Landing Beaches of Normandy #D-Day

Arromanche Beach

Arromanches les Bains seafront beach and remains of the artificial harbour used on D-Day in World War II. Normandy France.

It has been seventy-six years since the Allies landed in France on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and still people travel to Normandy to see the beaches and visit the cemeteries.

Landing Beach Map

Map of the landing beaches at Normandy.

My father served in North Africa and Italy during World War II, so I never planned to visit the D-Day beaches, but now I have done so twice. Once on a cruise around the British Isles, and again in September 2016 on a tour of Northern France. Both times I came away humbled by the sacrifices made there.

The D-Day invasion was a massive undertaking, with over 156,000 American, Canadian and British forces involved. Code named Operation Overlord, it was the largest amphibious landing in history.

The invasion started the night of June 5th as paratroopers were flown into France behind the German lines. One of the most famous stories is about the paratrooper who landed in the charming town of Ste. Mere Eglise, where his parachute caught on the tower of the church in the middle of a fire. Visitors can view a replica of the trooper hanging from the tower.

church tower + parachute

Church tower at Ste. Mere Eglise.

One of the most impressive sites is at Pointe du Hoc, the location of German bunkers in between Omaha and Utah beaches that fired shells at the Americans during the landing. A contingent of Army Rangers climbed the cliffs to take the high ground. There’s a monument to them.

Ranger Monument

Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc, Normandy.

The stone plaque at the monument reads:

To the heroic Ranger Commandoes… of the 116th inf. under the command of Colonel James E. Rudder of the First American Division attacked and took possession of Pointe du Hoc.

The site has been pretty much left as it was after the battle, with the exception of the memorial and the grass and other plants that now grow there. It is a truly spectacular spot, with gorgeous ocean views. It’s hard to imagine what a hell it must have been seventy-six years ago.

Cliff at Pointe du Hoc

Cliff at Pointe du Hoc

The most moving part of the day’s tour was the visit to the American Cemetery at Colville, not the only D-Day cemetery. On the way, we passed the site of the first American cemetery, now reduced to a single memorial stone. The Colville site is a beautiful cemetery, meticulously maintained. Gazing out at the rows and rows of grave markers, most with crosses on top, but some with Stars of David or crescents, drives home the extent of the sacrifices made that long-ago day, and the mere thought of it brings tears to my eyes.

American cemetery

Grave markers at American cemetery, Colville, France

The generation that fought in World War II is rapidly dying off, sadly, some from COVID-19. I wonder if we will ever see their like again.

Linda

Book Review Club: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek #review

Book Woman of Troublesome Creek coverThe Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
by Kim Michele Richardson
Historical Fiction

I was interested in reading this book because the backdrop is the Depression-era attempt to bring books to people in the back woods of Kentucky, a program I’d not been aware of before. Apparently, Eleanor Roosevelt was the driving force behind the Kentucky Pack Horse program. Big city libraries donated excess books and shipped them to Kentucky. Local women were hired, all unmarried, to distribute books to the hill people. Because of the lack of roads, the book women rode horses or mules with panniers filled with books over difficult mountain trails. (They were the first mobile librarians!) What a fascinating piece of little known women’s history. (There was another novel about this published last year called Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes. I wasn’t able to check that one out due to a very long reserve list.) The list wasn’t as long on this book, and I was able to borrow the ebook from the local library.

Richardson combines the book woman history with the story of the Blue People of Kentucky, something else I knew nothing about. Apparently a man named Fugate with blue skin arrived in the area from France in the late 1700’s and married a woman with white skin. Four of their seven children were also blue. Scientists now know that the condition, inherited methemoglobinemia, is caused by a rare gene combination. Apparently Mrs. Fugate carried a recessive gene for the condition. The Blues were considered Colored People and were treated little or no better than African Americans. You can learn more at this YouTube video.

The protagonist is Cussy Mary Carter, a blue woman. In her travels, she faces ignorance and danger from some, but wins others over with her book deliveries. The local doctor wants to study her in hopes of curing her. The preacher wants to drive the devil out of her. And one of her patrons actually thinks she’s pretty. Her journey shows us the best and worst of human nature, but in the end, she’s in a far better place than at the beginning.

I loved this book; I’m so glad I read it. Beautifully written, Richardson’s love and knowledge of Appalachia shines through, as does her love of books. I recommend the book for anyone who loves books and libraries!

Linda

As always, click on the link below for more great reviews in Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club!

 

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