Saturday, June 06, 2009
June 6, 1944 - The Beaches of Normandy, France: American Cemetery and Memorial
The American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, is on the bluff above Omaha Beach. It honors American soldiers and airmen who lost their lives during the landing and fighting on this stretch of French beach that occurred 65 years ago today, on June 6, 1944. The 172-acre site contains perfectly straight rows of white crosses and the remains of 9,387 American military dead. We visited on November 1, 2006, and I took this picture (and the ones I have posted on Tampa Florida Photo.)
My father flew on this date, 65 years ago, from his base in England. He was a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps, 397th Bombardment Group (Medium), 598th Bombardment Squadron of the Ninth Air Force. He flew missions before June 6th and in support of the invasion. On the ceiling of the beautiful chapel, created in intricate and colorful tile mosaic, are winged angels, ships at sea and a B-26 aircraft just like the one my father flew--the Martin B-26 Marauder Medium Bomber. Trained as a pilot of the fastest medium bomber in World War II--he flew 65 combat missions during World War II. All of the graves here face westward, towards the United States. It is an incredible place to experience, and when we were there it was filled with French men, women and families paying their respects. A bus from Germany, with young German soldiers, was also there touring the beach area. I will never forget walking on the sand of Omaha Beach and trying to imagine what that day was like so many years ago for those who were there and gave their lives for freedom.