Home World Travel Normandy – 77 years later, what do YOU recall of the 1944, June 6th invasion?

Normandy – 77 years later, what do YOU recall of the 1944, June 6th invasion?

June 6th is a historic and memorable day for me. In 2004, when I was on KNX1070 with my travel show, I was in Normandy, France, at the invite of the French government, to be part of the world-wide media celebrating the 60th anniversary of D-Day – June 6th in 1944 when the allies invaded Europe.

U.S. Troops in an LCVP landing craft approaching “Omaha” Beach on “D-Day.” June 6, 1944.
Credit: U.S. Army / Public Domain.

It was spine-chilling and unnerving to be on what, back then, was known as “Bloody Omaha” (as so many of the US military on that beach were dead) and that day when I was there in 2004, it was a glorious morning and afternoon. Sunny skies, and kids and families playing.

The 50th Infantry Division of the British Army coming ashore at Gold Beach at Normandy, June 6, 1944. Photograph courtesy of Sgt Midgley, No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit via Wikimedia Commons.

The contrast between then and 1944 was beyond strange. The so called “Big Event” and celebration that day was at Arrowmanches Beach and, as part of the media in attendance, I sat fifty feet from such well-known public figure as Putin of Russia, the Queen of England and the Duke of Edinburgh and, of course, our own president, George W. Bush and his wife Laura. Curiously, when our last president visited Normandy for its 75th anniversary in 2019, he expressed amazement upon finding that there was such a thing called Omaha Beach.

A Quebec Régiment de la Chaudière soldier interrogates two German prisoners captured by Canadian troops at Juno Beach on D-Day. Photograph courtesy of Archives Nationales du CANADA.

While strange it was, for me an avowed WW2 aficionado, remarkable and awe-inspiring, to chat with some of our guys who had stormed those hellish beaches, filled with machine gun fire and death lurking at your side every second, and yet these few had survived that madness of war, and were on their first (for many) and last visit to Normandy.

American soldiers recover the dead after D-Day landing at Omaha Beachhead in Normandy, June 6, 1944. Credit: U.S. Army / Public Domain.

When I asked some of them why it was their first visit (most were then in their early 80s) they asked if I had seen the movie Saving Private Ryan. When I told them I had, they said (to a man) that the first thirty minutes of this brilliant and often all too realistic movie, depicted the awful reality that THEY had personally felt and seen during those terrible minutes and hours on the beach that terrifying day: they did not want to re-live that horror again.

The arrival of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh (2004). Photo by John Clayton.

But all told me they wanted to see, one last time, where they were – and might have died – that June 6th, 1944 day. In my travel related journalistic career, I have been lucky and yes, privileged, to see and experience amazing things around the world. All made possible by my being able to earn a living and super life, in this superb and yes, magically marvelous place called the USA.

As an ex-Brit I’m thrilled, yes, EVERY DAY, that I’m a legal American citizen. This is a country where miracles happen, and I love every second of my life here. Are YOU proud to be an American?

See Mr. Clayton’s previous article: Normandy: A Personal WW2 Reflection – Traveling Boy

 

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