This will be my first blog post while I’m participating in the term abroad to Rennes, France! I figured I would start off by describing my group’s trip to the American Cemetery in Normandy, France.
Two weekends ago, we traveled to the province of Normandy to explore a little and visit the beaches where many US soldiers debarked on D-Day, June 6, 1944. We started off with an intense 360 degree film about D-Day, and explored the town of Arromanches which lies on the coast of Gold Beach, a mainly British landing beach. It amazed me that there were still structures on the beach and in the water from the actual D-Day, 69 years ago!
Earlier in the weekend we got to visit Pointe du Hoc, an American landing beach where there are still bunkers existing today where German forces hid out, as well as huge craters in the land from bombs. Seeing those structures set the tone for our visit to the American Cemetery at Collevill-sur-mer. As you probably know, the cemetery is a cemetery and memorial that honors American soldiers who gave their lives in World War II when the Allied forces invaded Europe. The cemetery covers 172 acres and holds the remains of 9,387 American soldiers, most of whom were killed during the US invasion of Normandy.
While the statistic of this are are enough to shock you, seeing it in person packs an even greater impact. It was crazy to see so many white crosses and stars of david spread out as far as you can see. I spent an hour by myself walking among the graves reading the names, military division, home state, and birthday of each soldier engraved on the stone. I’ve never been that into history, but seeing these places that I’ve learned about since I started school was amazing.
The cemetery looks out onto Omaha Beach, a 5 mile long stretch of land where the American soldiers landing. We spent about an hour on the beach reflecting on the gravity of the location we were at. It was extremely moving to see the American Cemetery. I learned a few interesting facts about the cemetery: one, the land is actually an American province on French soil, ‘given’ to the United States by France as a gratitude to our role in the war. Second, President Theodore Roosevelt is buried in Normandy! He died of a heart attack about a month after landing at Utah Beach, and he is buried next to his younger brother, Quentin, who was killed in World War I.
Overall,the trip was very interesting and really changed my perspective on the history of our military, and solidified the idea that the American Cemetery in Normandy is a must-see!