Upon arriving at Omaha Beach, on the coast of Normandy, France, it was surprising to see it being used much as any beach would be on a warm summer day with people swimming, playing and having family picnics. What a difference 70 years make…. I am not saying the beach should be off limits, just that no TV documentaries I’ve seen depicted it being used as a normal beach, so I was surprised. There are two war monuments on the beach, memorializing the 2,500 Americans who died during the initial assault. The metal one, shown above, seems very appropriate for the marking of the site. To me the artwork depicts bombs dropping into the sand and the resulting explosions.
The American Cemetery is in close proximity to the landing beaches and contains the graves of nearly 10,000 Americans. Each grave is marked with the service person’s name, rank, branch of service and U.S home state. The cemetery was very crowded with tour bus groups of various nationalities. Some families had papers with them and were searching for specific grave markers. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and the lawn is the most well maintained expanse of grass imaginable. The caretakers have special mowers that clip around the grave markers so no hand trimming is necessary.
A nice touch to the visit was the patriotic American music played from time to time over the sound system. American visitors would promptly remove their hats and stand still, while other foreign visitors would continue about their visit, likely not recognizing the music playing. How many of us would recognize the French national anthem?