World War II is often remembered as the “last good war” in the American psyche. It was a time when the delineation between good and evil was unmistakably clear, and supreme sacrifices were undertaken to ensure the eventual triumph of good over evil. In few other places do these sacrifices stand out more than here on the cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach.
On June 6, 1944, at Omaha and other Normandy beaches, American, British and Canadian troops poured from their transport crafts in the largest amphibious operation in human history to invade Hitler’s Fortress Europe. The landings at Gold, Juno and Sword Beaches and at nearby Utah Beach went relatively well, but it was here that German resistance was fiercest. As realistically portrayed in the movie Saving Private Ryan, GIs attempting to storm the beach face hellish gunfire from fortified positions on the cliffs which held a commanding height advantage. The casualties were unbelievable, but even more remarkable was the courage of the soldiers and officers who carried out, and ultimately succeeded in, their duties in the face of insurmountable odds.
The grounds on the cliffs overlooking the beach have been consecrated as the final resting place for those who fell that day and during the subsequent efforts to expand the beachhead and eventually liberate France. The tranquility of the cemetery belies the ferocity of the struggle that day, and yet is the perfect setting for those men who have so deservedly earned their eternal rest.
As an American, I couldn’t help but feel a well of emotions standing in front of the sea of white crosses and stars of David. But I believe that anyone, regardless of nationality or current political conviction, would feel the same, for the significance of these sacrifices transcend all artificial boundaries. From what I’ve seen here, the French people has done much to show their respect and gratitude .
Visiting the D-Day beaches has been one of my dreams. I was fortunate to be here during the week leading to the 60th Anniversary. It was an experience I won’t soon forget.
Last visit: June 2004