Monday, June 6, 2011
67 Years Later: Reality Check
At 0630 on June 6th, 1944, Alliance Troops started to land on the beaches of Normandy. The Alliance knew Omaha Beach would be the hardest beach to invade. Americans got this mission for two reasons: the United States had more soldiers and were more rested to accomplish the job.
Omaha Beach is 4 miles long (7,000 yards), and I was surprised to find it is a little rocky.
At 0630 the young men of the 1st Division landed on Omaha Beach, and they had to run 200 yards before they had shelter. Two-thirds of the men in this division were killed before the day was over. One of the veterans on our trip, Andy Anderson, landed on Omaha Beach with the 348th Division. Andy shared with us stories about D-Day. One story he shared was the view points of the Germans and the Americans. Today Andy laid a wreath at a monument for the men who died in his area of the beach on D-Day.
After Andy gave his talk, he pulled out a coin that he and his division members had ordered for their retirement ceremony. This was the last remaining coin. Andy said he wanted all the WWII veterans and the College of the Ozarks’ students to hold and read the coin. Once all of us had done so, Andy gave Dr. Sue Head the coin to be put it on display at College of the Ozarks.
One of the most bombed places before D-Day was Pointe du Hoc. The canons were pointed in the direction of the beaches to take out the American soldiers once they had landed. Pointe du Hoc is located between Utah and Omaha beaches. This vertical cliff is one hundred feet high; however, American Army Rangers scaled wall in five minutes. Without taking over Pointe du Hoc, the American soldiers had no chance to complete their mission. Unfortunately, none of the German canons were taken out by American bombings. For this reason, their mission was more difficult. In the end, however, America prevailed.
Ten years after D-Day James Earl Rudder, the Ranger commander, came back to Pointe du Hoc with his son and told him, “I still do not know how we did it.”
Since 2004 Pointe du Hoc has been closed to visitors; the wall has been eroding since 1944 and was becoming unsafe. Today, June 6th, 2011, Pointe du Hoc was reopened with a private ceremony, and we were honored to be part of it.
Some well-known attendees at the ceremony included: U.S. Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin, United States Senator John Kerry, Member of Congress C.W. Bill Young.
Many homes in Normandy fly American flags year around. The citizens of France fly American flags more than any other country in the world except the U.S. I was surprised to see that French citizens still walk up to thank our veterans for what they did sixty-seven years ago. One thing I hear over and over from the veterans is, “We did what we had to do.”
As a country, we tell our veterans, “We shall not forget what you have done.” I cannot count how many times I have seen a veteran back in United States and not thanked them. This makes me ashamed of myself.
I am saddened by how fast we can forget something that has happened to our country.
When I get home, I am going to do my best to thank every veteran for his service to the United States and to the world.