Thursday, September 19, 2013

By Bayeux - Part 2

On June 6, 1944 the allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy with hundreds of thousands of men, hundreds of ships, landing craft, tanks and weapons of all sorts in order to turn the tide of history and liberate millions of Europeans from the clutches of Nazi Germany. 

The result as we all know from our history books, was the loss of tens of thousands of young lives, and for every casualty on the side of the allies, there were two lost from the German forces. It is one thing to read facts and figures in black type on white paper, but quite another to experience the thousands of white marble crosses in a cemetery, or see and listen to the video oral histories of those who were there. 
To experience the actual place, so peaceful now, with waves lapping gently along a 4 mile beach of pristine sand, and cliffs barely scarred by the presence of young men scrambling up to knock out German bunkers. 
Friends Cindy and Dave Henry met us in Bayeux and shared our D-Day beach experience with us. 

At Utah Beach we saw a cratered landscape that evoked an true understanding of how powerful our bombs were, and how difficult it was to accurately hit the targeted German gun emplacements. Here is one that survived intact:
And here is one that did not:
It was fascinating to see the size and bulk of the structures built on the "Atlantic Wall", that Hitler was so sure would withstand any sort of invasion. And yet in one day, June 6 1944, the wall was breached, several thousand German soldiers were held in capture, and many thousands more were dead. 
I don't understand war. I think I am deeply, philosophically opposed to war. I morn for the lives never lived by all those young men who died on those bloody beaches that day. I think if the old men who plan wars had to fight them, we wouldn't have war. BUT! What if the Allies had not intervened? How would the millions of people who were  suffering under Hitler's tyrannical regime have survived? How would their cultures have been affected? Perhaps the free people of this world have an obligation to protect the down trodden who are overrun by tyrannical regimes? I don't know. 
I do know that this famous battlefield and its many museums are worth a visit. Maybe if more government leaders visited places like Normandy, they would find a way other than going to war to solve conflicts. There is a nice quote on the wall at the visitor center at the American Cemetery
"You can manufacture tanks and purchase ammunition, But you can't buy valor, and heroes don't come off an assembly line."

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