Our trip to Normandy

When the Norbertine heritage trip was planned, organizers began with this day, July 4th, and worked from there. They wanted us to celebrate Independence Day visiting the battlegrounds and resting place of American heroes.

We began with an extremely moving experience at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. We were on American soil again as the French gifted this land to the U.S.

It’s amazing to see up close the graves of 9,000 American soldiers and the names of 1,557 of the missing, including many from Wisconsin and our neighbor state Michigan. In all, 25,000 Americans died in Normandy. (See photos)

The cemetery has a disproportionate amount of officers buried here because their families felt the officers would want to be buried with the troops they had led.

The massive allied assault on the Normandy coastline on June 6, 1944, aimed to liberate France and drive into Nazi Germany. Six U.S., British and Canadian divisions landed on the beaches including Omaha beach (See photos) in history’s greatest amphibious assault.

We also traveled down the coastline to Arromanches-les-Bains near Gold Beach where the British troops landed on D-Day. The French tank and the Higgins boat in the photos below are a stark reminder of the battles fought here.

I realized quickly after seeing one of the German military cemeteries that the fallen German soldiers were also beloved sons. There are six graveyards totaling a staggering 78,000 German soldiers who lost their lives in Normandy. (See photos)

Our last stop took us to Pointe du Hoc, which honors soldiers of the 2nd Ranger Battalion.

It’s strategically situated between Utah and Omaha beaches and was German occupied. It’s amazing to think American soldiers scaled the 100-foot cliff and disabled German guns threatening the beaches. Two hundred and thirty-five soldiers from the 2nd Ranger Battalion started the mission and only 90 soldiers survived.

It was fitting that it rained as we hurried past some German bunkers and escaped back to cover on the bus. (See photos)

It was an incredible day. You could hear a pin drop as the bus took us back to our hotel. It was an experience none of us will soon forget.

Tomorrow we will visit our last abbey, Mondaye, near Bayeux. From there we are on to Paris, our last stop of the tour.