…just another day at the beach

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For us…not so for them on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

beach3It has been several years since I visited the Normandy beaches and the “cemetery”.  Here, there is a certain spiritual feeling that captures your mind and soul.  It is real and it surrounds you.

The men and women that came here on June 6, 1944 did so because of an unconditional love for our country, and don’t you ever ever forget, for me and for you.

Today the beaches of Normandy are some of the most beautiful in the world but you are soon reminded of what happened here. 

normandy beach

More than 2,000 Americans died on the shores of Normandy on June 6th, 1944. On a cliff high above it rests the Normandy American Cemetery, one of the world’s best-known military cemeteries. Buried on these hallowed grounds are the remains of nearly 9,400 servicemen and women who died on and around Omaha and Utah beaches, and in the struggle that followed to break out from the beachhead.   Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. is one of three Medal of Honor recipients buried here. There are 38 sets of brothers buried next to one another.  I must repeat…38 sets of brothers…let that sink in for awhile. At the center of the cemetery sits a small chapel. A ceiling mosaic depicts America blessing her sons as they depart to fight for freedom. In the open arc of the memorial facing the graves area is a 22-foot bronze statue, “The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves.” The names of the missing are carved into garden walls behind the memorial.

normandy cem

There are many stories that are told by the guides and supported by pictures and videos of that day but the one that stands out for me was about the Army Rangers climbing Pointe du Hoc.

point du hoc

Our guide asks a gathering of about 40 people, “how long do you think it took some of those Rangers to make it to the top of the cliff?”

Answers ranged from hours to a day.

Pointe du Hoc, a prominent headland situated between Utah and Omaha, was assigned to two hundred men of 2nd Ranger Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Rudder. Their task was to scale the  (100ft) cliffs with grappling hooks, ropes, and ladders to destroy the coastal gun battery located at the top. The cliffs were defended by the German 352nd Infantry Division and French collaborators firing from above. 

The men at the point became isolated and some were captured. By dawn on D+1, Rudder had only 90 men able to fight.

Following their actions at Pointe du Hoc on 6-8 June 1944, Rudder’s Rangers suffered a seventy percent casualty rate.  Less than seventy-five of the original 225 who came ashore on 6 June were fit for duty.  Of those who served in the 2d Ranger Battalion on D-Day, seventy-seven were killed and 152 wounded.  Another thirty-eight were listed as missing.   In the 5th Battalion, casualties numbered twenty-three killed, eighty-nine wounded, and two missing.  Among the casualties was Lieutenant Colonel Rudder, who was wounded twice and later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his actions at Pointe du Hoc.  

Our guide answered “It took some of the Rangers 15 minutes … from landing on the beach to climbing to the top.”  He continued “Think about that … they knew that if they didn’t make it to the top they were going to be killed.”

God please care for those heroes under angel wings, and God bless America.

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