Normandy: Omaha Beach & The American Military Cemetary

WE THOUGHT THAT on our first day in Normandy we would avoid the history and museums.  We figured we would be too tired from the drive to pay much attention, so we decided to just take the kids to the closest stretch of sand beach for their first real-life chance to dip their toes in the ocean.  We hopped in the van, picked a close town, and set off the see the waves.

View of the western sector of Omaha beach from the position of a concrete bunker.

In retrospect that was a little naive.  We picked the town of Vierville sur Mer as our landing spot, which turned out to not just be an inconspicuous stretch of sand but rather the western edge of Omaha Beach (lesson learned, there is no such thing as an inconspicuous stretch of sand in Normandy).    We walked out onto the beach to explore, and while the kids collected seashells I snapped a few photos of the beach and bluffs.  

Unfortunately for us, we picked a time when the tide was coming in. We were getting ready to  trek down to explore the rock-cliffs of Pointe et Raz de la Percèe – the Western edge of Omaha –  when we realized that there was some sea water sneaking up behind us on the beach and was about to cut us off from the shore, so we scampered back up to the parking lot to The-Stupidly-Expensive-Van. From the comfort of the van entertained ourselves by watching some other tourists  oblivious to the tide get stuck on a sand bar and have to wade in in their loafers.  Ah, that’s good entertainment.

As a side note, this was our kids first exposure to the concept of a “tide”, and the idea that water could come surging from the ocean unexpectedly, then trap and swallow you whole. That was enough to freak out safety-conscious Camden for the duration of the trip.  More on that later.

From there we took a drive through Vierville sur Mer and Colleville, ending up at the American Military Cemetery in Colleville.   There are no words to describe this place, and I wont even bother trying here…we’ll just share our photos and say that it was an incredible experience.  

American Military Cemetery at Colleville sur Mer

Later in the week we returned back to Omaha Beach, to sunny skies and low tides.   There has been too much already said and written about Omaha Beach and there are others who are far better experts than us.  My only comment, I’ve read time and time again how far the beach was, and how high the bluffs were. Standing there in person, it just seems impossible.  It seems like there is a mile of beach between the ocean and the bluffs, and the bluffs seem impossibly high, and the firing positions in the bunkers of the beach seem far too superior…it is simply hard to imagine the task at hand for the American GI’s that morning.  I’m not a good enough camera man to capture this completely, but nonetheless have uploaded a few perspectives of Omaha Beach.   The last photo in the bunch is a comparative between the church in Colleville-sur-Mer today as compared to June 6, 1944 as members of the Big Red 1 walk by.