As you may or may not know, the Normandy American Cemetery in France has been closed because of the shutdown of the US Federal Government. This cemetery is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission, an agency of the executive branch of the federal governement.
Normandy is near and dear to my heart and one of my favorite places to visit when in France. The American Cemetery in Normandy is truly a special place, so I was sadden when one of the people for whom I had arranged a Normandy Tour could not visit it because of the govenerment shutdown. I would like to share with you a letter that he wrote to his local newspaper when he returned home about his experience.
I am 53 years old. I love my country and the freedoms it provides. I revere our Constitution that guarantees those freedoms and perpetuates the only multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-racial democracy in world history.
The term "bucket list" has become cliché. But a year ago I planned to fulfill an item on my list -- a trip to Normandy to honor those who, as Lincoln said, "have given the last full measure of their devotion" to uphold these principles.
It is Saturday October 5th, and I’m in Normandy, but I cannot visit the cemetery at Omaha Beach because our government is shut down. I am disappointed, of course, but any small loss personally is immeasurable against the losses of our heroic soldiers and their families then and now.
I fear the real loss, however, is the loss of the very principles we fought to preserve almost 70 years ago: a democracy of majority rule where the rule of law remains sacrosanct.
Seventy years ago we vanquished demagoguery and fascism. As I stand behind the closed gates of our treasured memorial to our greatest generation, I feel saddened deeply that we have dishonored our past and imperiled our future.Robert D. Fox, Managing Partner, Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox, LLP
I have also included a link to an online article about his experience regarding the shutdown of the American Cemetery in Normandy from an online publication called NewsWorks ©.
Today we celebrated the 69th Anniversary of the D-Day Allied Landing Invasion of Normandy. What a full and wonderful experience. As always, we were accompanied by our fabulous guide who took us to Ste. Mere Eglise, Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, and Pte. du Hoc. My guide is also a dear friend whose Dad was in the French Resistance, was captured in Caen, and who had the unfortunate misfortune (understatement to be sure!) to be sent to Dachau Prison Camp for the remainder of the war. (He survived the war, but not without great pain!)
To possibly describe the emotions and experience during our D-D day tour today would be impossible on many levels, but I must share our final encounter that rather capsulizes the dramatic and powerful feelings that permeated the day.
We were wrapping up our visit to Pointe du Hoc and had occasion to meet up with a Veteran. We were thanking him for his service to our country --- something that goes on throughout a day in Normandy when you have a chance meeting with an individual who’s charm, attire, medals, and seasoned demeanor indicate that he is likely a Veteran of WWII. Birney Havey was such a man. He is 92 and a handsome individual with a radiance and persona that made us smile with enthusiasm and we appreciated the privilege of meeting him.
Our guide thanked him profusely for his service to our country and explained that his father had been in the French Resistance and sadly had been sent to Dachau. At that point, Mr. Havey said that he was part of the 42nd Infantry Division that had liberated Dachau. The two men hugged with this realization – our guide realizing that this American Veteran had been a part of the freeing of his father from the tyranny of the prison camp after several years of enslavement and the Veteran realizing that he’d made a connection with someone whose dad had been freed because of the work of his fellow soldiers so many years ago. The connection was amazing. The experience was precious, tender, and poignant.
It has been 69 years since the D-Day invasion and the total Normandy experience must be kept alive for future generations to understand and hopefully appreciate the sacrifice that so many gave so that we might be able to know the freedom that we do.
The trial of Joan of Arc began in the city of Rouen on this day in 1431. Rouen is located in Northern France and is in the region of Normandy though some 90 miles from the English Channel.
This folk heroine who was eventually given Roman Catholic sainthood lived only 19 years, but she was able to lead a French army to victories during the Hundred Years' War, so a fairly accomplished young woman. Certainly she paid the ultimate price since she was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. Today, February 21st was the start of her trial.
During the trial, a most famous response was made by Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) when she was asked if she knew she was in God's grace. "If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me." Her imprisonment and trial were anything but "fair"and her burning execution was a tragic event in French history.
Today's Rouen is a very picturesque place with an historic old town and I'm very much looking forward to a visit there next month while in Normandy. So much history...so much amazing discovery is to be found in France.
A great way to tour Rouen is from your cruise ship's arrival in either Rouen, Le Havre, or Honfleur. We often arrange Normandy private tours from cruise ships to visit this historic town and the surrounding region of Normandy. Also, it is a fabulous addition to a private tour to Normandy that includes several nights in the region, since it ties in nicely with visits to Giverny, the D-Day Beaches, and Mont Saint Michel.
Just back from France and the highlight was my four days in Normandy. Yes, I’ve been to Normandy many times before, but this time it was with fellow travelers who hadn’t been there before. To see sites that I’d seen before through these fresh eyes was like seeing Normandy again for the first time. It was magical in every way.
Normandy is so much more than Sherman tanks and hedge rows. While, bien sûr, the history of D-Day is everywhere throughout the region, there’s a wealth of beauty, charm, and serenity permeating every mile one traverses in Normandy!
No one should visit France without visiting Normandy. If you only can spare a day, then take one of our Normandy day tours. However, do allow yourself longer, if possible!
Without writing a journal of my trip, I want to share some important gems that deserve your time. You’ll not be disappointed:
Okay, so you need to spend a month in Normandy! It’s worth every moment. I’m counting the days until my return for the 69th anniversary of D-day…just a short time from now!
Sainte Mere Eglise is a small village located on the Cotentin Peninsula of France. Saint Mere Eglise was the first village in France to be liberated on D-Day. It was liberated by elements of the 82nd Airborne who parachuted in behind German lines early D-Day morning to support the amphibious landing of the 4th Infantry Division at nearby Utah Beach.
In the center of the village square of Sainte Mere Eglise is the Normand church made famous by Private John Steele of the 82nd Airborne. Private Steele landed on the roof of the church and his parachute covered the church steeple. Steele hung from his parachute near the belfry of the church. He was deaf for weeks after D-Day because of the ringing of the church bell that was calling people to help extinguish a house fire in the village square of Sainte Mere Eglise.
Sainte Mere Eglise was also involved in the first significant German counter attack on D-Day. It involved the German 6th Parachute Regiment against elements of the U.S. 82nd Airborne. By the end of day on D-Day, Sainte Mere Eglise was secured by American forces.Today, visitors to Sainte Mere Eglise will find a monument that honors the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions that landed in the area on D-Day. On the church in the village square hangs an effigy of John Steele with a parachute. The church that dates from the 11th Century also has stained glass windows that honor the memory of the U.S. paratroopers that lost their lives on D-Day. The Airborne Museum of Sainte Mere Eglise is also worth visiting.
A Paris Travel offers private Normandy tours that can include Sainte Mere Eglise.
Source: Ambrose, Stephen E. D-Day June 6, 1994: The Climatic Battle of World War II. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. 1994