No. 270: Normandie—D-day Beaches
“At the edge of the cliffs, the wind is a smack, and D-day becomes wildly clear: climbing that cutting edge into the bullets.”
— John Vinoc
The D-Day beaches in Normandie are a study in contrasts. They are flat-out gorgeous—expansive ginger seaside bound by sheer rocky cliffs, burnt-orange and dripping with green. And beyond the shore, a gem-like sapphire sea too blue to be real, dares us to dip our toes, splash about and maybe even go under. I wasn’t expecting real beaches with colorfully clad beachgoers, sand buckets, and picnics. I had anticipated a more museum-like feel or roped off memorial.
Yet among the vacationers, there is a quiet reverence and consciousness amid the many reminders of the thousands of men who stormed the beaches at the crack of dawn on June 6, 1944. In fact the entire coastline, while still a sunshine playground, pays tribute to the British, American, and Canadian armies who laid down their lives to liberate France and occupied Europe.
Never have I felt so close to a moment in history.
To walk the shoreline and climb the cliffs and watch the waves crash towards Winston Churchill’s brilliant artificial harbor, you can almost see the ghosts of Robert Capa’s black and white photographs slugging through the tempest tides, gunned down or drown in the first minutes of the longest day. You certainly can feel their presence.
Overcome with pride and immense sadness and sheer wonder at how the lucky ones physically and mentally survived. Time and again you are reminded of the doughboys and the thousands of wide-eyed journeys they made from the cities and small towns of America, Britain, and Canada to the violent beaches of Normandy, France, to help a country and people they had never seen and to whom they had little tangible connection.
Yet still they came, willingly and righteously, and offered up their lives.
It is nothing short of astounding.