Just over 67 years ago, the US, Canadian and British troops landed on the beaches in Northwestern France, from “Utah” to the West and “Sword” to the East. A quarter of million men came in ships from the south coast of England and braved the heavy artillery of German soldiers and a blood bath stained the English Channel red that day in June 1944.
It was a historical moment never to be forgotten. I remember watching “Saving Private Ryan” and “Band of Brothers”, and being deeply moved by the bravery and courage shown by the American commandos and rangers, and many fell and gave their lives for the peace and freedom we still enjoy today.
Every year in June, we celebrate D-day victory in Britain. Every now and again I see my husband John reading one of many books on this episode in history, one of his favorite reading subject areas, be it fiction, or documentaries, recounting the moments leading to the demise of Nazi Germany and the terror of Hitler’s iron grip on Europe. The wish to trace the footsteps of those wartime heroes has been there for a long time, and this year it has come true at long last.
On Tuesday we set off from the farmhouse where we were staying for a week and drove to Le Pointe du Hoc. The sun was breaking out when we got there around noon, a much better day compared to the days when the difficult landing took place all those years ago. I was surprised that there were not as many visitors as I had expected, only a handful of tourists in the wide expanse, where the broken German stronghold remained, huge bomb holes one after another, proof of what had happened here when the bleak headland was stormed by elite US rangers using ropes and ladders to scale the cliff with heavy casulties. This sword-like monument is in remembrance of their heroic acts.
Because it was June, only days after D-day and the American Memorial Weekend, I was hoping to see more British, American or Canadian visitors paying homage. I surely wasn’t anticipating any German visitors. I was proved wrong. I heard German voices, and in fact, there was a German family with two young children. Perhaps they wanted to remember too. After all, they lost a great many men here as well.
Our next stop was Omaha Beach and Arromanches, which set the opening scene in ‘Saving Private Ryan’, when soldiers pushed their way up the beach under heavy assault of German machine guns. It was a massive beach, and perhaps a perfect place for landing, but not so perfect when you were bombarded with raining bullets and merciless killing machines behind the secure concrete fortified pivotal positions. The remains of the artificial Mulberry Harbor made a startling sight, testimony of Churchill’s ingenuity.
On Thursday, we made a special stop at the American Cemetery en-route from our visit to picturesque coastal town Honfleur. This time there were hundreds of visitors from all over the world to pay their respects, from young French school children to old war veterans and their family and relatives from afar. My heart was laden with sadness and tears were ready to fall as I walked through the rows and rows of white marble crosses and St Davids’ stars. Although I went through all the routines of tourist photography, in my heart and soul, I remembered those who lost their young lives and I said a prayer in silence: May they rest in peace!
Coming from China, I also remember millions of lives that were lost during our bitter war against the Japanese invaders. Why don’t we have a day like D-day to remember and reflect our history? What the Japanese did to us was no better than what the Germans did to the Jews in WWII. Why isn’t there more publicity and open memorial days for the millions of lives that were lost in fighting the Japanese, or those who were simply victims of war crime? Why don’t the Japanese even acknowledge such historical events like Nanjing Massacre, as if it had never happened?!
We must never forget our history and learn from our past. Crimes against humanity should not be allowed to be repeated in our lifetime and in the future!
There is a short video to go with this blog, which I hope you would watch now. Click below or go to our Video Gallery or YouTube. It is our tribute to those who have shown amazing courage, given their young lives and made the greatest sacrifices.
Thank you for visiting and please leave your comments here. I’d love to hear what you have to say.