Monday, June 6, 2011


“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” 
~Henry Miller

In December 2000, our family traveled to France and Germany.  We couldn't pass up the excellent tour guides in each country: Rachael, who was just finishing a semester abroad in Paris, and my mother, who was in Germany for the holidays. (More on our time with Mom in a future post.)

Years ago we started making a list after our family trips that we titled "Things We Want to Remember."  I thought that on this 67th anniversary of D-Day, it would be appropriate to remind my children of a few things that we wrote in our family journal about our visit to Normandy. Here are a few "Things We Want to Remember" from December 22, 2000.

•  The video footage of World War II at the War Memorial in Caen.

•  The stones with peace inscriptions from all countries involved in the war, and the flags of both Allied and Axis powers alike flying together.

•  The statue of the rising spirit of a young man in the plaza at the American Cemetery with a wall of names of those missing in action behind it.

•  The orchard-like rows and rows of white stone crosses and Jewish Stars of David, inscribed with the name, date of death, and home state of the soldier.

•  The inscription on the crosses of unknown  soldiers:

•  The long, sandy, peaceful Omaha Beach where so much death and destruction occurred.  Ponies trotting down the beach pulling surreys.

•  Pointe du Hoc with its deep bomb craters now covered in green grass, its grim bunkers filled with the out-of-place laughter of school groups, and its rolls of barbed wire still standing.

•  The French school group that seemed to be following us around Normandy, the girls who kept trying to talk to an embarrassed Sam, and the one who said in a thick French accent, "Fine! Don't say hi to me then!"

•  The American tank and memorial to Patton in the town square in Avranches.

Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the D-Day order to attack on June 6, 1944.  In part, he said, "I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle.  We will accept nothing less than full victory.  Good luck, and let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."

It is easy now for us to look back and call this a glorious moment, and insofar as it brought about the end of the war, it was indeed a great day.  However, I do remember how anti-war my mother was.  She and others who actually experienced the horrors of invasion and bombings and death probably looked back on this day with pain.  Seeing the rows of crosses--each representing someone's son, husband, father, brother, sweetheart, or friend--was a moving experience.  I hope my children will always remember both lessons of our day in Normandy: the courage and sacrifice on one hand, and the tremendous loss and suffering on the other.


  1. Have you seen a copy of Eisenhower's "failure letter", never sent? It was prepared in case the troops were unable to gain a foothold. Very interesting to me. (Last two lines--The troops, the air and the navy, did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attends to the attempt it is mine alone.)

    Right now I'm helping a lady in our ward, an British emigrant who lived in London through the blitz; she too is strongly anti-war.

    Loved your pictures and memories of Normandy.

  2. I love the idea of the family travel journal.

    One of my biggest regrets in life is that we didn't beg, borrow, or steal the money to take a trip with Mom.

  3. Normandy is one of my favorite places in all of our travels. I'm glad we got to share this sacred ground with our family.

  4. Oh, and I mentioned to the anniversary to the aforementioned emigrant. She said her main memory of the day is watch a SKY FULL of planes, 3 levels, nearly wingtip to wingtip, and nose to tail go across for over an hour. She said that every so often there would be a short break and that's when they could look up and see on the angle that the planes were stacked w/3 levels.

    She still remembers staring at those planes, looking at the direction they were going, and her mom saying, "We must be invading Germany." and then listening to the news on the radio that night.

  5. I'm cracking up over that photo of Sam and me making faces in the Normandy cemetery. I guess that was before digital's "lets take that again, no clowning this time."