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True Stories

D-day Museum in Caen, France.

Capa D-day photo, unknown soldier approaches Omaha Beach.











Arrived in Caen last night.  We’re here to see the D-day beaches.

Ting and I have read a lot about the Invasion and, of course, we’ve seen the movies and played the related boardgames.  Ting can tell you about his motivation.  Me?  I just wanted to stand in the water.   See that famous geography.  Ask my 21st century imagination to work out its own set of calculations.

What can I tell you about this place?

Today was beautiful — sunny, breezy, great weather & sea for sailing, with a few quick rainstorms to make the pulse race.  The day was lovely and, on the drive to the invasion sites, the sun was on my face and I felt every bit as contented as the brown cows that napped in the Normandy pastures.

The Normandy coast might be even more beautiful when viewed from the beaches.    I don’t recall exactly which coastlines were painted by the Impressionists.  I hope they holidayed here and painted these bluffs and clouds and water and skies.  Because I’d like to see those paintings.

Looking up from the water’s edge, my imagination keeps putting German gun emplacements on those bluffs.  And that, of course, fills the air with cordite and  puts dead and dying men into the water and upon the beaches.

I looked landwards again and again, from different beaches and different points along those beaches.  I can tell you that the distance from water to the tops of those bluffs is much greater than any movie or photo or news account or narrative could communicate.   Surviving that distance seems absolutely impossible.  How did those men achieve the impossible?

I tried to answer that question.   Do I have any similar personal experience?  Okay, I’ve survived a couple of things that seemed unsurvivable.  But the small experiences of my easy life, do they really tell me anything about those men?  I don’t think so.

So, of course, my mind turns to history for examples, explanations, understanding.

Yes.  Other people have done this.    I think about Galipolli, Iwo Jima and Anzio.   And, again, I can remember what the men were able to accomplished but I’m no closer to understanding how they managed to do it.

Original post-date:  22 June 2011.


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