Fortitude

The code name for D-Day was Fortitude (and also used as a code for giving false information to the Germans) Visiting Omaha Beach in Normandy on May 16, 2018 evoked emotions of every conceivable type including intense humility, patriotism, sorrow, empathy, and great appreciation for the fortitude of so many.

Adolph Hitler declared, who holds the harbors, holds Europe. The harbors were indeed critical to World War II and certainly Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt recognized the grave importance of gaining control of the harbors after France was occupied by Germany.

There are 9,387 American soldiers buried at Omaha Beach and to visit the hallowed cemetery is to reaffirm one’s patriotism and honor history. It is impossible to gaze on the beach there without envisioning the rows of men coming–tanks lost that were plunged into the ocean because the floating apparatuses failed in the harsh winds, the bombings, firings, the entry onto the beach as soldiers attempted to navigate the high hedges.

On a full moonlit night on June 5, 1944 (actually 11:59), the allies arrived on Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword beaches.

The preparation had been intense. This beach was just plain ornery in nature. The invasion of Dieppe a few years earlier by the Canadians and Americans had proven disastrous in large part due to the pebbles which lodged in the tracks and gears of the tanks, grinding them to a halt.

Two of the ships at Normandy had meteorological stations, and a bad storm on June 4th delayed the intended invasion time The decision was to enter at mid-tide just 72 hours after the June 4th storm.

…There are 14 pairs of brothers, one father and son, and three women buried in the cemetery (one of whom is nurse, Elizabeth Richardson, affectionately known as the ‘donut girl’ who volunteered to come, and survived Normandy but was tragically lost on a flight home. Two sons of Theodore Roosevelt are buried side by side (one from World War I was moved beside his brother.)

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Few Americans will see the magnificently groomed space and not be nostalgic of the reflection pool that mimics the Washington monument in D.C. and the shear similarities to Arlington National Cemetery are somewhat haunting yet profoundly symbolic.

The trees and shrubs are trimmed to resemble pyramids–pointing toward Heaven. The graves positioned toward home as well as the eagles face toward home, the United States. It remains green year-round as evergreens are used to depict the eternal life. Nearby 21,000 Germans are buried in a cemetery located elsewhere, devoted to the Germans who were lost at Normandy.

 

Notes/ Thoughts from Maria Dereux, our guide, about pre-World War II:

  • One wishes to have the ability to reach back into history.
  • Zeitgeist: the defining spirit of mood of a particular period of history as shown by ideas and beliefs.
  • Pre World War II (era of World War I war reparations laid the foundation for disaster)
  • 1919 Treaty of Versailles (Germany was to pay damages and army abolished)
  • Alignments begin (France with Holland and Britain; and Germany with Italy)
  • 1933 Hitler’s National Party’s goal was to reunify Germany
  • 1929 Market Crash
  • Hitler’s Mein Kampf printed in 1925, advocated revenge for WWI on France and Britain and initial attachment to Russia for materials
  • 1941: Pearl Harbor
  • 1942: Roosevelt and Churchill
  • 1944: D-Day
  • CAEN-beginning of landing sector
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