06 Jun 2024

80 Years Ago Today

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Omaha Beach, today and on 6 June 1944.

Timothy Jacobson visited the invasion site and came away with a nice story.

[A]n anecdote told by our guide later in the day as we stood atop the remains of a concrete fortification down on Omaha Beach — that most sticks in this pilgrim’s mind. It is a remarkably unremarkable coastline, of gray sand and scrub vegetation rising inland, today built, if far from built-up, with some houses and commercial beach establishments of the sort that would be familiar to beachgoers anywhere. As we gazed over the scene, not knowing quite what to say, our guide, sensing our awkwardness, told us of another group of visiting Americans from a few years before when aging veterans of Operation Overlord still returned to pay their respects. He recalled how one visitor, probably in his fifties and too young to have served then but evidently wanting to sound patriotic (perhaps he was), expressed disgust at the signs of commercial activity along the beach:

“Just look at that; it’s awful, disrespectful, a disgrace. American boys died here. This place should be preserved just like it was back then, for them.”

The group grew quiet until a companion traveler, twenty or thirty years older, clearly of a less-polished background but who in fact had been there on D-Day, corrected his younger countryman:

“Hey Mac, shut it! Y’dunno what you’re talkin’ about. Families on the beach and kids playin’ in the sand: that’s what we did it for.”

Merci, monsieur le guide. I wish I could remember your name.


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