June 6, 1944

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The final week in London continued with Daddy arriving from Kansas on Saturday morning. I simultaneously moved out of my flat, took my luggage to a friend’s for storage, and made sure Dad’s taxi took him to the right place. Having submitted my thesis the day before, I was certainly ready for a bit of a break.

Because Dad’s time in London was short, we hit the highlights by doing a bus tour and finishing off the day with sausages at Katzenjammers. The next day, we met friends at the Churchill War Rooms to kick off our WWII themed trip. The War Rooms are extremely well organised and incredibly interactive. I learned so much about Churchill (Did you know he won a Nobel Prize for literature?) and brushed up on my WWII knowledge, which would prove extremely useful for the rest of our trip.

We woke up the next morning after a nice dinner and some almost-tearful goodbyes to take a train to Dover. Mom and I spent a few days in Dover when she visited in March, and I knew Dad would be interested to see the Secret Wartime Tunnels. These tunnels were built during the Napoleonic era and then utilised again during WWII for Operation Dynamo in 1940.

Our short stay in Dover finished with a beautiful ferry ride across the English Channel to Calais, where we proceeded to rent a car, get incredibly lost, and finally collapse in our hotel room in Caen what seemed like days later.

Traveling on the ferry in style

Recovering from our inadvertent tour of Northern France wasn’t easy, but we rallied the following morning for a highlight of our trip, Omaha Beach and the American Military Cemetery.

Since we had learned about Operation Dynamo, which took place early on in the German occupation of France, our experience in Normandy proved an incredible continuation of the story. We learned about the 24-hour postponement of D-Day necessitated by the inclement weather and Eisenhower’s difficult decision to proceed with the operation. We read stories of the French citizens who supported the invasion despite knowing some innocent lives would be lost. We marveled at the cliffs and the dense foliage through which the soldiers had to fight. We finally stood transfixed by the straight, even, unending markers for those who lost their lives during those days and weeks and months of battle.

Stories of D-Day have always been in the background of family gatherings, but to actually witness the location where such tragedies and triumphs took place was entirely different. What a blessing to take this trip with Daddy, who could relay to me the experiences of my great uncles, my grandfathers, and his friends’ parents in WWII.

With fewer and fewer WWII veterans, it’s easy to forget or take these stories for granted, so I’m incredibly thankful to have this trip as a reminder.

As is quoted on the chapel in the Normandy American Cemetery:

Their graves are the permanent and visible symbol of their heroic devotion and their sacrifice in the common cause of humanity.

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