Friday, September 13, 2013

Bloody Omaha (Omaha la Sanglante).

We couldn't come in Normandy without discovering landing beaches.
Then, we went to Omaha beach. Bloody Omaha.

We almost forgot the real french name, which is Saint Laurent's Beach.

The first thing which stroked me was silence.
Here you arrive in front of a huge beach, with a lot of persons who come to see it. And people are silent.
A true meditation place.
People speak low. And there were no kite or swimmer...etc. People walk on the sand. Each one comes here for one reason : Try to feel the D-Day ambient.

This is overwhelming. Even for a beach...

I've decided to not use a slideshow for those pictures. Because, for us, this is a huge part of our History. Our future get determined from this period. Our daily present.

And for all American, English, Canadian, French, Australian, Polish, Belgian, Dutch, Norwegian, Czechoslovak, Dane, Greek, New Zealander people...etc. who are dead on this day and the following, even for all those young Germans who just wanted to live and did have no choice, as us, I thought a slideshow was too superficial.

I won't tell you the D-Day story. I think you can find all you would like to remember on the net.
I just want to give you the most important things to know :

It happened on 1944, on June 6th. At 6 o'clock in the morning.
Troops were essentially composed by Americans, Canadians and British. I don't want to ignore other nationalities. For sure.
But losses for those countries were enormous.
Ten thousand people died. Three thousand on Omaha Beach. Fifteen more than on Utah beach.

A slaughter.

When you'll see the picture, you will understand why it was so ..."easy" to shoot them. And so hard to stay alive.

So, if you don't want to see more than 45 pictures ... I would understand.
But if you want to share this moment, take time.

At the bottom of this pic, you see a mountain. There, GI's climbed it ! ... And at the top, there were German troops.

Do you understand it was impossible for them to not be massacred ?... And "fortunately", Germans stayed totally surprised by the attack.
Can you imagine if they were prepared ?...


They climbed aboard with anxious heart
The madly sea-tossed landing-craft,
The sea-fog on that sad morn
All but shrouded the pale dawn,
As if heaven itself dared not see
The hounds od hell that day set free.

They disembarked under hail of shot,
Spewing up all - one knew not what -
Facing tghose cliffs, with gunfire ablaze
Waves bore broken bodies along
The length od that encrimsoned strand,
Where Datah was given so free a hand.

The were no heroes
Though all were heroic
In that enventful day,
Where mankinf put all at stake.
It’s an inderstatement to say
That our liberty was dearly bought
At the time od that first onslaught.

The foam is red.
All is now still, save for the breeze
That carries back, accross the seas
The souls od America’s sons,
Whilst the sun, now and then, warms
Those twenty-year-olds who sleep today
Facing the sea in Normandy.

Jean Goujon.

Then, we've visited Museum. 

France was divided in two part : An occupied zone, and a free zone, after 1940. South was "free zone"till 1942.
In November 1942, in Toulon (where I live), French Navy stubble 115 military ships and machines, to not fall in the hands of German Army. Submarines refuse to do it and go in North Africa to keep on fighting.
But we were under a collaborative government. The Vichy's Government. Which is a part of our History some don't like to remember.   

Some pictures are overwhelming.

This one breaks my heart.

At the end of the visit, we watched a recapitulative movie with archives images. So sad.
There were interview from old survivors.

At the end, an old nurse said : "Each time I come back in France and in Normandy, even young people still thank us. I think they are much more conscious of what we've lost, coming here, than a lot of Americans."

We ended with US Cemetery. 
Nine thousand three hundred and eighty four persons are buried here.
Strangely, place is not sad. It is just really gorgeous. 

I want to close this post with a French song, from a very famous French singer : Michel Sardou.
Everyone in France, knows this song, written in 1967. Some hated it. Others just loved it. 
But every frenchmen know it. Everyone.

"The incomparable Michel Sardou wrote this in 1967 when anti-American sentiment in France was being generated by de Gaulle, as a reminder of the debt owed to the Americans and the Allies. Many Americans today believe the French hate the Americans, and hopefully this translation will help to dispel this fiction. Whenever this song is performed the audience reaction is the same: an outpouring of emotion. The French do not forget their friends".

If Yanks were not there
You would all be in Germany
To speak of I don't know what
To salute I don't know who...

Of course, years have passed
The guns have changed hands
Is this a reason to forget
That, one day we needed them.

A guy who came from Georgia
Who did not care at all about you
Is dead in Normandy
One morning when you were not there.

Of course, the years have passed
We became buddies
A shot of the friendly,
They say they have fallen for nothing

If the Yanks were not there
You would all be in Germany
To speak of I don't know what
To salute I don't know who...

And you know what ?... Here, in Normandy and Brittany, you'll see much more Americans Flags in gardens, or on cars, even in ranches, than French Flags. 


  1. Dear Axelle, thank you for this wonderful heartfelt post. You summed up the feelings and mood that is felt at Omaha beach beautifully. I am so grateful to have visited. It is not only a wonderful monument to a huge sacrifice of many nations, but it is a powerful statement for peace. Lord have mercy.

    Your photos are really moving, great job. Thanks again.

    (On my visits to France, I have enjoyed the people and have felt very welcome, but especially so in Normandy :-)

    1. Dear Susan, you know what stroke me too ? To see small flags and flowers on tombs. For me, it means, strangely, that is a cemetery "who lives". This is not a "monument", I don't know if you understand what I mean.
      This is very touching.
      I'm happy to know you met french people who welcomed you well. :)

  2. Dear Axelle, Thank you so much for the photographs, your words and the song. My husband and I both read your blog today. His cousin's only son died at Omaha Beach and is buried there. Carey was their only child and they gave us their family mantle clock, since my husband is the only male on that side of the family and we have two sons. So, this is personal for us. We have not ever been there, but my father and youngest son visited there about eight years ago, because my father was in WWII in the Army Air Corps which is now the U.S. Air Force. My dad was based in Italy, but had flights over France during the war. He flew thirty-five combat missions as a nose gunner in the B-24s. My husband was in the Air Force and now our eldest son is in the Air Force. We believe in peace, but in our family as with so many others have been willing to fight for freedom for all. love and prayers, jep

    1. This Jep, thank you so much for your touching comment? I see you've got a military family, as I did, from my mother's part.
      It's so sad to think about all those young men killed, massacred and the family's sorrow. For me, the most terrific, seeing those places, is that they couldn't ignore they would meet death. For those who survived, it was really, REALLY thank to luck. As it said on the poem : there were not hero. They were just terrified. And this is why I felt so sad for all.

  3. Thank you, Axelle. My dad was in France during the war, but not at Omaha. The cemetery is beautiful, but sad to me. So many boys whose mothers never saw them again. I owe my life today to the mothers all over the world who from the beginning gave their sons for freedom and peace.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Jennifer M.

    1. Dear Jennifer, thank you for commenting. What you say is exactly what I thought, being there. When you see how many persons are buried here, suddenly, you realize their parents haven't seen them anymore. Certainly, some families never saw their son's tomb. Because it was too far.
      A real drama.

  4. Hi Axelle,
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. I am not familiar with France's history and no matter where and which country are at war, the end result is always so sad. And you are right, the cemetery is just so beautiful, overlooking the sea, seems so calm and serene.

    1. Dear Joyce, you're totally right. A french author said : "La guerre, un massacre de gens qui ne se connaissent pas, au profit de gens qui se connaissent mais ne se massacrent pas". We could translate that by a kind of : "War, people who don't get to know each other but massacre each other, for people who get to know each other but don't massacre each other."

  5. I've never visited this area of France but it looks beautiful and so interesting! The only American Cemetery I know is the one in Saint-Avold, where my grand-parents lived until they passed away. Both my grand-fathers fought in WWII and survived.

    1. Close to where I live, there's another US cemetery. I went when I was younger but nothing was as impressive as this one. Size is impressive. Really. Because you "understand" there are not just crosses : Young people are buried under. Such a sad feeling.

  6. Dear Axelle-It is grape harvest time in the Umpqua valley and so the children and I are busy harvesting grapes. I haven't had time to comment until this moment although I have been thinking of this post with the pictures and your words. Lots to think over while cutting the grape clusters off of the vines and into the buckets. We are so thankful to the people in Normandy who keep the cemetery so beautiful. And for creating such a beautiful and peaceful place for families who lost loved ones to come and see where they are buried. May God continue to bless us and keep us in this fallen world in which we live. Regards-Jamie

    1. Oh, dear Jamie. DOn't worry, I understand TOTALLY that sometimes, we are TOO BUSY to have time for anything but things we have to do ! So you've got vines ? You're working in family ? Do you make wine, Jamie ?............ :)
      You must be very tired, because I know "vendanges" are tiring.
      But, you know what ? Internet used to crete links and I realized that, when I don't have news from some of ou who are regular commenters, I "worry" for you. Strange feeling :)
      But don't worry too, you've got the right to have your own life and to not comment each post !!!! :D
      Yes, those cemeteries are gorgeous. And showing those pics to my mother, I learned my grand father is buried in a military cemetery in Algeria. I din't know it.