Return to Normandy – Carlo D’Este Revisits the D-Day Invasion Site
Casualties were high on both sides: 80 Rangers were lost and of the 225 men who assaulted the cliffs, only ninety were left able to continue fighting.
It is now more than sixty-four years since the Allies invaded the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. During these many years the Normandy battlefields and beaches remain among the most visited places in France, indeed in all of Europe. Each year many thousands of visitors from all over the world come here. Plush resorts like Deauville, with its two casinos, fabulous hotels and attractive promenades make it a sought-after destination only a little more than two hours from Paris via an excellent autoroute.
And while it’s true that the region holds great attraction as a marvelous tourist destination, it is also true that the lure of seeing where the great battles of 1944 were fought accounts for a great many visitors. In fact, they come by the busload from destinations far and near for the opportunity to see for themselves the site of the invasion and the battles that changed the course of World War II in the summer of 1944. They also come to pay homage to the combatants who fell in those long-ago battles.
The geography of Europe is dotted with a great many battlefields: Flanders Fields, the still grim scenes of Verdun, and the Somme, all of them somber sites of the Great War of 1914-1918, where so many died under the ghastly conditions of trench warfare during what was surely the most unnecessary, insane war in the entire history of mankind.
Stark testimony of this war are the170 British military cemeteries form part of the landscape of Flanders. Normandy is likewise dotted with military cemeteries, more than two-dozen of them.
* * *
In July 2008, I made my first visit to Normandy in nearly twenty years, serving in the role of consultant and commentator on the events of 1944 to a group of Americans. With some minor exceptions I found the place little changed from since 1991. The major exception is Omaha Beach, which is now crowded with new homes built only yards from where the G.I.s of the Big Red One and the 29th Infantry Division landed on June 6, 1944. It wasn’t always so. Up until the recent housing boom, the beach looked little different than it had in 1944 before the Allies stormed ashore. Now Ice cream stands, restaurants and an air of commercialism make it somewhat more difficult to imagine what that beach looked like on D-Day.
[continued on next page]