An Amazing Learning Experience!
“The thing that is great about Normandy Allies is the emphasis on war as a human endeavor with a lasting memory, and allowing long opportunities for us to spend time in the places where events occurred. This adds great context and insight into my understanding of the Landings.
Josh Fulton, professor at Moraine Valley Community College (MVCC) in Illinois, captured an essential aspect of Normandy Allies’ mission.
Students from MVCC and James Madison University (JMU) participated in the May/June 2016 program.
The July 2016 program included students from Blair Academy in New Jersey, JMU, Pittsford-Mendon and Victor High Schools in New York. Overall, 43 people studied the 1944 Landings and Liberation under the guidance of Normandy Allies. The groups included 31 students, 7 teachers, and one 29th Division Normandy veteran.
The May/June program begins in England with the Cabinet War Rooms, HMS Belfast, the Imperial War Museum, and Bletchley Park. The group traveled by overnight ferry from Portsmouth, arriving in the early morning on the Normandy coast at Ouistreham.
Both programs include the Landing Beaches, Pointe du Hoc, the American cemeteries in Colleville and Saint James, Sainte-Mère-Eglise, Graignes, La Fière, Saint-Lô, Chateau de Colombières, and the Wall of Remembrance.
The July visit adds luncheons with French witnesses in Trévières and on Omaha Beach as well as participation in the July 18th commemorations of the Liberation of Saint-Lô.
Our travelers, though many were quite prepared for the journey, found the experience greatly increased their knowledge of the Landings. Several remarked on learning about the service and sacrifice of Canadian soldiers, the psychological warfare of the Ritchie Boys, and the effects of the terrain on planning and strategy.
The stay in Bayeux and Grandcamp-Maisy offered extended opportunities to enjoy French cuisine and culture. Our nights are free and the sun sets late, providing some needed R&R at the end of our days. Both groups visited the Bayeux Tapestry and Mont St Michel.
A few words from the group
What was most significant and/or meaningful to you?
Being able to be intimate, personal and actual hands on and physically apart of what so many soldiers experienced. This trip takes a student from the limited general broad perspective in the classroom and gives vivid action to the academic learning ground.
Seeing how those in Normandy remember the war. From the numerous monuments, hearing personal testimonies and talking to my host family, it became clear that the events of the Battle of Normandy are still alive and felt within public conscience. This translated to their hospitality and generosity towards us.
I think the most meaningful thing that I realized on this trip was how much pride I felt every day for my country. I think that in our world today it is so easy to take for granted the simple liberties that we enjoy. Listening about the military tactics and obstacles made me realize that the United States is the best and was able to accomplish no small feat. Normandy Allies has done a great job of showing how thankful the French people are towards American veterans but I hope to help show Americans the pride that I felt towards veterans.
Being over here and witnessing the battlefields first hand and seeing how grateful the Normans are for what we did. It was amazing! Also being over here and just seeing the continent. I have never been away from America for more than a week and this was such a unique and awesome experience. It has given me a new appreciation for Europe and America. Overall amazing trip, thanks for doing this for us!
– F. Nicholas
Has the trip increased your knowledge of the Normandy Landings?
Significantly, visiting the actual war sites so far from home put all of the war strategies and statistics in perspective for me. Visiting ancient cathedrals and landmarks like Mont Saint Michel was breathtaking and really set in reality what things were like one thousand years ago. Pete’s extensive briefings on D-Day commencements were overwhelming at times but I believe were necessary to begin to understand the overwhelming operations that occurred in WWII.
Yes, almost everything I know about D-Day and the battle of Normandy I learned from this experience, from the landings at the beaches to the specific maneuvers of the battalions through and around Normandy.
Extremely so! Although I’ve been studying the World War II era for quite some time, I feel that I have a more complete understanding of the Allied invasion now that I have participated in this program. To read about these places is one thing, but to actually see them in person is another. I cannot thank Normandy Allies enough for this once-in-a-lifetime experience!
This trip has increased my understanding significantly. Everything from military strategy to the sociocultural effects were well explained in a variety of ways. While I had been previously aware of the scale and purpose of the Normandy landings, this trip brought to light many details I hadn’t previously considered, such as the various landing beaches and support from multiple nations.
Every day I learned something new – The Bayeux Tapestry was worth the trip alone! The trips to the cemeteries made the casualty count real – making the new connection (for me) of the restoration between Germany and France make sense. Pete’s explanations of the military setup and execution came alive when we were on site. Adding Steve’s experiences added a rare element, which is priceless. Seeing the différent beach terrains made much more sense. I was totally unaware of the man-made port and massive transportation/delivery that flowed through there.
This trip has increased my knowledge exponentially. This trip was equivalent to a staff ride. My knowledge was increased greatly by the study of D-Day at the States. However, actually being at the battlefields was invaluable. This is because you would actually see much of the equipment that was used. But what was perhaps most invaluable to truly understanding D-Day was being able to walk on the actual terrain. The terrain let you see what type of scale and magnitude of problems and advantages the terrain presented. It also let you see how far away troops fought from each other (like in Normandy with the hedgerow).