International Experience, July 2002
The 2002 Normandy Allies International Experience began July 9th and continued until July 22nd. We were honored to have seven students with us during this years’ odyssey. We were also accompanied by one adult traveler who happened to be the father of one of the students. The four days of the American phase took us once again to Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC. There, our students learned about units that participated in Operation OVERLORD and the Battle for Normandy. Our group arrived in Paris on July 14th and we boarded our coach for the three-hour journey to Normandy. The days flew by as we made many new friends and explored the sites made famous almost sixty years ago. As our custom, we ended the French phase with a tour of Paris.
The students: Winfield Browning, Brendan Davis, Nino Gomes, Patrick Gordon, Zach Harlow, Philip Major and Kevin Markey.
Adult traveler: Walter Markey.
The team: Marsha Smith, Pete Combee, Charlie Frick and Allen Williams.
Normandy Coordinator: Gene Johnston.
The following photos were taken during our journey. We thank everyone who participated and contributed to make our 2002 International Experience a success!
The students pose at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. Standing from left: Brendan Davis, Nino Gomes, Philip Major, Patrick Gordon, Kevin Markey and Winfield Browning. Kneeling is Zach Harlow.
April Cheek, Director of Education at the National D-Day Memorial, gave us a guided tour of the site. Our visit provided us a chance to reflect on the significance, cost and sacrifice of D-Day.
As we have every year, we visited the George C. Marshall Foundation in Lexington, Virginia. Dr. Larry Bland and his staff discussed the accomplishments of General Marshall with respect to WW II and the rebuilding of Europe. Here, the students and group members pose around the jeep which sits near the foundation’s entrance.
Throughout our travels in the United States, we learned about the units that took part in Operation OVERLORD. In Pikesville, Maryland we learned about units in the 29th Division from MAJ Robert Frick, who also discussed the role of the military today. MAJ Frick is the son of Normandy Allies team member SGM (ret.)Charlie Frick, himself a 29th Division veteran. From left: MAJ Frick, Project Director Marsha Smith and SGM (ret.) Charlie Frick.
Charlie Bury of the 29th Division led a presentation of WW II uniforms for our group. Philip Major “modeled” a 29th Division assault uniform as worn by those who came ashore on June 6, 1944.
Upon our arrival in Normandy, we were greeted by our host families in the sea-side town of Grandcamp-Maisy, which served as our “base of operations.” We thank all those who provided so much assistance.
One of our first stops was in Arromanches, where we saw a moving film in the unique circular theater. Arromaches was one of the two locations of the famous Mulberry Harbors. Remains of the Mulberry can be seen in this photo.
Another of the great opportunities we have is to tour Pointe du Hoc by water on the sightseeing boat Colonel Rudder. Three companies of the 2nd Ranger Battalion stormed the pointe early on D-Day morning and took control despite heavy casualties. The boat tour gave us the chance to see Pointe du Hoc close up from the water and made us wonder how the brave Rangers accomplished their mission.
The guys pose as the Colonel Rudder pauses in front of the pointe where the Rangers stormed the cliff on D-Day morning.
The group stands beside the 29th Division Memorial at the foot of the Vierville Draw. Zach Harlow’s grandfather was a medic in the 29th on D-Day. While at this site, Zach gave a presentation honoring his grandfather.
LTC (ret.) Pete Combee of the 29th Division led our tour of Omaha Beach. We had the opportunity to walk along the beach and bluffs, with Pete explaining the actions of D-Day. This on-site history lesson gave us some insight to the difficulty faced by those who landed here.
Nino Gomes of Oregon is a military re-enactor. He waded in the surf during our visit to Omaha Beach to see how heavy the uniforms were. The students posed here with Pete on Dog White sector of the beach.
Zach, Nino and Winfield stand in front of one of the German bunkers that made up “Strongpoint 60” on Fox Green sector of Omaha Beach.
M. Robert LeBrec is this year’s president of the French version of Normandie Allies, which supports the students while in Normandy. M. LeBrec graciously allowed us to visit his “fortified farm” which is now home to a cider-making operation.
Numerous monuments dot the Norman countryside. Here, the guys pose in front of the 29th Division monument near the Elle River. The Elle was the scene of vicious fighting in 1944, as the 29th forced its way through the towering hedgerows.
On the 58th anniversary of the liberation of St. Lo, we took part in the commemorative ceremony. Our group paused for this photo in front of the Ste. Croixe church in the ancient city.
Another of the many famous spots we visit is the town of Ste. Mere Eglise, the first town to be liberated by American airborne forces on D-Day morning. This is the famous church in the center of town, where legend has it that paratrooper John Steele’s chute caught on the tower during his descent.
Normandy Coordinator Gene Johnston explains the fierce engagement between American airborne and German forces at LaFiere, outside Ste. Mere Eglise. A few years ago, the French erected the “Iron Mike” monument at this spot to honor the tenacity of the 82nd Airborne Division’s troopers, who fought in this battle.
Walter Carter joined us to share his father’s (Dr. Norval Carter) moving story. Dr. Carter was gunned down by a German sniper as he administered first-aid to a wounded soldier at this very spot in the Bois de Bretel, a few miles northeast of St. Lo. The French have renamed the road here the Captain Carter Road in his honor. Thanks, Walter!
The town of Trevieres is one of several that hosts us for luncheons during the Normandy Experience. Local residents share their remembrances of the liberation in 1944. These meetings would be impossible without the translation and assistance provided by Normandy Coordinator Gene Johnston (middle, light blue). Merci beaucoup residents and Gene!
One of our last stops in Normandy was the memorial to the 29th Division in St. Jean de Savigny, which was built and is maintained by local residents. The students and Marsha paused here during a remembrance ceremony.