International Experience, July 2004
Normandy Allies 2004 International Experience began July 12th with our overnight flight to Paris. Our group assembled the following day and we began our journey that lasted until July 23rd. Eight students, four Normandy veterans, ten adult travelers and four team members composed this years’ group. As we traveled across Normandy, we visited key sites of the liberation and learned how the past 60 years have changed Normandy. Along the way, we met many new friends and explored places significant to the liberation. Our trip ended with a visit to Paris before we made our way back to the U.S.
The students: Tim Bacon, Katherine Brandwood, Ben Carr, Michael Dunning, Nick Gordon, Jessica Mims, Charles Moore, and Evelyn Tilney.
Normandy veterans: Spero Arbes, Alvin Fried, Robert Henne and Archer Martin.
Adult travelers: Walter Carter, Donna Coulson, Robert Crane, Robert Frick, Kenneth Hughes, Bodil Jensen, Niels Juul, Mike Krieger, David and Angela Talaber.
The team: Marsha Smith, Pete Combee, Charlie Frick and Allen Williams.
Normandy Coordinator: Gene Johnston.
The photos that appear below were taken during our journey. We had a wonderful time and established many friendships while renewing others. Normandy Allies thanks our participants and those who contributed to make our 2004 International Experience a success!
One of our early stops was the village of Benouville, where members of the British 6th Airborne Division secured the vital bridges over the Orne River and Canal. Pictured here is the famous Gondree Cafe, liberated by the British during the early morning hours of June 6, 1944.
In the Gold Beach sector lies the Battery of Longues, one of the few sites where heavy guns remain in their emplacements.
Our first “base of operations” was the delightful city of Bayeux. Our group had the opportunity to explore the town which was liberated by the British on June 7, 1944. Here, Robert Crane, Pete Combee and Marsha Smith visit the British cemetery.
A favorite part of our trip is an excursion on the sightseeing vessel, Colonel Rudder, based in Grandcamp-Maisy. James Rudder was the commander of the 2nd Ranger Battalion that scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc. Students Katherine Brandwood, Nick Gordon, Michael Dunning, Charlie Moore, Evelyn Tilney, Jessica Mims and Tim Bacon enjoy the view from the observation deck.
After our water tour of Pointe du Hoc, we boarded our coach and headed for the battlefield to see the devastation firsthand. The Allies had bombed and shelled the battery prior to the landings and the landscape remains much as it did on June 6, 1944.
The town of Grandcamp-Maisy served as our second “base” during the trip. There, our French friends treated us to a reception and introduced the students to their host families.
This photo was taken in front of the Vierville Draw on Omaha Beach. Here, Company “A” of the 116th Regiment, 29th Division landed and suffered huge casualties on D-Day morning.
Students and veterans pose in front of the 29th Division Monument near Vierville-sur-Mer. Front row: Evelyn Tilney, Michael Dunning and Tim Bacon. Back row: Ben Carr, Robert Henne, Charlie Moore, Archer Martin, Jessica Mims, Nick Gordon, Katherine Brandwood, Alvin Fried and Spiro Arbes.
A highlight of our trip is a visit to the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. One of the honors the students experienced there was the retiring of the colors. In this photo, Nick, Katherine, Tim and Evelyn assist with the folding of the flag.
One of our many friends in Normandy is John Peter Chedal Anglay, who invited us to his home in Vierville. There, our entire group posed for this photo.
In St. Lo, we joined in the city’s 60th commemoration ceremonies. The four veterans in our group, as well as several from the 35th Division, received special liberation medallions. This photo, taken at the Ste. Croixe Church, shows one of the ceremonies honoring the town’s liberation. In 1944, St. Lo was all but obliterated.
Utah Beach is another one of our destinations and here, we visited the museum which houses many artifacts and displays related to the airborne and sea landings. In this photo, Mike Krieger, Rob Crane, Spero Arbes and Rob Frick pause before visiting the beach.
Kenneth Hughes, Evelyn Tilney, Jessica Mims, Charlie Moore, Tim Bacon, Pete Combee and Marsha Smith near the 4th Division Monument on Utah Beach. It was on this spot that units of the 4th Division made their initial landings on the morning of June 6, 1944.
The town of Ste. Mere Eglise was liberated by units of the 82nd Airborne early on D-Day morning. The city held a reception for us and treated us to a visit at the outstanding Airborne Museum. This photo, taken from the museum’s entrance, shows the famed church of Ste. Mere Eglise.
During our inaugural visit in 1999, Normandy Allies dedicated a tree to peace in Friendship Park outside the German Cemetery at LaCambe. We once again visited the site and, there, the students and Marsha posed for this photo.
Veterans Robert Henne, Archer Martin, Alvin Fried and Spero Arbes in front of the 29th Division Memorial near the village of St. Jean de Savigny. Local residents built and maintain this memorial, which lies near the Elle River. The 29th sustained heavy losses in this sector as it pushed toward St. Lo.
A ceremony was held at St. Jean de Savigny during our visit. French veterans served as the color bearers. These men devote substantial time and effort to maintain this monument and grounds. Acts such as these are common from the Normans, who demonstrated their appreciation and hospitality.
An early friend of Normandy Allies, Regional Councilor Denis Lesage (left, in jacket), offered remarks at St. Jean de Savigny. Normandy Coordinator Gene Johnston (center), translated. The program would not be possible without Gene’s guidance and efforts. Over the years, Gene has also assisted with many of the official commemorations in Normandy.
In the Bois de Bretel, Walter Carter shared the touching story of his father with us. His dad, a battalion surgeon in the 29th Division, was killed by a German sniper as he administered first aid to a wounded soldier. Marsha and Tim stand next to Walter as he relates the moving account. Captain Carter was killed at this exact spot in mid-June, 1944 and the French have renamed the road in this area the “Captain Carter Road.” After Walter’s presentation, Tim led a ceremony dedicated to medical personnel.
Our friends, Jean Mignon and Igor Letribot, always guide us during our travels through the bocage. They have researched the battles around St. Lo and know the countryside well, especially sites of key engagements. Here, they speak to our group during a visit to Hill 108, scene of a fierce encounter between the Germans and the 29th Division.
During our travels, we have the opportunity to speak with witnesses to the liberation. The town of Trevieres always holds a special reception and allows us to interact with these persons to help with our understanding of how the war affected them.
As our custom, we departed Normandy and traveled to Paris for the final day of the International Experience. There, our group enjoyed a tour of the city and celebrated a final dinner together. Later, Ken Hughes escorted us on a twilight visit to the Eiffel Tower. Our sixth International Experience was another success and we want to thank everyone who participated and made the trip possible. Merci!