International Experience, July 2007
International Experience 2007
July 9-20, 2007
The history of the Normandy landings and liberation unfolded over the course of our 11-day journey. The group of students, veterans, and adults have offered their own comments on the International Experience. More comments about our International Experiences can be read on our Trip Feedback page.
We began together in Bayeux, where we stay at the Hotel Churchill and visit the British and Canadian sectors over the course of 4 days. We moved on to Grandcamp-Maisy, staying at La Grancopaise, and exploring the American Landing Beaches as well as bocage areas and Saint-Lo.
The group this year included four American veterans, eight adults, seven high school students, and the Normandy Allies team of five. The students were guests of French families for four nights while we were in Grandcamp-Maisy, and each student also received Travel Grants from several organizations and Normandy Allies benefactors.
In partial fulfillment of the Travel Grant requirements, each student participated in keeping a journal of our days together. In this section, we share excerpts from that journal and some photos.
More stories and photos are available through our newsletter, Amitié. Request a paper copy of our newsletter.
Journal of Normandy Allies Student Participants: July 2007
Student: Kerry Mitchell Date Reported: July 12
List the program events of this day:
Overview of the trip schedule and briefing on events leading up to the Normandy Campaign by team members, Caen Memorial to the Peace, Pegasus Bridge, Abbaye d’Ardenne
Describe 1-2 events of this day:
The presentation at the Pegasus Bridge was much more compact and informative than on my previous trip with Normandy Allies. This shortened presentation allowed for the planning, execution, and completion of the raid and acquisition of the bridges by the British glider forces.
Major Howard taught me that practice makes perfect. (Note: Kerry refers to the training procedures utilized by the British glider forces. We also had more time to explore and visit the Café Gondree and the field where the gliders landed.)
Learning the unique, intriguing, and bloody history of the Abbaye d’Ardenne, such as the Gaelic and Roman structural history and the horrific war crimes committed brings forth emotions of anger and disgust for the heinous actions/crimes committed by the SS troops stationed at Ardenne unto the captured Canadian soldiers. This demonstrates to us, as learning students, how anger and emotion can cloud one’s common sense in battle.
M. Joussard’s translation as M. Jacques Vico (a member of the Resistance) told his unique life story provided an excellent backdrop for the French Resistance and the historical background of the Abbaye d’Ardenne.
Student: Logan Combee Date Reported: July 13 List the program events of this day: Mulberry Museum at Arromanches, 360° Cinema at Arromanches, guns at Longues-sur-Mer, Canadian Center and Juno Beach Describe 1-2 events of this day: The Mulberry Museum at Arromanches did a marvelous job describing the immensity of the temporary harbour and the importance of its design and use. The harbour, being nearly 500 square acres, was the first time floating pontoons were used to dock ships and transport vehicles on such a large scale. This operation made possible the unloading of nearly 8,000 tons of supplies daily. The ingenuity of the temporary harbor devised by the British—in particular, Churchill—truly showed how WWII quickly became an ever-changing modern war.
The 360° Cinema was an excellent presentation of the emotions and horrors of Operation Overlord, with the views of modern Normandy providing a perfect illustration of the personal aspects of this. The movie ended with a fly-over of the American cemetery at Colleville which concretized the enormity of the losses. Once again, the French showed their eagerness to honor those (the veterans) who sacrificed with them to secure their freedom. Student: Mary Posman Date Reported: July 14 List the program events of this day: Pointe du Hoc, reception at home of M/Mme Philippe Ygouf, luncheon with members of the Omaha Beach-Bedford VA Association, Graignes, La Fière Describe 1-2 events of this day: Pointe du Hoc was remarkable; it was the most impressive/emotional place we have visited thus far, at least for me. Hearing Jean-Claude (Joussard)’s description of the battle, and his undeniable respect and gratitude to those who were involved was extremely moving. Seeing Pointe du Hoc gave an undeniable reality to what the battles and the struggle the terrain provided was like to the Rangers. Seeing the huge craters and the fortified bunkers was eerie and humbling, even more so if you tried to imagine what occurred there 63 years ago. None the less it was an amazing experience and extremely emotional, many of those emotions are truly indescribable.
Going to Graignes and La Fière was also incredibly interesting because I had never heard of either before. Learning what happened there was remarkable especially the soldiers’ ability to succeed when so much went wrong was amazing. The veterans’ add-ins were particularly helpful, with Don McKee and Mal Walker throwing in significant and little known facts, it really added to the interest of the story. The French have been unbelievably kind. Jean-Claude gave an excellent description of what occurred at Pointe du Hoc, which he volunteered to do. Furthermore, the Ygoufs welcomed us into their home and offered us every hospitality, especially the vets. Lastly, the French who hosted us at the luncheon were remarkably kind.
With the wonderful views and many pathways you could find the old airfield and many German defensive positions. As the day progressed we visited Colleville American Cemetery, including visits to the graves of Capt. Carter, 1st Lt. Montieth, and PFC Minor, allowing us to reflect on the devastation of war and to honor those who had fallen. I learned a wealth of information from Marion (a young French woman who joined the group, a friend of one of the organizers) during the course of the day and the weekend. My French host family taught me some French through the use of board games. The main thing that I carry away from the experience of this day is respect for those who put their lives on the line and made the ultimate sacrifice for liberty. Student: Dylan Evans Date Reported: July 16 List the program events of this day: Utah Beach, Communications Bunker, Ste Mere Eglise, Airborne Museum, Isigny ice cream Describe 1-2 events of this day: Today our lunch consisted of a reception of our group by the Ste Mere Eglise Town Council. The lunch was buffet where members of their town council were intertwined with our group. I was very impressed with the lunch for two reasons. 1.) The hospitality that was shown by this Council. 2.) An 82nd Airborne veteran (who was not part of our group). This veteran was the town “mascot” and insisted on telling that story many times. The lunch, as a whole, was very enjoyable. We also visited Utah Beach today. This was a great event since Russell DeLuca, one of the veterans on our trip, landed there exactly 63 years ago today (7/16/44). We also visited an old communications bunker, which was full of collected equipment from the time period. The equipment was really fascinating as it was the original.
I was most impressed by the hospitality of the French today. First at the luncheon where the deputy mayor was very nice and then later when my host family and I had dinner. The dinner included lobster and lamb, totaling at least six courses.
I will always remember the kindness that was shown to us today by the French. Their attitude today was very different than the stereotype that most Americans believe. Student: Sarah Brandwood Date Reported: July 17 List the program events of this day: LaCambe German Cemetery, Colombières inundated area and Chateau, Luncheon with French who were civilians in 1944 at Trevières, Cider Farm Describe 1-2 events of this day: Today’s luncheon with the men and women who were young during the occupation and liberation of France was fascinating to me. I have been so lucky to have had all the privileges I’ve had in my life, including participating in this trip, and it was interesting to hear the reactions of people who had had those privileges revoked by an occupying force and liberated by foreign soldiers. I will always remember the emotional stories of the French men and women who were children of the occupation/liberation. I learned more from their accounts of living history than I could have in any book or film.
Although it was a very busy day, I had plenty of time to properly appreciate the various sites that we visited and I learned a lot about the marsh area that I hadn’t known. I enjoyed the historical and military significance of the Chateau de Colombières—not to mention how beautiful the property was. It is always interesting for me to see things that date back to the 14th and 15th centuries.
Dinner with Jean-Claude and Nicole was very nice—it is helpful sometimes that he speaks English but I have enjoyed the opportunity to improve my French. We went out for ice cream and a nice walk along the sea, and it made for a very pleasant evening. Students: Sarah Brandwood & Tyler Browse Date Reported: July 18 List the program events of this day: Wall of Remembrance, rue Captain Carter, 63rd Commemoration of liberation of Saint-Lo Describe 1-2 events of this day: Tyler: Our day began with a gracious reception and ceremony at the Wall of Remembrance at Saint Jean de Savigny. Seeing the respective plaques of Malvin Walker and Captain Norval Carter was a truly impressive sight on the already well-traveled students.
Afterwards we visited the sight of the death of Captain Carter, father of Walter Ford Carter. Actually witnessing the exact spot where, 63 years previous, a German sniper had taken the life of the heroic West Virginia doctor, all of the students and visitors were entranced and in awe of the story of Captain Carter, a stark reminder of both the heroism and horror of war. The visitation of Captain Carter’s last moment was a truly moving experience. Sarah: This morning’s ceremony at the Wall of Remembrance was a lovely event. I was glad to speak broken French for it enabled me to speak to some of the men who built the Wall. I am continually impressed at how appreciative the Normans are of Americans, even those who, like me, were not around during WWII. I was particularly moved at the Wall when our National Anthem was played and Russell sang along with it. Much the same, this evening at Major Howie’s ceremony when the French sang La Marseilleise with the recording, I was moved. Walter’s story showing the heroism and devotion of his father was an extremely emotional experience. I will never forget the passages of letters that he read from the soldiers and his father. Another long and information packed day, but another fun and memorable day as well. I am so happy that the group gets along so well—it makes for lots of fun.
We ended our journey with a brief stay in Paris, visiting the Champs Elysses and the Eiffel Tower, then gathering in the garden of the Mercure to share a final evening. We returned to our homes with a lifetime of memories.
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