Normandy Allies marked a significant milestone in July 2018—our twentieth summer of educational programs in Normandy. Much has changed since the inaugural study trip in 1999, and yet the core has remained the same. Normandy Allies continues to offer a combination of close interaction with local French organizations, colleagues, and friends along with a detailed history of the landings and the aftermath up to Saint-Lô, from a military perspective.
We have evolved from a three-part program which began in the United States, continued on to England, and then to Normandy. We now offer the full program in Normandy—11 days to enter more deeply into this history and to savor the beauty and bounty of Normandy today.
During the 2018 program, our friends and colleagues in Normandy celebrated with us. In the photo above, SGM Charles Frick, Marsha Smith, Mayor Jean Quétier and LTC Peter Combee quench the candles on our apple tart—a surprise that made our annual luncheon in Sainte-Mere-Eglise even more festive.
In Trévières, Mayor Mirelle Dufour greeted the group with champagne, offering the traditional glass of friendship before the luncheon. We were honored with the presence of four witnesses to the landings who shared their stories, a tradition that has continued unbroken each summer.
Our friends in the Omaha Beach/Bedford VA Association also celebrated their 20th year, and hosted a delightful evening for our combined groups at the Hôtellerie La Joie Saint Benoît in Bayeux.
Our group of 30 included 11 students from high schools and university in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia as well as five teachers from New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and Virginia. A hallmark of our program has been the generational span of each group, and this year was no exception as the ages ranged from 15-79. Each person brought their own unique perspective and added to the experience in myriad ways.
The days were intense and we appreciated having good walking shoes! The current program begins with the British and Canadian sectors, to lay the groundwork for considering the scope of the Normandy Campaign. The dates are always structured around July 18th, so that we may participate in the annual commemoration of the liberation of Saint-Lô and witness the fidelity of the Normans to honoring all who served. Many years, we are the only American group in attendance. One of the town leaders remarked this year that he did not believe that the commemoration would be the same with Normandy Allies presence. Marsha Smith and Janet Spence, daughter of 29th Division veteran Russell Pickett, were asked to lay a wreath at the Major Howie monument as part of the ceremonies.
The photos below offer a glimpse into our journey this year. We invite you to take a look and to consider joining us in 2019 as we participate in the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Campaign. As always, it will be an honor to be there, to remember and carry away with us the message of fidelity and friendship so redolent in Normandy today.