Celebrating D-Day, 72 years later

June 5, 2016

By Jack Schnedler
blood, dirt & angels
   Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy at Omaha Beach and four other designated landing areas. Only scattered nonagenarians remain alive among the tens of thousands of American, British and Canadian troops who came ashore that day in a major turning point of World War II.
   But the landings remain an occasion to celebrate along the Norman coast, as Blood Dirt & Angels correspondents Jack and Marcia Schnedler discovered last week in a visit to several of the coast’s war-related sites. Enough is going on that the French have published a 32-page booklet titled “D-Day Festival Normandy,” detailing dozens of events ranging from parades to bicycling tours.
   For Americans in particular, the epicenter of D-Day is the American Military Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. It overlooks Omaha Beach, scene of the bloodiest fighting on June 6, 1944, as depicted so viscerally at the start of the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” Aligned at the cemetery are 9,385 Carrara crosses and Stars of David, while a commemorative wall lists another 1,557 U.S. casualties whose bodes were never found.
   An impressive visitor center, opened since the Schnedlers last toured Omaha Beach a decade ago, adds a lot of context to D-Day and its aftermath leading to Allied Victory over Nazi Germany in May 1945. The following photographs tell a bit of the story.
In the visitor center at the American Military Cemetery, an empty G.I. helmet tops a rifle as a symbolic grave marker. (© 2016 Marcia Schnedler)

In the visitor center at the American Military Cemetery, an empty G.I. helmet tops a rifle as a symbolic grave marker. (© 2016 Marcia Schnedler)

These are some of the 9,385 crosses and Stars of David at the American Military Cemetery. (©2016 Jack Schnedler)

These are some of the 9,385 crosses and Stars of David at the American Military Cemetery. (©2016 Jack Schnedler)

One floral arrangement is from a German organization that contributes to the care of that country's World War II cemeteries. (©2016 Jack Schnedler)

One floral arrangement is from a German organization that contributes to the care of that country’s World War II cemeteries. (©2016 Jack Schnedler)

An array of floral tributes is laid out at the American Military Cemetery in the days before the 72nd anniversary of the Allied landings. (©2016 Marcia Schnedler)

An array of floral tributes is laid out at the American Military Cemetery in the days before the 72nd anniversary of the Allied landings. (©2016 Marcia Schnedler)

French school children pose for a group photo at a U.S. monument on the American Military Cemetery grounds above Omaha Beach. (©2016 Marcia Schnedler)

French school children pose for a group photo at a U.S. monument on the American Military Cemetery grounds above Omaha Beach. (©2016 Marcia Schnedler)

Overlooking Omaha Beach near the American Military Cemetery is a map showing the five Allied landing areas of June 6, 1944. (©2016 Jack Schnedler)

Overlooking Omaha Beach near the American Military Cemetery is a map showing the five Allied landing areas of June 6, 1944. (©2016 Jack Schnedler)


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