Learning from history

The Longest Day is a must see before a visit to Normandy

The Longest Day is a must see before a visit to Normandy

Tim and I hadn’t been together for very long before we had our first of many conversations about airplanes and war. It might seem like a strange topic for a date, but Tim has command of some unique tricks and being able to spot the make and model of any aircraft flying overhead is one that certainly impressed me. His recall of specific battles during World War II was also astounding to me as I had a hard time remembering exactly when DDay was. He once mentioned that walking along the beaches of Normandy, France and seeing exactly where American troops made the decisive push against Germany was something he would love to do someday. Now, 20 years later, we find ourselves stationed in Germany and the Trip of a Lifetime is finally upon us.

For the past 2 weeks we’ve been watching movies and documentaries detailing the Normandy invasion. The television mini-series The Band of Brothers as well as The Longest Day starring John Wayne are two must-sees. We’ve also watched old film footage, read volumes of first person accounts and plotted our itinerary so that no stone is left unturned in our visit.

The words of Winston Churchill, included in his famous speech “We shall fight on the beaches” have been echoing in my mind as I prepare for this trip. A master of oratory, Churchill had a huge challenge before him in June 1940 as he had to describe a great military disaster, and warn of a possible invasion attempt by Nazi Germany, without casting doubt on eventual victory. The speech rallied Englishmen to a call to arms. It’s hard to believe that the terrible events of the Normandy invasion were still years away.

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender… Winston Churchill