The Longest Day
June 12, 2014 joedemadio 0 Comments
That’s what it really was for me on June 6th 2014. The plan was to drive from The Netherlands to Normandy in the night of June 5th and 6th. We would take a big nap before we started our journey. That big nap turned into a very small one. Nevertheless, I picked up my dad at 1 AM and our trip was ready to kick off.
At around 8:30 AM we were near Bayeux when we encountered the first road blocks. We learned that all the roads to the beaches and nearby villages were closed! I was disappointed because I failed doing the right research before we left. We decided to find a place where we could spend the night for the upcoming days. We found a nice camping at Torigni-sur-Vire near Saint-Lo. We did some groceries, went to the tourist information and gathered all kinds of information.
At around 5 PM that day we made our way to Carentan. Last year I visited Normandy for the first time, but since I was with another family I only visited Omaha beach. Now it was my time to explore everything else. When we drove past the Carentan Tank Museum, my hearth was pumping. I was so excited to see tanks, vehicles and people with their complete 101st Airborne outfits. This trip was already complete, it felt like home and it could only get better! We visited some monuments around the area and had dinner at the Bloody Gulch, Hill 30 memorial site. At around 10:30 PM we decided to go to bed. Since I was already up since 1 AM this had to be the longest day ever for me to be awake! I’ve never felt so tired in my life before.
The next day we made a visit to the Dead Man’s Corner museum. For the price of only 9 euros we could visit both The Greatest Generation Exhibition and the museum. I had one of the best days of my life. I was lucky to meet 101st Airborne veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin. He was signing books together with inspiring writer Ian Gardner. He’s the writer of Tonight We Die As Men, Deliver Us From Darkness and
currently available for pre-order No Victory in Valhalla. Make sure to check out the trailer here! The books are the untold stories from the 101st Airborne, 506th PIR, 3rd Battalion, from Toccoa till the end of the war. Both Jim “Pee Wee” Martin and Ian Gardner signed my book and they both inspired me to continue sharing my passion for the 101st airborne and World War 2. I shook hands with the 101st Airborne Veteran and then we headed towards Utah Beach.
Before stopping at Utah Beach we decided to visit Brecourt Manor. We drove through Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and found out there was a re-enactment camp placed around the church. Again I felt like home. We continued towards Brecourt. This was the place where Lieutenant Winters destroyed the canons with his squad. The fight that took place is also shown in episode 2 of the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. At the actual site there’s a monument to the men of E-Company who gave their lives on D-Day. Nowadays the place is quiet and peaceful and hopefully won’t ever witness any other war.
We continued our way to Utah Beach and soon enough came along the monument of Richard “Dick” Winters himself! The monument looks inspiring and honors all the soldiers that took lead on D-Day. As soon as we got back in our car there was a train of vehicles driving past us. It was overwhelming seeing all those vehicles and people in their 101st Airborne outfits! We continued to Utah Beach and after that, we made our way to Sainte-Mère-Église.
In Sainte-Mère-Église we visited the Airborne museum. Again I was flabbergasted when I saw the Waco Glider and the C47 inside the museum. With the build-in D-Day Night simulator I had an awesome time experiencing the D-Day night drop. I also saw John Steele hanging on the Sainte-Mère-Église church tower. The last time I saw him was in the movie The Longest Day.
We ended the day in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont because for me it felt like coming home! We bought a sandwich with a sausage and a large bowl of fries and enjoyed our meal at the camp around the church.
We started Day 3 with a cup of coffee at Omaha Beach and a visit to the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. After visiting the Overlord Museum we headed for Longues-sur-Mer and made a visit to the German Battery. Huge bunkers with huge canons, that’s all I can say. I was blown away by it’s size. The next stop on our list was Pointe du Hoc. On June 6th 1944, 225+ Rangers climbed the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc. After 2 days of fierce fightings, only 90 of them were alive. The area is full of bomb craters, bunkers and other signs of heavy battle.
A holiday trip couldn’t be complete without doing some metal detecting. We decided to metal detect on a random field, but the finds were scarce. 2 pieces of shrapnel and a bullet tip was all that we could find, but I at least I have my first D-Day relics!
The last day, Monday, we had to go home again. Before we headed towards The Netherlands we payed a visit to the Pegasus Bridge Memorial at
I remember playing the video game Call of Duty, where I had to defend and hold the bridge until reinforcements arrived. We had coffee at Cafe Gondree at the corner of the street, next to the bridge. I had fun exploring the area and had a informative visit at the Museum! It was time to go home!
I had an amazing experience in Normandy during the 70th anniversary of D-Day. I was happy to meet Ian Gardner and Jim “Pee Wee” Martin. I hope we may meet again at the 70th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden and/or the Battle of the Bulge. Thanks to all my viewers and readers.
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