Kittie Howard

Friday, December 20, 2013

Amazing Grace; Off to Louisiana and Texas

From our house to yours, my husband and I send wishes for a joyous Christmas and a Happy New Year!

In the spirit of the Season, the incomparable Judy Collins, with the Boys' Choir of Harlem, sings Amazing Grace here.

A YouTube video of Amazing Grace sung in Cajun French (LaGrace du Ciel) by Les Amies Louisianaises is here.

We leave early Monday morning to join friends at the Biltmore (near Asheville, North Carolina) for Christmas. On the 26th, hub and I cut south for New Orleans and holiday cheer with family and friends in the Bayou State. Then, on the 2nd, we go to Houston for a couple of days as it's our turn to make the trip. We hope to be back in Virginia around the 10th -- and back to blogging. But, whoa, let's slow this train down and enjoy the holidays first. The little kid in me can't understand how they take so long to get here and then go by so quickly.

Happy Holidays, everyone! XOXO

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cooperstown's Baseball Hall of Fame; Blog Hop's Dream Vacation: Churchill, Canada

Cooperstown's Baseball Hall of Fame was a nostalgic-filled visit that warmed the heart. But now that the suitcases have been unpacked and a certain degree of order has been restored, our holiday trip seems deeper in time than a week ago. Worry about the weather and anticipation and excitement about the trip have blurred into a feeling of contentment that nourishes memories.

I hope your holiday memories are just as warm and apologize for taking off without wishing each of you a Happy Holiday. But with that storm fast approaching the East Coast, we decided to leave a day early and rushed around in a crazy, organized fashion that kicked in to make it happen, a decision that turned out for the best.

Heading north from Virginia, I-95 wasn't clogged, something to smile about in spite of the bitter cold.

New York was a winter wonderland of green and white, even if my camera didn't think so.

After a fabulous Thanksgiving with friends in Rhinebeck, New York, at the Beekman Arms, the oldest continually operated inn in the United States, we went to Cooperstown, New York, to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. We'd stopped briefly years ago on a return trip from Toronto, Canada, just long enough to whet hub's appetite to see more.

The Museum's impressive Hall of Greats inspired . . . a strike out doesn't mean the game's over.

Moments of reflection . . .  distinguished careers . . . amazing statistics . . . legends that live inside kids of all ages.

This sidebar really caught my attention. With sports so popularized in the media, I hadn't realized how thin the cutting edge was, a reminder as to how important those stats are and not necessarily the personality hype around the player. Along with skill, dedication and hard work are important. There's Kardashian 'success' and then there's the real thing, the illusive 'it' in life money can't buy.

Hub was a catcher in both high school and college. A man's man who not only talks the talk but walks the walk, the team awarded him the game ball for the only game of cricket he's ever played so you know he's got his baseball act together. I took this photo of a bronze baseball scene outside through one of the Museum's windows.

Like sports aficionados everywhere, he knows his stats, but hub's also a member of the Red Sox Nation, where is loyalty is absolute. Thanks to our trip, he now has a Red Sox clock on the wall in his man cave, with a faux marble World Series plaque added to his collection, as is the new fleece jacket. Hmmm, I think the move this spring to our house in North Carolina comes just in time. . . which brings me to what's really been occupying time here: renovating the kitchen as we're selling our condo. Anyone who's been through the renovation process knows there's no translation to the mess it creates and the time it occupies. In the meantime, one step at a time . . . we're almost there.  

I've never known a baseball fan who didn't have a role model. Hub's is Ted Williams, the legendary great who suspended his Red Sox career twice, in 1943 for three years to serve in World War II and in parts of 1952 and 1953 as a USMC aviator in the Korean War, returning to baseball both times to a career that kept getting better and better, earning him a place in the Hall of Fame his first time at bat.
Norman Rockwell's iconic 1949 "Saturday Evening Post" cover, sometimes referred to as 'baseball's Mona Lisa,' invoked hub's memories of passions tempered by raindrops . . . "there's no crying in baseball" . . . 
. . . warm memories he shared as we walked back to our room at the Cooper Inn . . . 

. . . as if the icy footprints were a heart's song . . . 

the song every kid hums as he/she prepares the glove for spring practice. . . "take me out to the ball game . . . " 

* * * * *

My dream vacation would be to visit Churchill, Canada, on the western shore of the Hudson Bay in the province of Manitoba, to see the polar bears. Global warming has so adversely affected their habitat I fear the polar bear will eventually become extinct. It would be an awesome experience to see these magnificent animals in a natural setting.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Beaches of Normandy--June 6, 1944: The Air Campaign; Tips for Visitors

The Invasion of Normandy by Allied forces on June 6, 1944--code-named Operation Overlord--combined air, naval, and ground forces in the successful campaign. A previous post ((here) focused on our over-all two-week, self-guided visit to Normandy's historic--and sacred!--beaches this summer. My previous post HERE focused on the Ground Campaign. This post focuses on the Air Campaign. I spent considerable time researching historic film footage to link whenever I could.

Photos and historical notes will follow after the tips.

TIP: We met many Canadian and American tourists who were disappointed--some angry--at how little they got to see on their professional tours. The Beaches of Normandy are not a complicated area to navigate. Tourists should be especially wary of operators who offer tours that enter at one airport and exit at another. Lodging isn't as expensive as you'd think. We flew into Paris, took the train to Caen, picked up our rental car, and after two days at the Best Western, hit the road. Since we'd lived in Africa, we knew the often inexpensive Mercure Hotel, a French chain, gave good value for the money. It was our choice to spend two weeks in Normandy, but the circuit could be done in a week.

TIP: Pick up your rental car in either Paris or Caen, not Bayeux as there aren't as many rental cars available there. Caen was in and out, no problems. TIP: Rent a diesel car. By the end of the first week, 500 miles later, we hadn't used half a tank. TIP: It surprised how close many sites were. Tour operators pick one, allow little time and move on, when, in truth, with little effort, the visitor could see much more. Visiting Pegasus Bridge and nearby Merville gun battery set the stage for the Invasion's force and power and what troops/airmen encountered throughout. When you reach the beaches, the impact of what they went through is beyond words.

TIP: Be wary of tours that stop in Bayeux but don't allow time to visit the Bayeux Tapestry. This was where we encountered the angriest tourists. Buyer Beware definitely applies!

The bottom sign accompanied local road signs throughout Normandy, making it very easy to get around. The beaches (Sword, Gold, Juno, Omaha, Utah) are along a 50-mile stretch. With so many liberation markers, we didn't have a problem finding interior sites as well. We used our road map more more for short cuts to leave country roads for Interstate-type highways for the cities.

Quiet country roads. (Personal photo)

But the beach road leading into Honfleur to the north of Sword Beach, a gorgeous historic town, was congested, more so to Le Harve, but worth it. During our two-week trip, we didn't see one road accident anywhere. (Personal photo)

When I told someone about the trip my husband and I took to Normandy, he said he'd visited a few years ago and that the experience "brought me to my knees." Whether physically or mentally, he was right. It was a matter of considerable internal debate about whether or not to take my shoes off and let waves at Omaha Beach that had once run red with blood lap my feet.

When my husband, a career U. S. Marine with the Silver Star from Vietnam, learned of my quandary, he said, taking my camera. "Go. That's why they were here--so you could go." So I did. . . an overwhelming experience for which I lack the words.

The Invasion of Normandy by Allied Forces on June 6,1944 actually began at 2200 hours on June 5. During Operation Neptune. Five assault groups (130,000 men) departed the English Coast in 6,939 vessels to cross the English Channel in convoys via mine-swept corridors.

Units involved in the Allied Airborne operations were:

American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions : 15,500 men; 1,662 aircrafts and 512 gliders;

British 6th Airborne Division: 7,990 men, 733 aircraft and 355 gliders;

1st Canadian Parachute Battalion came under the command of the 3rd Parachute Brigade of the British 6th Airborne Division. Historic footage of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion is HERE.

General Dwight David Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, addresses paratroopers prior to D-Day, U.S. Co. E, 502nd Parachute Infantry Brigade (Strike), 101st Airborne Division ("Screaming Eagles), Greenham Common Airfield, England, at approximately 8:30 p.m, June 5, 1944. This photo and a video are at the Visitor's Memorial Hall at Omaha Beach. The photo above is from Wikipedia because mine from a museum had too many reflections.

D-Day drop by 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. The unit was also at the Battle of the Bulge and the airborne assault on the Rhine River and elsewhere as the war came to a victorious end.

At 0005 hour Allied aerial attacks began, specifically targeting coastal German batteries between Le Harve and Cherbourg, France.

C-47 airplane at the Pegasus Museum. When my husband and I lived in Kenya, we flew in a privately owned C-47 to the Masai Mara. Awesome experience! (Personal photo)

Interior view. (Personal Photo)

The YouTube link to archival footage of what the air campaign accomplished with these bombs is HERE.  The video is inclusive of Allied participants. About six minutes into the video, you'll see the Pegasus patch, for example. The footage opens with naval bombardments, then about two minutes into the approximate seven-minute footage, the aerial bombardment and paratrooper drops begin.  It's the best air/naval/ground campaign footage I found.

During the Invasion of Normandy, the British objective was to neutralize the zone between the Orm River and the Dives River, capture the German's Merville gun battery and designated bridges. At 12:16 on 6 June, 181 men in six Horsa gliders, five landing within yards of Pegasus Bridge, surprised the Germans and took control of the bridge in 10 minutes, losing two men in the process.

(Note: for those interested in an in-depth description about securing the Merville gun battery, an article by Neil Barber for the UK's 1940s Society is here.)

Pegasus Bridge as it looked on June 9, 1944. You can see the Hosa gliders lying around. (Wikipedia)

German bunker near Pegasus Bridge. You can see it in the above photo, across the river, a bit to the right of the bridge. (Personal photo)

One of the jeeps that crossed the old Pegasus Bridge, originally called Benouville Bridge and built in 1934. Along with the old bridge, this is one of several jeeps at the Pegasus Museum complex. (Personal photo)

The new Pegasus Bridge, built in 1944 and in much the same location as the old one, was re-named Pegasus Bridge in 1944 in honor of the British forces. The name's derived from the shoulder emblem work by the forces, the flying horse Pegasus. (Wikipedia/Personal photo) Pegasus and the nearby Ranville Bridge were major objectives of Operation Deadstick, part of Operation Tonga in the opening minutes of the Invasion of Normandy.  Major John Howard's unit also took Ranville Bridge, thus significantly limiting the effectiveness of a German counter attack.
A note about the bagpiper in the re-enactment above: William "Bill" Millin, July 14, 1922-August 17, 2010, popularly known as "Piper Bill" was the personal piper to Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat, Commander of Special Services Brigade. Although military rules restricted bagpipes to a unit's rear, Lord Lovat asked Piper Bill to play while British forces were under fire. Captured German prisoners said they hadn't shot Piper Bill because they thought he was crazy. 
For many bagpipers it's one of life's goals to play the pipes while crossing the bridge. 

One of the hundreds of German bunkers along the Normandy coast and inland. It took raw courage to drift toward the ground hanging from a parachute as weapons in fortifications blasted. But there's a military expression that says the one who controls the night controls the terrain. 

Interior of bunker. (Personal photo)
By August 23rd, when Allied Force and the Free French Resistance had secured all of Normandy, they controlled the night and the terrain, the beginning of Hitler's trip to hell.

One of the victorious newspaper headlines across the United States. (Bayeux Museum)

( Personal photo)

An overall summary of the timeline:

At 0010 hour on June 6, 1944, parachuting of reconnaissance groups began.

At 0020-0040 hour, commando attacks with the British 6th Airborne Division Gliders on bridges began.

At 0100 - 0230 hours, parachuting of successive waves of troops from regiments and brigades forming British and American divisions commenced.

At 0320 hours, heavy equipment and and reinforcements by glider arrived.

At 0430 hours, assault on St. Mere-Eglise (St. Mary's Church, but it's also a village)) began by 82nd U. S. Division, 505th Regiment.

At 0550, naval bombardment of German positions began, preceding the approach of amphibious ships and landing crafts.

At 0600 hours, attacks by medium and heavy bombers on German fortifications along the Normandy Coast totaled 1,333 bombers and 5,316 tons of bombs. Bombardments ceased five minutes before H- hour and troop disembarkation:

                         0630 for American Forces (Utah Beach and Omaha Beach);
                         0710 attack on Pointe du Hoc, 2nd U. S. Ranger Battalion;
                         0730 for British Forces (Gold Beach and Sword Beach)
                         0800 for Canadian Forces (Juno Beach)

Historic footage of the Air/Ground Invasion from the History Channel uploaded to YouTube (2:53 min) is HERE! (Give it a few seconds to start.)

The American Airborne objective was the establishment of a bridgehead on the west bank of the Merderet River; capture St.-Mere-Eglise, Beuzeville, Pont l'Abbe, and close roads to Utah Beach.

St. Mere-Eglise:

Founded in the 11th century, St. Mere-Eglise was one of the significant battle sites during the Hundred Years War and the War of Religions fought in Europe. During the Allies Invasion of Normandy, the village stood in the middle of route N13, which the Germans would have most likely used on any counterattack on the American troops landing on Omaha Beach and Utah Beach. Units of the U. S. 82nd Airborne and the U. S. 101st Airborne occupied the village during Operation Boston, but not without re-enforcements from nearby Utah Beach. Elements of the parachute drop did not go well. . . 

Monument to American paratroopers. All but three of the 25 men listed were killed on June 6, 1944. Many were from Easy Company, made famous by the mini series, "Band of Brothers." I'm listing the names on the monument of those who died because it's the names that define "ultimate sacrifice": William S. Evans, Joseph M. Jordan,  Robert L. Mathews, Thomas Meehan, William S. Metzler, Sergio G. Moya, Elmer L. Murray Jr., Richard E. Owen, Murray B. Roberts, Gerald R. Snider, Benjamin J. Stoney, Jerry A. Wentzel, Ralph H. Wimer, George L. Elliot, Herman F. Collins, John N. Miller, Carl N. Riggs, Elmer L. Telstad, Thomas W. Warren, George Lavenson, Robert J. Everett J. Gray, Terrance C. Harris.

Re-enforcements arrive at St. Mere-Englise. My photo of the photo wasn't clear. This copy: Always Free Hub Pages; link to site is here.  

The same street today. When we visited it was a bright sunny day with many people out. Note the arch in both photos.  (Photo link credit is here as above.)
To the left, directly across the street is St. Mere-Eglise church. Note the parachute on the bell tower. (Personal photo)

Private John M. Steele (1912-1969), made famous by the 1962 movie The Longest Day, hung from the church as depicted in this monument. American soldiers from the U. S. 82nd Airborne parachuted into the area west of St. Mere-Eglise in successive waves. The village had been the target of an aerial attack. A stray incendiary mom had set fire to a house east of the village. The church bell called villagers to form a bucket brigade that German soldiers supervised. 

However, the fire had lit up the area when two planeloads of paratroopers from the 1st and 2nd Battalions were dropped in error directly over the village. They were easy targets for the Germans. However, the Germans thought Private Steele was dead, hanging from from his stretched parachute cable and ignored him. Even though he was injured during the entrapment, he played dead and was one of the few to survive the carnage. 

The Germans realized he wasn't dead when they later cut him down. Taken prisoner, Private Steele escaped and rejoined his unit, 3rd Battalion, 505th Regiment, and fought with his unit's attack on the village. St. Mere-Eglise was the first village in Normandy liberated by American forces. A YouTube link to historic footage is HERE. Although parts are somewhat dark and grainy, I wish I'd seen this before our trip. (Wikipedia/Personal photo)

The next battle awaits . . . (Airborne Museum, St. Mere-Eglise)

Monument in St. Mere-Eglise to American paratroopers. (Personal photo)

There are so many monuments throughout Normandy that are unit specific or smaller ones that are fallen hero specific. (Personal photo) Many families pay visits to lay a refreshed poppy wreath, often with a child old enough to understand placing the wreath. Although visitors remained at discreet distances, the private ceremony tugged at hearts. (This photo and the ones that follow are personal photos.)

Poppies grow along the road in a rural countryside . . .

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Beaches of Normandy and the Invasion of Normandy: June 6, 1944

After we picked up our rental car in Caen, France, we explored Normandy for two weeks, driving about a thousand miles as we criss-crossed the province. We stayed in large towns like Bayeux and small seaside towns like Luc sur Mer, dipped down to Brittany to see Mont St. Michele, wound our way back through the countryside to Honfleur, not far from La Harve, then returned to Caen to turn in our rental car.

Without a doubt, Normandy has some of the most gorgeous scenery possible. The rolling terrain with broad vistas, apple orchards, dairy cows in quiet pastures, and golden hay fields are post cards forever in my mind's eye. Stone walls outlining roads leading into villages with stone buildings and narrow streets enchanted.

The food was amazing. We feasted on steamed mussels (moules) in a variety of sauces, had picnics with baguettes filled with fresh crab or one of the area's incredible cheeses, shopped for seasonal fruit (melons, especially) in markets, and sipped 17-year old cider in the evening that was a cross between a port and a champagne. For breakfast, we'd go to the local patisserie: chocolate croissants for hub and anything with apples for me -- and didn't gain an ounce as we walked, climbed and hiked until the muscles no longer ached and our tempo increased.

One kilo (2.2 pounds) of mussels per order, with a side bowl of frites. The mussels are tiny, very sweet, and plucked with the fingers. Ohhhh, yum!

The people of Normandy were even more amazing: friendly, kind-hearted, and compassionate -- really solid, down to earth people. And, yes, many spoke English, especially the younger ones (who study it in school and want to practice).

But our ultimate destination was Utah Beach, where my husband's uncle was during World War II. Code-named Operation Overlord, the Invasion of Normandy was the largest armada ever assembled: 1,213 warships; 4,126 transport vessels; 736 ancillary craft; 864 merchant vessels; 195,700 personnel. Purpose: to liberate German-occupied France and kick Hitler's butt to hell.

Major military units that participated in the Invasion of Normandy, June 6, 1944:

British 6th Armoured Division; British 6th Airborne Division;
British I Corps; British 3rd Infantry Division;
British 27th Armoured Brigade

Canadian 3rd Infantry Division;
Canadian 2nd Armoured Brigade
(Note: Because the Canada Act wasn't passed until 1982, there were Canadian units co-mingled with some British forces as Canada had a different standing within the Commonwealth at that time.)

U.S. V Corps; U.S. 1st Infantry Division;
U.S. 29th Infantry Division; U.S. VII Corps;
U.S. 4th Infantry Division; U.S. 101st Airborne Division;
U.S. 82nd Airborne Division

Casualties, June 6, 1944:

Germany: 240,000 killed or missing
Britain: 11,000 killed; 54,000 wounded/missing
Canada: 5,000 killed; 13,000 wounded/missing
United States: 29,000 killed; 106,000 wounded/missing
France: 12,000 civilians killed or missing
(Note: It's commonly agreed exact statistics aren't possible. This is an agreed upon estimate by the various countries. Also, after the initial invasion, soldiers and/or airmen from other countries participated in the liberation of Normandy. These include: Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, and Denmark. There were many individual monuments (including one to 800 Danish troops) to heroic achievements throughout Normandy,  but there was no overall casualty list that I saw.)

Planning for D-Day had begun in 1943. The English Channel's erratic weather caused much concern, as did the asymmetrical tides. The English Channel is the only place in the world where there are four tides, one every six hours. But when it's low tide on the French coast, it's high tide on the English coast.  Also, there were only 10 days a month when the tides were suitable for an amphibious landing. Originally planned for June 5, 1944, General Dwight David Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, changed the landing to the following day because of projected weather conditions. On June 9th, the worst storm in 40 years hit the English Channel.

Sword Beach. D-Day is much too complicated for my simple blog, so I'll share a few things I learned from each beach. The tide affected all of the five beaches: Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, Utah. The tide above, at Sword Beach, will pull back to the yellow ball to the upper left of the black rock (center).

Same spot six hours later. The four yellow balls are under water. The fewest casualties, 127, occurred at Sword Beach. But the British had to slug their way toward the more fortified interior to take their objective, Caen, where William the Conqueror's massive fort controlled the high ground and town. There is a very large British cemetery in Caen.

Beyond the yellow ball were these metal monstrosities to snare boats. They were also hidden among the natural hedgerows that had to be navigated once one crossed the beach. The hedgerows will be highlighted more in an upcoming post.

Juno Beach. The Canadian objective was to provide a flank to the British at Sword Beach then capture a German airfield at Caen. Bunkers lined the terrain above all the beaches, part of Hitler's Atlantic Wall. This particular bunker at Juno Beach deceives because it's slanted. Since Juno Beach was the flattest beach, the angled bunker provided a wider killing range. Weapons could also rotate, thus enlarging the field. Juno Beach was also the second most heavily fortified beach.

Because of this canal that split part of the beach, my husband, the military man, spent considerable time at Juno Beach. (While in the military, he'd received a Navy League award for conducting 26 amphibious training exercise landings without incident so had a keen eye for beaches.) What this canal did was establish a brutal killing field. Hub was very reflective when we left as he'd been in combat and  understood why that cross stood exactly where it stood. There is a large Canadian cemetery south of Caen where those who died in the Invasion are buried.

Gold Beach. Arromaches is the town fronting a wide sweep of beach with this protruding rocking anchoring the far end. After the British established a beachhead, they headed towards Route 13 to reach Bayeux and cut off the road to Caen. Very crucially, the British installed a bridge that had taken a year to design and build in England. Called the Mulberry Bridge, a remaining part can be seen to the lower left. 
A better view thanks to Wikipedia. Parts of the bridge, called Mulberries, are in the water. The Allies had to get supplies ashore as quickly as possible in order to continue the attack. Historians say that these Mulberry bridges (more like heavy pontoons) and the cutting of German communication lines by the Free French Resistance prior to the Invasion were essential to Operation Overlord. Hub thinks the French Resistance hasn't been given enough credit for its participation in the War.

A slight diversion: When we left Normandy, we took the train to Paris from Caen and stayed at The Westin on the Right Bank. When we stepped outside in the morning, we were surprised to see this movie scene being filmed. That's an American tank from one of the museums. We were told the film involves free French Resistance fighters and American soldiers, all actors, of course. To the right are prisoners (actors) from France's Vichy government forces. Basically, the Vichy government didn't just capitulate to avoid being overrun by Hitler, it conspired with Hitler. The collaboration remains a shameful period in French history the people are still coming to grips with. The storefront behind the tank had a period 'drop' with some nasty anti-Jewish slogans.
A member of the film crew swung a 'smoke' canister after the tank sputtered to life. It was kinda bone-chilling to see the tank roll forward. We were told the name of the film is "Diplomat" and that Scarlett Johanssen is in it.
Omaha Beach. The objective of U.S. forces was to secure a beachhead and link up with British forces to the east at Gold Beach and U.S. forces to the west at Utah Beach. However, contrary to what planners had though, Omaha Beach, a 5-mile stretch, was the most heavily fortified. Difficulties with the tides caused many landing craft (Higgins boats) to miss their target and/or to offload troops too far out. Many drowned. Defended by the German 352nd Division, of the 12,000 soldiers, about 4,000 were teenagers, many conscripted from German-occupied countries such as the Baltics. (Conscripts were also at the other beaches. Of Hitler's generals, only Rommel believed the Allies could land at Normandy. His other generals, too steeped in World War I tactics, believed as Hitler did, that the landing would be at Calais. Hitler slept until 12:30 pm on D-Day. His advisors were afraid to awaken him with the news the Allies had invaded shortly after midnight. Although Rommel commanded the whole area, he couldn't move the Panzer divisions without Hitler's approval.)
One of the German bunkers above Omaha Beach. Although I took the same photo, this is from Wikipedia. My little camera couldn't handle the ever-changing skies as the clouds rolled in and out, depending upon the evolution of the tides. During our two weeks, we experienced only one really bright, sunny day.
View from inside one of the other bunkers.  By the end of June 6th, U.S. forces had secured two small areas, primarily by scaling the bluffs at Omaha Beach. They'd shoot hooks into the bluffs (Point du Hoc) and climb ladders. As Germans shot lead climbers, others moved up until those small areas had been secured. Because the interior wasn't as heavily fortified, once these footholds had been gained, forces could exploit the weakness in the German defense and secure more ground.
Reflecting pool at the American cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach.
Over 9,000 markers, including 169 Stars of David. Seemingly endless and very, very reflective -- as are all of the Allied cemeteries -- and also very sad -- so young -- so brave -- but Hitler's boil had to be lanced -- and no one country could stop him -- I'm truly grateful to those who gave so much -- 

Utah Beach. Despite being somewhat off course, this landing went well and suffered the second fewest casualties (200). By the end of the day, over 25,000 soldiers and equipment were ashore. On July 16th, my husband's uncle Frank, who had been in training in England, landed here with other reinforcements, with his unit going with Patton's Third Army and the eventual Battle of the Bulge, which he survived. (However, Normandy wasn't considered secured until August 24th, so tough fighting remained.) During an earlier training exercise off the coast of England prior to D-Day, a German U-boat had torpedoed one of the landing craft, and 638 Americans had died. Still, Hitler didn't believe a landing was possible at Normandy.
A thatched cottage in Normandy. Home is where the heart is, wherever we live. But, by June 6,1944, Hitler's concentration camps had consumed close to 12 million people: six million Jews and almost six million Gypsies, Catholics, those with various handicaps and others not deemed worthy of the blond-haired, blue-eyed Master Race and Thousand Year Reich that Hitler envisioned. Hitler was neither blond-haired nor blue-eyed. Many historians think he was part Jewish. Still, his rhetoric prevailed.

To be continued . . . the aerial bombardment, parachutists and gliders . . .