Honor & Respect (Normandy American Cemetery) – D-Day June 6 1944 – by Jeffrey Worthington & iHistory WW2 Video Contest

By: Jeffrey Worthington & iHistory WW2

Normandy

Three years ago today I was privileged to be on the beaches of Normandy for the ceremonies commemorating the 66th anniversary of the landing of the American and Allied forces on D-Day.  It was humbling to stand among the men who fought to give freedom to others.  Men who risked everything to free an entire continent that was under the oppression and persecution of Nazi Germany.

One thing I will never forget at Normandy was seeing how respectful the French were by adopting the headstones of fallen American soldiers.  It was a tradition started  almost immediately after the D-Day invasion in June 1944 – local families made sure that each soldier’s grave near their village was tended to.  That tradition has been handed down through the generations, and is continued to today.

Normandy
These photos are candid pictures of a French family paying their respects to a fall soldier, and teaching the next generation to do the same.
Normandy
Traditionally French families tend the grave sites of soldiers who died fighting near their home or village.

The family brought small bags of sand from Omaha beach and had each boy rub the sand on the headstones they visited in order to view the solder’s names more clearly.  Then they placed flowers in front of the headstones and took a picture of the boys, before moving on to honor another fallen hero.

Normandy
Young boys posing briefly for a picture by the headstone of an American soldier.

I candidly observed this ritual being repeated throughout the afternoon.  Many other grateful French families were also there paying their respects to the men who paid the ultimate price for their freedom.

PFC Richard Kunkel, New York. Killed in action June 6, 1944.
Richard Kunkel (PFC, 501st Parachute Infantry Regt, 101st Airborne Division) of New York was killed in action June 6, 1944, in Colleville-sur-Mer, France. He was posthumous awarded a Purple Heart.

Since the French haven’t forgotten the price of their freedom, I pray that we as Americans  never will either.  Yet today, a growing percentage of youth lack basic knowledge about WWII or Hitler’s atrocities.  Help us change this by passing along the legacy of the Greatest Generation by spreading the word about the iHistory WW2 video contest for today’s junior high and high school students!

SONY DSC

And remember to thank a veteran… they’re often disguised as retired businessmen,  volunteers, Wal-Mart greeters, and great-grandparents.  For more information, visit the iHistory WW2 website or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org

Remembering the D-Day Landing At Normandy – June 6, 1944 (Part 2)

Utah Beach, Normandy, France

“They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest—until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violence’s of war.”

Paratroopers reenacting the D-day jump on location just outside of Saint Mere Eglise, France (2010).

“For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.”  – President Franklin D. Roosevelt — June 6, 1944

Remember to thank a veteran… they’re often disguised as a Wal-Mart greeters, volunteers, and grandparents.  For more information, visit the iHistory Project-WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org

Remembering the D-Day Landing At Normandy – June 6, 1944 (Part 1)

A year ago today I was privileged to be on the beaches of Normandy and in Sainte-Mère-Église for the ceremonies commemorating the 66th anniversary of the landing of the Allied forces on D-Day.  It was amazing to stand next to the men who fought to give freedom to others.  Men who risked everything to free an entire continent that was under the oppression and persecution of the Nazis.

Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.
Omaha Beach
Utah Beach
Looking out over the English Channel.

For some reason, due to Hollywood movies I suppose, I’d always envisioned Omaha, Utah, and Sword beach being relativity small.  I never thought that our soldiers had to, in some cases, run upwards of 200 yards across open sand.  Honestly, it was a miracle that we were able to take the beach at all.

(Click to see large photo)

For those men who did manage to make it across the beaches, they faced the challenge of breaching numerous layers of German defenses.  Even though Hitler had put most of his efforts into defending the coastline near Calais (about a 125 miles North East), the beaches of Normandy still formed a deadly obstacle for the American soldiers.

German defenses.
While under heavy enemy fire, the American soldiers had to push their way through the German defenses.

Unfortunately, many of our men paid with their lives.

Many paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Normandy cemetery is among the most beautiful and revered cemeteries in the world.

Honoring those who fell.
Reflecting on the cost of freedom.

The most moving thing for me during my visit to Normandy was learning of that the French have adopted fallen American solder’s headstones.  Almost immediately after the D-Day invasion of June 1944 – local families made sure that each soldier’s graves was  tented to.  That tradition has been handed down through the generations, and is continued to today.

These photos are candid pictures are of a French family paying their respects, and teaching the next generation to do the same.

French family.

They placed flowers and brought sand from Omaha beach for each boy to rub on the headstones they visited.

Showing appreciation is passed on to the next generation.

Posing briefly for a picture for the boys grandparents for a picture and moved on to honor another soldier.  I candidly observed this ritual repeated through out the afternoon.  Many other grateful French families were also there paying their respects to the men who paid the ultimate price for their freedom.

The young boys posing for a picture.
Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.

If the French will never forget the price of freedom, I pray that we as Americans we never will either.  I believe the iHistory Project: WW2 should be in every American high school.  So please, help spread the word by sharing this website with your local teachers, home school groups, and church groups.  Thank you.
The iHP: WW2 is important in keeping the relevance of defeating Hitler and the Axis powers so that history will not be repeated.
And remember to thank a veteran… they’re often disguised as a Wal-Mart greeters, volunteers, and grandparents.  For more information, visit the iHistory Project-WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org