With enormous pomp and circumstance, representatives of Allied WW2 countries, commemorated the 75th anniversary of the D- Day “invasion” of Europe.
Every year, a smaller number of D-Day survivors of those landings, this time only 90 remaining survivors, who landed on Normandy’s beaches, throwing off German invaders.
Many comrades were immediately cut down by German machine guns and artillery, from the German Atlantic wall, before even exiting landing craft.
Survivors spoke of fear of death, all knowing their chances of survival would be slim.
Of walking over dead bodies of those killed immediately on exiting landing craft, thousands more, before they even made it to shore.
A long, slow, walk to the landing beach, waste deep in extremely cold waters, often through obstacles and barbwire. And under machine gun fire.
Others drowned, fully weighed down with packs, equipment, and weapons.
For a while, the Supreme Commander of Allied forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, and Allied commanders, feared for the success of the landings.
The French underground had destroyed many ground routes, bridges, railways, roads, placing felled trees, preventing German reinforcements.
Allied paratroops, landing behind the lines, did so too.
Navies, all kept up heavy guns, supporting fire.
Allied planes bombed and strafed around obstacles, and German positions.
After a few days, with heavy loss of life, ground forces, eventually got off the beaches and moved inland.
Then tanks, heavy artillery, to support ground forces, and continuous strafing of German forces.
A massive, logistic support to re-supply, equipment and ammunition, food and replenishment for thousands of troops.
A simply incredible requirement.
In 2010, we travelled from Bahrain to France, Normandy Wendy seeing the Bayreuth Tapestry, while I a guided visit to all of the invasion beaches, seeing various sites where the forces had come ashore, often with heavy losses.
You stand in many places in awe, trying to imagine the enormity of it all. The flatness of the beach landing zones, seeing the pillboxes, imagining the cones of fire into which so many of these poor souls had to scramble - trying to imagine the sweeping cones of fire, at both ends of Omaha, where so many Americans were killed from machine gun pillboxes, and major bunkers
It is reflected in the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-mer , above Omaha, where 9387 Americans lie buried, including the Rangers, who audaciously, scaled the 50 meter cliffs at Pointe-du-Hoc to support soldiers on Utah, and Omaha, flyers who were shot down, over Omaha, warding off German counter-attacks
Others are now gathered into the American cemetery, from other sites too.
Over 1 million visitors have come to pay their respects.
It is a harrowing, hallowed experience.
All now so serene, and perfectly maintained.
Having seen World War1 battlefields, the enormity of slaughter also harrowing.
There, generals often stayed 20 km behind the front; Normandy, Generals Bradley, Montgomery, Patton, closer behind their soldiers, acutely strategically aware of battle resistant spots, and where possible minimising, casualties.