We arrived on the beaches of the Normandy landings.
For me, this is a great emotion for what these beaches represent in History, but mainly for all the young lives broken by an inexpressible violence; young men to whom, to this day, after 67 years, I feel I must say a great, immense Thank You! for the freedom they gave us, at the cost of their own lives.
To get there, unconsciously, just on 6th June, the anniversary of the landings (June 6th, 1944) with all the manifestations, the historical commemoration and the veterans, well… I have to say it was moving.
Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, Sword are the sadly epic names of some of the beaches where on 6th June 67 years ago took place the greatest landings in human history, 560,000 men, 6,939 vessels, 11,000 planes, but most of all an immense violence and so many young men who found their death here.
A visit at the American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer, just above Omaha Beach is compulsory, and I strongly tried to have Camilla (my baby) understand the tragedy and the importance of what happened here, the hope that, from here, revived all over Europe. Of course, with all the delicacy due to a child who is still going to the kindergarten.
The perfect accuracy, the geometry, the snow-white marble of the 9,387 headstones, in deep contrast with the green grass, the colours of flowers, and the blue of sky and sea, give a deep sense of sacred to this place.
The biggest danger is perhaps that of getting lost in the vastness and the great numbers of this tragic place, forgetting that, below each and every cross there is a boy, a family, brothers, sisters and a lot, a lot of fear, pain, desperation.
Luckily, the remarkable Memorial is focused on some individual stories of privates, bringing out the human sides of this dreadful tragedy, such as, f.i., the story of the Niland brothers, especially of Sergeant Frederick “Fritz” Niland belonging to the 101st Airborne Division, whose concerns inspired the Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning movie “Save Private Ryan”.
Anyway, I chose, at random, one out of those many young men who rest here in peace, and thank him symbolically for his sacrifice, Arthur M. Krupp, who entered the Army in Illinois. At the moment of his death, on 10th July 1944, he was Private First Class (U.S. Army) in the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, 6th Armored Division. He was decorated with the Purple Heart.
Thank you Arthur, and thank you all, boys!
But, what did those boys feel and see at the moment of their landing?
I want to see with my own eyes, and feel on my own skin the temperature of the water in this icy stretch of sea. Hence, here I am, at Omaha Beach, in the water that, I assure you, is really icy.
On 6th June 1944 I would have seen an endless line, thousands of these images …
And see here below, on the left, the probable view of an American soldier, and, on the right, that of a German soldier …
Today, luckily, Omaha – as well as the other beaches – is “only” a beautiful beach where Camilla can play with the sand, in tranquility and with breathtaking views …
… and the cemetery, a place where you can honour and remember those who fell, pacifying with History …
… but also a place where a little Italian child from a far, small village on the shores of the Lake Garda, making her first attempts with the alphabet, remembers in her innocent and unusual way those heroes, trying to read their names …
Thank you Martin Murphy, thank you Felix Sandefur, thank you Marcel Des Jardins, thank you Joseph Nicksic, thank you Courtney Neilson, thank you Donald Williams, thank you all, boys, for your example!
… never to forget !