A trip I have always wanted to take was to go to Normandy and then follow the path of the last year of World War II into Germany.

 

I recently took this trip, and while there I discovered that there is a revival of interest in the war, partially because next year will be the 70th anniversary of the landings and also because of books made into movies, such as Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan as well as the earlier The Longest Day. (The first two have a New Orleans influence having been based on work by UNO historian and D-Day Museum founder Stephen Ambrose.) Like a soldier returning home overloaded with souvenirs, I returned with a camera overloaded with images. Here are a few:

 

Utah Beach

Normandy and Beyond: Pictures From the Liberation

What amused me about this shot was that much of the mission of soldiers on both sides was building and destroying levees, dams and bridges. Yet, here were kids innocently building their own public works projects on Utah Beach facing no greater threat than the tides.

 

Utah Beach Sandcastle

Normandy and Beyond: Pictures From the Liberation

Seventy years ago “pillboxes” were built along the beach to house cannons intended to blast invaders. Now the beach is back to the serious business of housing sandcastles. I was pleased that the beaches, as somber and glorious as their past is, are now used for more passive activities.

 

St. Mère Eglise Church Stained Glass Window

Normandy and Beyond: Pictures From the Liberation

This town was made famous by the scene in The Longest Day in which an American paratrooper gets snared in on the church’s towers. The town is grateful to the American 82nd Airborne Division that liberated it. Paratroopers, like descending angels, have been incorporated in the stained glass.

 

Angoville-au-Plain Stained Glass Window

Normandy and Beyond: Pictures From the Liberation

This small country church in the Normandy Town of Angoville-au-Plain became the scene of much action as the paratroopers landed in the hours after D-Day. Two American military doctors set up facilities treating both Allied and German wounded. In 2004 this window was dedicated in the church.

 

Blood Stains on the Pews

Normandy and Beyond: Pictures From the Liberation

Doctors used whatever space they could in the Angoville-au-Plain church to work on the wounded; blood stains are a reminder of the horror of war.

 

Arromanches

Normandy and Beyond: Pictures From the Liberation

This town, located on Gold Beach, one of the landing sites, was where an artificial harbor was built to move allied equipment onto land. Today it is a festive seaside community. The juxtaposition of a cannon with a merry-go-round in the background certainly reflects the town’s past and present.

 

Patton's Burial Site

Normandy and Beyond: Pictures From the Liberation

Though he survived the war, General George Patton died from complications of a vehicle accident in December 1945. The accident was in the in the German town of Heidelberg. He is buried in an American military cemetery in Luxembourg. Ordinarily, as is practice, he was to be buried among the troops regardless of rank, but so many tourists sought out his grave, that it was moved to its own position facing the troops.

 

Pointe du Hoc

Normandy and Beyond: Pictures From the Liberation

This is the famous cliff, located between Omaha and Utah Beaches, that elite Army Rangers had to climb in an effort to demolish German cannons. Rangers used grappling hooks and ladders to climb the cliff. They discovered that the cannons had been removed but the Rangers later found them inland and destroyed them. Casualties were high but it was one of the war’s most heroic efforts. President Ronald Regan would later memorialize the effort with his famous “Boys of Pointe Du Hoc” speech intended to swell American pride. (Note the sailboat in the background.)

 

The Eagle's Nest

Normandy and Beyond: Pictures From the Liberation

Adolf Hitler and many of his key Nazi leaders had homes in the picturesque Berchesgaden area of the Bavarian Alps. A retreat, dubbed by the Americans as the "Eagle’s Nest,” was also built on top of a 40-story peak. This is a view of the Eagle's Nest looking up.

 

The Eagle's Nest Looking Down

Normandy and Beyond: Pictures From the Liberation

Hitler’s Bavarian home was said to be somewhere to the left of that pond. Though he seldom went to the Eagle’s Nest, he could look down at his home from the top.

 

Campaign Poster

Normandy and Beyond: Pictures From the Liberation

Germans can pull pranks, too. This is a contemporary campaign poster in Munich that someone had modified to give the candidate a Hitler look.

 

Sounds Like Home

Normandy and Beyond: Pictures From the Liberation

Though New Orleans was never known for its barbecue, Europeans apparently think it is special, so much so that a band, playing at a Munich hotel, had that name. In the end, jazz conquered.


 BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), is due to be released Oct. 31, 2013. It is now available for pre-order at Amazon.com.

WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS  AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 PM.WYES-TV, CH. 12.