By Larry and Joan Dolinski
Continued from update #22
Although we had visited Normandy in 1991, many new monuments were unveiled in 1994 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that historic moment. We revisited the American cemetery at Omaha Beach and were overwhelmed once again in a very solemn way. We gazed at the rows ofCrosses and Stars of David going on and on as far as the eye can see and viewed the gentle hillside of this meticulously maintained shrine as it slopes down to reveal a view of the now peaceful beaches where so many young men arrived, never to see another sunrise. This was so poignant an experience for us and the many with whom we spoke, that the experience re-energized our patriotic feelings and national pride. No matter how one argues the politics of war...those brave young men played a mammoth role in saving Europe (and more) from the Hitler Cult of "world order."
In addition to Omaha Beach, we visited Arromanches, the place where an artificial harbor was built to support the D-Day landings. Immediately after the first waves of troops were put ashore, a number of old ships were sunk in a protective ring. Concrete caissons were towed from England, filled with sea water, and sunk alongside the ships to form a breakwater to which pier sections (also towed from England) were attached. All this was done to enable the continuous offloading of reinforcements and supplies. The museum at Arromanches has a huge relief model of the entire operation and fascinating guided tours, as well as films made by war correspondents who were present during and immediately following the landings.
We also revisited the superbly preserved and very famous tapestry in Bayeux dating back over 900 years. We believe it is the world's largest tapestry (55 panels attached linearly together). It is actually considered to be a document and depicts the Norman conquest of England in 1066, by William the Conqueror.
Earlier, en route to the landing beaches, we passed through St. Lo, the first town in France liberated by an American unit subsequent to the landings. Of personal interest to us is the fact that the father of one of our bikers (Sandy Ingham, who by the way, is a minister) was a soldier in the liberating force. It was very special for us to visit the monument commemorating that historic event on the same day that Sandy visited it.
We decided to forego a revisit to the Peace Memorial in Caen which we found so interesting during our 1991 visit. What will always stand out in our recollection of that museum are the recorded voices of the French & German Generals discussing the humiliating surrender ultimatum imposed on the French by the Germans. It all took place on in the same railway car in Compiegne where in 1918 Germany was forced to surrender to the French. One hears the voices of the French Generals talking to their superiors at headquarters (via telephone), and the responses back and forth.
More biking through pastoral French countryside brought us to Calais where we took a hovercraft to Dover, England, to begin a stretch in the United Kingdom. The hovercraft experience was a "happening" which we will describe in our next update.
Meanwhile, here are some more notes about fellow bikers that you may find interesting. We have Larry Gore, who is a cousin to V.P. Al Gore. Also, our good friend Hewes Agnew is a direct relation of Spiro Agnew, the disgraced V.P. under Nixon, back in the 1960's. We also have a couple by the name of Scott and Kathleen Hooker. Scott is a direct descendent of General Hooker of Civil War fame. General Hooker was renowned for maintaining a constant stream of lovely ladies visiting him at his military headquarters. These ladies were referred to as Hooker's women, and from this, the term hooker (as in lady of the night) was coined.
On that note we will bring this edition to a close.
Continued on Update #24
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