Monday, February 1, 2010

D-Day Assault: Day Three

Today we went in search of the Maisy batteries, but never found them--and went on to look at Utah Beach, the farthest debarkation point on D-Day. It's beautiful country, with huge dunes like you find in Michigan, grasses waving.

Farmland rolls away from the sea. Cows and horses grazing, two donkeys that came up to greet me when I got out of the car to take their picture.

Hedgerows lined the rows and fields, the paratroopers' nemesis as they tried to move inland.

We took a wrong turn on our way to St. Mere-Eglise and, serendipitously, came upon the best battlements we've seen so far. A whole string of them, one of them gargantuan, along the dunes--and a working farm no more than five-hundred yards behind it. The Germans would surely have occupied it. Today, though, the farmer was his tractor, working in the fields. We walked the length of them, amazed to consider how ominous they must have looked to soldiers coming out of the boats. The others were up high, mostly hidden (except, that day, for the smoke and fire). These, though--you'd be able to see them from way out on the water.

We came upon a remnant of one of the "mulberries" that had washed up on the beach, rusty and green with algae, but you could see the structure of it--and the hook on the end nearest the water by which it had been dragged from England by a ship.

Back on the road, we found St. Mere-Eglise, eventually--and visited the museum there, where I came upon this photo (no names, no label) that looks disconcertingly like my (younger) self.

All the stranger for the fact that when I was here in'94, I stood at the edge of the American cemetery, gazed out at the landscape of fields that looked a lot like Indiana and saw in my mind's eye a young soldier waking to that view, thinking he was in Indiana--then reality slowing dawning on him. He was in France, in a farmhouse, being tended to by a family who'd taken him in when he was left for dead.

There was a girl in the family...

And when he comes back, all those years later for the fiftieth anniversary of the landings, he sees a man who looks almost exactly like his younger self.

I don't know what happens from there. I guess I should write it and find out.


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