Trip to France and the WWII Allied Invasion of Normandy (2010)

Saving Private Niland
Saving Private Niland

For another fascinating visit to Europe (really, do we go on any that are boring?), Suzanne and I drove from Paris down to the Dordogne region of southern France to look at 35,000 year-old cave drawings (such as those in the Lascaux area), visit Medieval chateaux marking the battle lines of the Hundred Years’ War, and paddle kayaks down the scenic Dordogne River, which meandered peacefully through the rolling French country side. After visiting the south of France, we made our way up to Brittany and Normandy, before returning to Paris.

In addition to pictures of the Dordogne, this photo album features photography of the Loire river valley and, most memorably, the battlefields associated with the D-Day invasion of Normandy in June 1944, including the site of the first engagement of the fabled 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, known in the superb Steven Spielberg series as the “Band of Brothers.”  (The series was based upon a book by the same title, written by the late Stephen Ambrose.)

Since my first posting of this photo album on Picasa, Dick Winters, who led “Easy Company” in many of its European engagements, has passed on; and efforts by others to have him awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his courageous leadership on D-Day appear to be fading away. However, thanks to funds raised in the U.S. — including nearly $100,000 collected by 11-year-old Jordan Brown selling commemorative bracelets — on 6 June 2012, a 12-foot-tall $250,000 bronze statue of Winters was erected on the site of the assault he led against a German artillery battery near Utah Beach, on that fateful day in 1944.

In this presentation, I offer my take as to why so many Americans lost their lives while assaulting the other major landing point for U.S. seaborne troops — Omaha Beach — despite one of the heaviest aerial and naval bombardments of enemy defensive positions in history.

I also walk you through the story of the U.S. rangers who first scaled the key German artillery position at Pointe du Hoc — and then, with reduced numbers, had to defend the position for two more days until relieved.

Lastly, I include as a brief footnote to this major event in U.S. military history the true story of the Niland Brothers — a poignant tale upon which another outstanding Spielberg production, Saving Private Ryan, was based.

When you are ready to view the presentation, click on the following link:

Trip to France (Photo Show)

Tips for viewing photo albums on Google’s Picasa:

1.  Click on “Slideshow” at the top left of your screen, right underneath the title.
2.  As soon as the opening photo comes into view, immediately click on the pause button located at the bottom of the screen.
3.  O.K., once you have paused the presentation, click on the “+” sign (also at the bottom) to increase the time for each slide from its default of 3 seconds (which is way to fast) to perhaps as much as 6-8 seconds.
4.  Select “F11” on the top row of your keyboard (for PCs) to fill your entire screen with the picture.
5.  Now click on the “play” button to resume the presentation.
(The other option is just to advance the slides with the arrow keys.)

Explore a Little Further

After viewing our web album via the above link, if you would like to dig a little deeper into some of the subject matter, I’d recommend that you view the following presentations by clicking on the links to them:

Prehistoric Cave Art
Click on the above link to reach a beautiful interactive site featuring a tour of the cave paintings of Lascaux in the south of France.  To select English, move your cursor to the left edge of the screen, and then down to the bottom of the pop-out menu to click on the English flag.

Pointe du Hoc
Watch a nicely done YouTube video about the Ranger assault on Pointe Du Hoc, which includes President Ronald Reagan’s speech on the 40th anniversary of D-Day.

Band of Brothers Engagement at Brécort Manor

For an excellent portrayal of Easy Company’s assault on the German guns at Brécort Manor, check out Episode Two of the mini-series, Band of Brothers.  You’ll probably have to stream it from Netflix or some other online movie company.  WARNING:  Contains graphic violence and language.

Tank Demonstration
Click on the above link to view my short video of a WWII armored vehicle demonstration at the Airborne Museum in Ste.-Mère-Eglise.  WARNING:  Contains footage of stupid photographer almost getting run over by tank.  (I’m not telling who that photographer was. . . . but it sort of explains why this video segment is a tad wobbly.)

Enjoy!

– Bruce

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