On our first full day in Normandy we went to a few important places in the Battle of Normandy. The first location that we visited was Pegasus Bridge, so named for the fly horse symbol of the 6th British Airborne Division. This division was a specially trained unit of glider troops that landed just after midnight on June 6th, 1944. Their objective was to secure and maintain control of Pegasus Bridge, and Emily gave a wonderful site report that outlined the attack and its critical part in Operation Overlord. Emily also shared an interesting anecdote about the fight for Pegasus Bridge, and quoted Stephen Ambrose in regards to its importance. Emily told the group that at one point, a single anti-tank shot made the difference in securing the bridge, and Ambrose extrapolates in his book that the battle essentially won the invasion. This fascinates me because so many important events occurred that heavily influenced the outcome of the war. If any part of the invasion on the beaches of Normandy changed, the entire operation could have failed. While I normally do not dabble in theoretical history, this idea captivates my interest. The thought that one shot in the entirety of the war could have changed the outcome of a battle, operation, and world history is unfathomable to my consciousness.
Another subject, which I repeatedly find myself struggling to comprehend, is that an event can occur and create a different perspective for every person. We spent the next portion of our day in Caen, the primary objective for the Allies in the overall strategic plan of the invasion. The group visited The Caen Memorial, a museum that covers history from the First World War to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The detailed and organized exhibitions caused us to spend over 3 hours in the museum. The entire site was immensely helpful to my understanding of these histories because it presented a French perspective on the events. What was most interesting to me was the infusion of the French Resistance into the museum. During the past semester in classes and in my own research, I have learned that there was a myth created by Charles de Gaulle that the French Resistance was much larger and more influential during the war. Throughout the exhibits, I constantly saw hyperbolic language referencing the number and influence of the French Resistance. Often this did not include any sort of historical evidence. Also, the French museums focus more onn the destruction and effects on civilian life than most countries. This is important because the Germans controlled France for the majority of WWII, and so they have a closer affinity to the effects of war on life.
This is a portion of history that I believe is very important, and I strive to understand and consider the effects of perspective. The American experience and outlook is starkly different from the Italian, French, Polish, British, Russian, German, or Japanese experience. The thoughts, opinions, and backgrounds of those people, coupled with the events and battles create a unique wartime view for each country and each person as well. The stones outside of the memorial further emphasized this concept, as each country sent a different message to commemorate Normandy. Each country had a different reason for fighting in the war, and the result and the involvement had a different significance for their people.