Two Images of D-Day



Crater at Pointe-du-Hoc

Omaha Beach

Throughout my life, I have realized the many stages that learning can have. Sometimes stories and events can be understood relatively quickly without setting foot anywhere near where it happened. However, after visiting places like Gettysburg I realized that it takes being there myself to gain a greater appreciation of the history. My time in Normandy has been a prime example of this. Pointe-du-Hoc, where some 240 Army Rangers scaled the cliffs in the early hours on June 6, 1944, is a surreal place. Walking through the grass at Pointe-du-Hoc, across the craters left by Allied bombs seven decades ago, left me with a new perspective of D-Day. I climbed into abandoned German bunkers. Looking out across the cliffs below and along the coast I imagined the typical day of a German soldier who would have stood and gawked at this sight for months. What would it have felt like to look out one morning to see thousands of enemy ships floating towards me rather than the usually empty sea? Although it may sound obvious, standing on the same ground as those who made history so long ago adds an essential element to the understanding of what happened. The farmland and hedgerows throughout Normandy made me look at the war through the soldiers’ perspective more so than I would in a classroom. I found myself constantly putting myself in the shoes of an American GI or Nazi soldier seeing the same green fields as me under much different circumstances. One of the most dramatic sights I experienced was walking up Omaha Beach and glancing to my right at the bunker where a German machine gunner shot down dozens of Americans who stood near me. That bunker is still nestled in the hillside above the beach as it was in 1944. Though we had talked about this in class and I imagined standing there before, making that walk myself and seeing the bunker had a whole new meaning. The few days I spent in Normandy have had a profound impact on my understanding of World War II, and I am so incredibly grateful I was afforded this opportunity.

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