At Pointe-du-Hoc in Normandy with The Lad, Reed, for the annual D-Day commemoration the clouds were roiling, the rain was steady, and the wind was blustery.
Just like June 6, 1944 when 270 Rangers were ordered to destroy the German 155 mm heavy gun emplacements atop the cliffs. The craters from bombs and naval bombardment - some well over 10 feet deep even after 68 years - were still visible.
As were the huge chunks of reinforced concrete that one moment had been a heavily fortified bunker, and the next were a series of giant blocks strewn about like a child's Legos.
It was just like it had been. The difference was, we were standing atop the cliffs looking down at the beach, not standing on the pebbled beach staring up the face of the cliffs. We were wearing cameras and light rain gear, not 70+ pounds of soaked equipment.
Of these men, President Ronald Reagan said at the 40th Anniversary of D-Day:
The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again.
They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.
Another difference: No one was shooting at us.
We walked along Omaha Beach which, at low tide, is about a quarter mile from the water's edge to the bottom of the bluffs. Again the weather was dicey, just like it had been when the first waves of humans came ashore to free Europe from the grip of the Nazis.
The only difference was the beach was flat, the sand was hard, there were maybe a dozen people doing what we were doing unlike June 6, 1944 at dawn when the Allies assaulted a beach some 35 miles from end-to-end covered with barbed wire, metal obstacles, mines, and having no idea if they would survive the next step, much less the rest of the day.
And, no one was shooting at us.
The reason Reed and I were in Normandy was because we have been talking about taking a trop there for decades and this year The Mullings Director of Standards & Practices decided we were going; and so we went.
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