23 July 2009
This embattled shore, portal of freedom, is forever hallowed by the ideals, the valor and the scarifices of our fellow countrymen... ...
This embattled shore, portal of freedom, is forever hallowed by the ideals, the valor and the scarifices of our fellow countrymen...
THE words around the memorial at the American Cemetery above Omaha Beach say it all, not just for the Americans but for those of many nations who took part in that momentous assault on Fortress Europe 65 years ago.
Utah, Omaha, Gold, Sword, Juno, Pointe du Hoc, Pegasus Bridge, St. Mère Eglise…places of pilgrimage for the veterans who returned this June and magnets for the thousands of visitors, re-enactors and military vehicle enthusiasts who came to honour them and take part in what may be the last major commemorations.
For those fortunate enough to be in Normandy it was an unforgettable experience.
The main ceremonies at the American Cemetery at Collville-sur-Mer above Omaha
Beach, at the British Cemetery at Bayeux and at Arromanches were mirrored by many small thanksgivings in the flag-bedecked towns and villages of Normandy.
On June 6th at the American Cemetery President Obama told the huge audience: “The sheer improbability of this victory is part of what makes D-Day so memorable…
“What we must not forget is that D-Day was a time and a place where the bravery and the selflessness of a few was able to change the course of an entire century. At an hour of maximum danger, amid the bleakest of circumstances, men who thought themselves ordinary found within themselves the ability to do something extraordinary.”
5th Ranger Infantry Battalion
Amongst the many who did something extraordinary was 84-year-old US Ranger Veteran James W. Gabaree who landed with A Company 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion on Omaha Beach on the morning of D-Day, blew the wire defending the sea wall, climbed the cliff and, with just 22 others, fought his way across five miles of German occupied fields and hedgerows to reach Pointe du Hoc where men of the 2nd Rangers were holding out under constant fire following their spectacular 100ft climbing assault.
- A full version of this feature is published in the July/August issue of Armourer magazine.