Normandy D-Day site gets visitor center

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Thread: Normandy D-Day site gets visitor center

  1. #1
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    Normandy D-Day site gets visitor center

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    COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France - Photos of fresh-faced privates, wizened U.S. generals and the largest amphibious military operation in history. Dented army canteens that once dotted killing fields in France. The booming sounds of gunships echoing over the waves in Normandy — this time, on video. The Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, best known for its sober rows of white grave markers honoring fallen U.S. troops in World War II, has at last gotten a visitor's center.

    Nearly a million visitors trek every year to the cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, one of the two landing points where U.S. troops stormed ashore on D-Day — June 6, 1944 — and helped the Allies rid the menace of Nazi Germany over Europe.

    Six years in the making, the new center was inaugurated recently by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates for the 63rd anniversary of the start of "Operation Overlord" that helped end the war.

    "We build memorials like this to remind us of the past. So that successive generations will know the enormous cost of freedom," Gates said at the ceremony.

    Designers faced a delicate task balancing the desire to educate while not overshadowing sacrifices of nearly 10,000 Americans buried nearby.

    The $30 million visitor center is purposely understated, with most of the 10,000-square-feet of display space underground, though it is now the entryway for tourists onto the cemetery's manicured lawn.

    "The cemetery has always had this extremely powerful emotional component," said Macarena Aristegui of the American Battle Monuments Commission, which runs the cemetery and memorial. "What was lacking was a story to go with the names written on the headstones."

    The site is one of the most visited U.S. military cemeteries in the world. It draws veterans' relatives, many of them Americans who feel proud of their country's contribution to the liberation of France and Europe, as well as veterans themselves whose numbers are dwindling — but who still have many thoughts for their fallen comrades-in-arms.

    The center displays scratched and dented weapons, photos of soldiers who carried them, and excerpts from letters they sent home. It also shows documentary films and news reports about the war's progress.

    U.S. Congressmen David Obey, D-Wis., and John Murtha, D-Pa., proposed building the center in 2001, and it was designed by French-American architect Nicolas Kelemen. The first stone was laid two years ago.

    Some 200 American World War II veterans were on hand for the center's June 6, 2007, inauguration, along with 15 who had fought on the beaches, some of whom hadn't been back since the war, Aristegui said.

    Admission to the visitor center is free. A small private room is available for veterans and their families to give them privacy before or after a visit to the cemetery.

    If You Go:

    NORMANDY AMERICAN VISITOR CENTER: http://www.abmc.gov/nvc/index.php. Four trains run daily between Paris' St. Lazare station and Bayeux, Normandy, the nearest train station to the visitor center. The trip is about 2-1/2 hours. From Bayeux, taxis are available to reach the memorial. The cemetery is open daily from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m., except for Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. Admission is free.
    “You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic.”

    ― Robert A. Heinlein,

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    Ex Member Array azchevy's Avatar
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    I need to get back there. I had the honor of visiting in 1989 when I was on a three day pass during a TDY at Woodbridge and I was in awe.

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    Reminded me of:

    "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."- Colin Powell, Sec. of State

    Further quotes to Archbishop of Canterbury
    There is nothing in American experience or in American political life or in our culture that suggests we want to use hard power. But what we have found over the decades is that unless you do have hard power — and here I think you're referring to military power — then sometimes you are faced with situations that you can't deal with.

    I mean, it was not soft power that freed Europe. It was hard power. And what followed immediately after hard power? Did the United States ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe? No. Soft power came in the Marshall Plan. Soft power came with American GIs who put their weapons down once the war was over and helped all those nations rebuild. We did the same thing in Japan.

    So our record of living our values and letting our values be an inspiration to others I think is clear. And I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of or apologize for with respect to what America has done for the world.

    We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own, you know, to seek our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace. But there comes a time when soft power or talking with evil will not work where, unfortunately, hard power is the only thing that works.

    Far from being the Great Satan, I would say that we are the Great Protector. We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression. We defeated Fascism. We defeated Communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II. We were willing to do it, glad to do it. We went to Korea. We went to Vietnam. All in the interest of preserving the rights of people.

    And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and conquer? Did we say, "Okay, we defeated Germany. Now Germany belongs to us? We defeated Japan, so Japan belongs to us"? No. What did we do? We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.
    Quemadmodum gladius neminem occidit, occidentis telum est.-Seneca

    "If you carry a gun, people will call you paranoid. If I have a gun, what do I have to be paranoid about?" -Clint Smith

    "An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it." -Jeff Cooper

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    VIP Member Array TN_Mike's Avatar
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    I would like to go there, to see the site where the beginning of the invasion that saved the world started.

    In fact, it is the single only reason that I want to go to France. I have no interest in seeing any other part of that country.
    ,=====o00o _
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    My father was a member of that "greatest generation,"--he went ashore at D +12, which did earn him a bronze arrowhead for his European-African-Middle Eastern campaign medal (and later on, four campaign stars as well). I miss him every day, as well as his entire generation, who fought in Europe and the Pacific. I wish they were still here.

    We need them.

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    Distinguished Member Array Colin's Avatar
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    My Uncle ran Landing craft onto Sword beach.

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    Senior Member Array Duisburg's Avatar
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    the war is over and I think that maybe I will see normandy sometime soon, maybe this year.

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    Distinguished Member Array Colin's Avatar
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    On another forum (tanknet) some of the guys attending the ceremonies on June 6th said there was some German veterans there who were well received by the Allied veterans. For the them the war is over and it is about shared experiences and grief.

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    Distinguished Member Array Doc Holliday's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by falcon1 View Post
    I wish they were still here.
    We need them.
    Don't dispair. They probably wished that their fathers and grandfathers were around too back then.

    I think that we have learned some great lessons from those men. Every generation of Americans have faced struggles and they made it through. We will too! Maybe I am to optimistic, but I think most of us are cut from the same cloth as these great men were.
    Why Ike, whatever do you mean? Maybe poker's just not your game Ike. I know! Let's have a spelling contest!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Holliday View Post
    Don't dispair. They probably wished that their fathers and grandfathers were around too back then.
    I think you hit the nail on the head, there. Good point!

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