Today we largely focused on the American contribution to D-Day, but we had some unique and reflective stops before then. At the D-Day Academy, everyone was so excited for hands on experience with vehicles, weapons and clothing. In my case, I was able to better understand the soldiers and equipment of the battles we have been studying during our tour. I never released how heavy the rifles were, or how coarse the fabric of the Canadian uniforms were. I think it brought history to life for just a bit. I understand artillery, vehicles, and soldiers just a bit better now.
The most challenging and potent part of the day for me was the La Combe German War Cemetery. For one, it’s interesting to contrast it between the British, Canadian, and (from later in the day) American Cemeteries. They usually have at least two soldiers per grave, and they use grey stone as opposed to the white of the Allied ones. In many ways, it feels a lot darker at La Combe, because of the layout but even more so from those buried there. I saw the grave of Adolf Diekmann, who was in charge of the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane, and I didn’t know what to think. At the same time, Marc showed me the graves of a couple teenagers. It makes me all question how soldiers from both sides of the war should be commemorated, how to define evil, and how I should reconcile history with modern commemoration.
The rest of the day was pretty interesting. We went to Pointe-du-Hoc to see where the Rangers scaled the cliffs, Omaha Beach, and the battery at Longues-sur-Mer. It was interesting to see some American sites on top of the Canadian ones because it provides a wider context for WWII and gives me a better understanding of Canada’s role within the entire Normandy Campaign.