Normandy Academy: Remembering the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen
The students of the Normandy Academy spent three days honoring the efforts of the infantry, the airborne, and the Navy. The combined efforts of these three forces enabled the Allies to establish a beachhead, capture important objectives in Normandy, and ultimately break out on the Road to Berlin.
On Omaha Beach, students explored several German strongpoints, included WN-62. Through exploring the terrain, trenches, and gun positions, the difficulty of the mission became clear. Carey Burton of Chicago explains, “on the high ground, the Germans could see them coming from below, which was a great advantage for the defenders.”
In the hedgerows, Susanna Sigler explained to the group that the fighting was done, “hedgerow by hedgerow and field by field.” Stéphane Lamache, the Director of the Airborne Museum in Ste Mere Eglise, added that often the weather was very damp, meaning that the paths had turned to mud, making mobility even more difficult.
Stopping at the church in the village of Angoville Au Plain allowed the students to hear the story of two American medics from the 101st Airborne Division who treated anyone who entered the church without a weapon as battles raged around them. A stained glass window pays tribute to these two paratroopers.
To explore the Navy’s contributions to D-Day, the students boarded the Etoile Magique, a research vessel currently mapping wreckage at the bottom of the English Channel. The students were able to discuss the use of sonar, remotely operated submarines, and divers to locate and map wrecks leftover from 1944.
The trip to Normandy ends on Thursday, July 18 when the students visit the graves of their chosen soldiers and honor them with a eulogy.