Normandy Academy Visits Battle Sites
The 2013 Normandy Academy students have completed their third day touring in Normandy. On the evening of July 11, the students met André Heintz, a 93-year-old native of Caen who was in the French Resistance from 1940-44. Mssr. Heintz told stories of listening to the BBC via a secret radio that he hid inside a spinach can and of secretly observing the German defenses in and around Caen to pass along. After his presentation, he joined the students for dinner and answered their questions for the rest of the evening.
On Saturday, July 12, the students experienced a full day of touring in the British and Canadian sectors. The first stop was at Pegasus Bridge, the site of the first Allied victory of D-Day. At 12:16 am, Major John Howard led three Horsa Gliders that landed just meters from the bridge. Minutes later, the bridge belonged to the British 6th Airborne Division. Other sites for the day included a German gun battery at Longues sur Mer, The Museum of the Atlantic Wall, and the remnants of Mulberry B in Arromanches.
While at the bridge, Natalie McDonald of Los Angeles, CA, described the training that American soldiers underwent in England and the relations between American and British soldiers. She related that one American training manual said, “The British may not make a good cup of coffee, but you cannot make a good cup of tea.” Overall, she commented on how well the troops worked together to achieve objectives.
On Sunday, July 13, the day began with a visit to La Fiere Bridge. Before departing New Orleans, the students heard WWII veteran Tom Blakey, a member of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, discuss his actions that led to the capture of the bridge over the Merderet River. Mr. Blakey told them the stories of firing on columns of individual soldiers and the years it took him to overcome the trauma of war. Standing in the places in which he fought was an emotional experience for all of the students.
After departing La Fiere, the next stops were Ste Mere Eglise, Brecourt Manor, Utah Beach, and the German Cemetery at La Cambe. At each stop, a different student presented his or her own research on the landmark and its significance to the overall mission in Normandy.
Upcoming stops include Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, the Normandy American Cemetery, and a quick visit to the Bayeux Tapestry.