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Normandy Academy: From the Beaches to the Falaise Gap

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IMG_2195After over a week in New Orleans and Normandy, the Normandy Academy students are nearing the end of their trip. They have enjoyed perfect weather throughout with sunny skies and only one evening rain shower. Cool breezes have kept the beach visits pleasant and marked a major change from their time in New Orleans.

On Friday, June 26, the day began with a visit to Ste-Mere-Eglise, where the students heard the story of the paratoopers of the 82nd Airborne Division who liberated the town. Specifically, they learned of the heroism of Gretna, LA native John P. Ray who saved the lives of both John Steele and Ken Russel shortly after receiving a wound that would prove fatal. The students then applied their knowledge of the paratroop drop to future campaigns by discussing the lessons learned in Normandy.

Debates and discussions continued throughout the site visits. At Utah Beach, the students debated the addition of the beach through a risk/reward scenario. On Omaha, the students discussed the flight patterns of the bombing raids, and in the Falaise Gap, they debated several issues involving the French civilians who found themselves caught in the crossfire.

A powerful experience came in the evening on June 28 as the students met French Resistance members Andre Heintz and Collette Marin-Catherine. The students heard the firsthand accounts of struggling against the German occupation against a general backdrop of hardship for all French civilians. After the discussion, Heintz and Marin-Catherine joined the students for dinner at Café Mancel inside the Caen Castle.

For more information on the Normandy Academy, call 504-528-1944, ext. 257 or email travel@nationalww2museum.org.

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