With my back to the water at Utah Beach, my feet in the incredibly soft sand, with families lounging on towels and tourists quietly walking, I look up at the bank. It’s hard to imagine that 67 years earlier one of the fiercest battles in military history partially took place right here. I can’t wrap my head around that.
There are tributes, of course, but they pale in significance to what took place then. Perhaps that is as it should be. There is no way to fully memorialize a place like this. As Lincoln said at Gettysburg, the consecration of such a place happens DURING the event, not in the words and memorials that follow.
I wander among the tributes, taking photos, feeling so fortunate to be doing my shooting here with a camera and not a gun. How many people, like me, perhaps BECAUSE of what happened at places like this, get to be tourists with no worries of being attacked or needing to defend? Do the ghosts mock us? Are they offended? Or are they proud? What roll of the dice places me here in 2011 and others here in 1944?
I’ve chosen this photo to further summarize our introduction to the D-Day beaches, taken inside the new Utah Beach Museum. Here is what the card says:
“The first American flag raised on Utah Beach, on the first enemy bunker captured at dawn on D-Day. It continued to fly up to the 11th of November 1944, the day the 1st Engineers Special Brigade memorial was inaugurated. Donated by General Eugene M. Caffey, 6th June 1954.”