The Longest Day
Our visit to The Museum of the Pegasus Bridge Campaign takes us back to the British 6th Airborne Division’s capture of the bridge which was instrumental in deterring a German counter attack. They were the first liberators to arrive in Normandy in the dark of night on June 5, 1944 in advance of the June 6 D-Day invasion. The bridge might sound familiar from the 1962 film, The Longest Day. Glider flyers and paratroopers landed in French cities on June 5.
Before visiting the Museum, we have lunch near the Pegasus Bridge Cafe which looks much as it did in June 1944. We are warned that the owner insists on a purchase to visit and photograph memorabilia inside the cafe.
The museum includes a replica of a Horsa Glider and a Bailey Bridge (images below). These light-weight, portable pre-fabricated bridges, an invention of Englishman Donald Bailey, could be constructed quickly without special tools, and were used extensively throughout the war.
Many feel that history hasn’t given these 139 heroes enough credit, their stories lost in the bigger picture of the events that week. Twenty men to a glider, many died or were captured. You can read a first person account here
Caen Peace Memorial
This memorial and its excellent museum provide the history of WW2 beginning at the end of WW1. The factors contributing to WW2 are detailed in moving and disturbing year-by-year, country-by-country accounts. I decided against visiting the Holocaust room, having seen much of that history at Dachau, Nuremberg and elsewhere along the trip. The sorrow is unforgettable.
Although we’ve seen many documentaries on the war during our travels, the films at this exhibit are helpful. It’s difficult to understand how French citizens of Vichy France could carry on as if nothing had changed. Of course, many were underground fighters and others wanted to be in the best position possible if Germany won the war, which seemed likely early on.
The “total war” exhibit is disturbing. When all sides were frustrated, they countered Germany’s bombing of cities with bombing of their own- killing citizens anonymously (now called collateral damage). The exhibit also focuses on the impact and methods of brainwashing used in the media at that time.
Next time: Normandy Landing
Ann Otto writes fiction based on factual as well as oral history. Her debut novel, Yours in a Hurry, about Ohio siblings relocating to California in the 1910’s, is available on-line at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at locations listed on her website at www.ann-otto.com. Ann’s academic background is in history, English, and behavioral science, and she has published in academic and professional journals. She loves speaking with groups about all things history, writing, and the events, locations, and characters from Yours in a Hurry. She is currently working on her next novel, Little Diamonds, about Ohio’s Appalachia in the 1920’s, and preparing for future works by blogging about a recent World War 2 European tour. She can be reached through the website, or on Facebook @Annottoauthor or www.Goodreads.com.