The fight for La Fiere Bridge near St. Mere Eglise, France
We arrived at the park in Conneaut before 9 AM when the raising of the flag signaled the Saturday reenactments of D-Day for the 72nd anniversary remembrance. Thirty thousand people were expected on that day in the small park at the edge of Lake Erie in the small town of Conneaut, Ohio.
As we entered the park, this is what we saw. Tents of the Allied encampment which was setup on Tuesday. There were 1500 volunteers in authentic uniforms Allied, Axis, French resistors and people in 40s civilian clothes. You are struck with the authenticity and seriousness of all involved. There were 200 + WW II veterans and a group of them were honored with medals awarded to them from the French government , Legion d’Honneur. We didn’t see the ceremony because we were quite away from that area and my husband’s back was hurting badly.
Back to our time there. We caught one of the golf carts given by volunteers and the woman suggested we go to the top of the bluff where the Germans were located and their tents set up. From there we could look down on the beach and walk our way down.
There were groups of scouts of all ages learning from the “living history” of the event.
Axis troops in morning formation with the officers in front. Seeing these “enemy” soldiers was a shock indeed.
The soldiers were authentic even to the four German Shepard dogs. If you look carefully, you can see one lovely dog in the middle of the front row.
This young German soldiers started me as I thought he resembled my brother George.
Here he is with his father , a local photographer complete with a 40s camera. Dad said his son started participating when he was 14 and to be that young, a parent needs to be present so he got in the spirit of the 40s with clothing and camera.
Next, we went to the beach, stood in line with Eagle Scouts this time to ride for free in one of these landing boats. The sailors told the passengers that the wake was bout 1 foot this day but on the D-Day attack, there was a storm, 6 foot wake, a 3-4 hour wait, a raging storm. . . .all in the dark. There is a quote from a German who was on the bluff above saying how impressed he was the soldiers didn’t balk especially when they landed to fire from above and dead bodies and bloody water on the beach. He said how well trained they were as soldiers. ” There was no charge for the boat rides or any reenactment . There are people with buckets to take donations but no pressure is given at all, the whole day.
From the beach we headed to Le Fiere Bridge battle reenactment.
This is the small, almost a pedestrian bridge, the spot where my brother fought, courageously was wounded, and died after being evacuated. Later he was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery. We sat on the side of the hill with a good view of the fighting. There were French resisters, Allied and German soldiers involved. We both were overcome with the emotion of it all.
Here were scouts resting on the wall of one side of the bridge when we approached. This was one of the important battles of the invasion due to logistics and I think it lasted for 3 days. There were small tanks involved as well.
It was hours until the Normandy Invasion and David was in such pain. We left but on the way to the free buses, we stopped and listened to one of the reenactors described the gear with which the parachutists jumped.
For those of you who would like to see the reenactment, I am leaving it here. The one from 2016 was not available yet. This was the one I thought was the best.
Many thanks to Eric Montgomery and many other volunteers who make this living history museum come alive for all who visited. The dates are already posted for 2017, August 18-19 and I would encourage you to attend. We hope to return next year with our family. What an interesting and touching way to experience history.
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