One of the first places I knew we would be traveling to when we received our orders to Germany was Normandy. My grandfather, Edward H. Boggs, had jumped in Operation Neptune, leading up to the D-Day invasions (Operation Overlord). A fact I knew growing up, but never really heard about. Like so many from that generation, he held that time in his life with a sort of reverence. I vaguely remember small pieces of stories, but it wasn’t until he passed away in October 1999, at his memorial service, that I began to gain a greater understanding of how much he had done. You won’t find his name on any memorials or hero’s list, but for me and many in my family, there couldn’t have been a greater man.
We started our first full day in Normandy dedicated to exploring the WWII memorials and sites. Stop one was the town of Sainte Mère Église. From some of my grandpa’s military records, I knew he was part of the 82nd Airborne Division that jumped in this area. Mère Église has a nice museum dedicated to the Airborne units that helped liberate the town and surrounding areas in early June 1944. The museum was undergoing some construction while we were there. They were finishing installing another building in preparations for this year’s 70th D-Day anniversary.
The existing buildings that we were able to enter looked as though they had seen better days. But it was still fascinating to look at the equipment and gear the soldiers fought with. I particularly enjoyed all of the photos showing the town before the invasion and after. Make sure if you go, to watch the short documentary. It was very enlightening and kid appropriate.
In the center of the town is the church. A bit silly, is the dummy hanging by his parachute from the top of the church. Representative of John M. Steele, a soldier who got stuck on the church during the invasion (it’s an interesting story, I encourage you to follow the link and read it). He’s a bit of a celebrity in the area.
Inside the church is this amazing stained glass window. Seeing how much this town has embraced Americans and what the Allied forces accomplished stirred a mixture of emotions in me, from pride to humility.
The church itself is relatively small, but worth the visit.
Walking these streets, it’s hard to imagine that fierce fighting once took place here.
We walked around the town for a while. Luckily for us, there was a farmer’s market going on near the church. We picked up some bread, Camembert cheese, and half of a cold duck for lunch. That combined with some fresh fruit we had purchased before setting out for the day made a great picnic lunch. The Hubs and I also tried the local Calvados, which the region is known for, and bought a bottle of aperitif to take home.
I had thought it would take us much longer to explore Sainte Mère Église. With a full afternoon and evening ahead of us, we were off to our next stop, La Fière bridge, the location where my grandpa jumped and fought.