The 70th Anniversary of D-Day Commemoration
June 3rd thru June 10th 2014.

Big, Bigger, Biggest just about sums up the 2014 Normandy Commemorations…

Never before in thirty years of visiting the region had I seen so many people there; local authorities estimated roughly 800.000 people attended one or more commemoration ceremonies during D-Day week. The amount of WW2 vintage Military vehicles was reminiscent of the 1984 and 1989 editions.



The Official Poster for the 70th Commemorations, seen all over the region

Well prepared, we set out on Tuesday 3rd June in our vans packed with gear and vintage bicycles which we hoped would get us through traffic jams and road blocks on busy moments. For months I had collected all event schedules and before leaving a full plan of action was stuck inside the van. Since there were commemorations and parades all over the place it was clear from the beginning we were going to have to choose which events were worth and possible attending and which not.



Crazy but very handy... Events Calender stuck in the back of the van

Driving towards Normandy went very smoothly and once in Caen, I took the scenic route towards the coast and before long we could stretch our legs on the bluffs overlooking Arromanches and the remnants of the artificial harbor there. Seems the sea is slowly but steadily taking the breakwater caissons away…



My American pal Bryan with a view of the Arromanches Harbor remains...

Moving on to our B&B, and after checking in, we went to the Pointe Du Hoc, only a short walk from our lodging…

Being collectors and knowing a couple of fairs were organized of course we tried to visit them… However the one at Ste Mere Eglise on Wednesday was so busy, we didn’t even bother queuing up… Rather than just losing time waiting we visited the extension of the AB Museum in the village which does look rather nice, especially the C47 experience…



The Airborne Museum in Ste Mere Eglise now houses some nice lifesize displays in the new extension building

Moving down to Ste Come Du Mont would see us visiting the Dead Man’s Corner Museum site and the GGME II Exhibition put on by Mike De Trez and the DMC crew… Having seen the 1994 Carentan display and the GGME I back in 2004, we just knew it was going to be spectacular and we were not disappointed…



For more information about the 2014 GGME 2, click on the banner above....

We then drove back towards Pointe du Hoc where dozens of WW2 Dodge Trucks came together on the parking grounds. Some were very common but others were extremely rare and on their first outing since restoration.

   

Extremely rare 3/4 Ton Series Dodges: WC-55 on the left and WC-60 on the right

Continuing our expo marathon we made our way to Isigny where a couple of local collectors displayed artefacts from their D-Day related collections. The displays there were absolutely breathtaking…

   

   

D-Day GIs at the Isigny Exhibition

What had become a rather busy first day came to a close with a seafood platter with collector friends in a local restaurant…

Carentan held its own fair on Thursday 5th June and with free entrance and a lot less people around it was great to visit and even pick up some nice items. After the show we walked into the local vehicle area dubbed Camp Arizona with a great quality of vehicles and re-enactors… Meeting up with some authors and the editor of the French Militaria Magazine and getting some new books was inevitable.



The French Militaria Magazine book stall with authors autographing their work



A freshly restored Dodge VC-1 Command Car leading other early Dodges at Carentan's Camp Arizona

From there we got back on the packed streets and visited Ste Marie du Mont, busier than ever and decided to turn back towards Omaha Beach to visit the Overlord Museum near the American Cemetery. The museum opened in 2013 and some fascinating displays have been added since. A special tribute to the 2AD Hell on Wheels was shown with a recreation of the famous Freitos picture.

   

Temporary display honoring Joseph Freitos of the 2nd Armored Division at the Overlord Museum

As in 2009 huge simultaneous fireworks were to be held on the five main invasion beaches all along the coastline and to avoid traffic, we walked to the Pointe du Hoc to see the display. It may not have been the best place to watch it, but at least we were within walking distance of our room…

Then came D-Day 6th June, exactly 70 years to the day. The main commemoration with heads of state including President Obama was planned in Ouistreham on Sword Beach to the extreme East of the landing zone, so we weren’t really bothered. But POTUS also came to the US Cemetery which resulted in a large area being blocked for most of the day. So sun and roadblocks convinced us to get our WW2 bicycles out to get to Omaha Beach for some sightseeing… With cheese and baguette packed in a 1945 Coca Cola crate we picked up from a street seller along the way we rode up and down Omaha Beach with Ospreys and Marine 1 hovering overhead and had lunch along the way.



Three original WW2 US Army bicycles on Omaha Beach

   

Hauling French Cheese and Baguette with the Obama Air Force flying overhead



Lunch behind Omaha Beach...

At the Vierville Draw a new monument honoring the 29th Division’s 116th Infantry Regiment was inaugurated right next to the US Army National Guard Monument which has stood there since 1964.



The 29th Division Monument similar although smaller than its counterpart at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia

Heading back along the coast, we rode to Pointe du Hoc for another visit and continued to travel all around the invasion area visiting friends along the way.



USMF members meeting up for a chat and a ... drink...

By the time we woke up on the 7th, the weather had completely changed and it was raining cats and dogs which however didn’t prevent us from going to the Vierville fair to see if we could add something to our collection… And of course we did…

That afternoon saw the gathering of hundreds of WW2 Jeeps organised by several G503.com members and the sight of so many Jeeps caused a rather substantial traffic jam on the N13 passing by the Catz Tank Museum which hosted the meeting.



Jeeps galore at the Normandy 2014 G503 Jeep Gathering...

We then continued to the Utah Beach area seeing the sight there and having a drink in the well know Roosevelt Café.

Later that evening we found ourselves back in Sainte Mere Eglise where slowly but steadily people started to arrive to party in the main square and see the fireworks display next to the church, rendered famous by ‘The Longest Day’ movie. The center of Ste Mere Eglise had been completely refurbished over winter and was ready to accept the thousands of people wanting to spend a nice evening there…



Fireworks in the village square... only in France!!!

Until now we had spent most of our time in the American Sector but the parade of British vehicles in Bayeux was something we didn’t want to miss. There hadn’t been a real parade in Bayeux for several years and having attended the 1989 edition there, we knew it was going to be another great event. We made it just in time to see dozens of nicely restored British and Canadian vehicles going through the city.



A Bedford QL lorry in the British vehicle parade...

The Sunday Parachute Jump on the original La Fiere Drop Zone has become a tradition and seeing the nice hot weather and anticipating the huge traffic trouble around the Ste Mere area, after leaving Bayeux we parked the van in Picauville and got the bikes out again. Cycling between hundreds of cars queuing to get to the event was absolutely fantastic. There must have been hundreds of RVs in the area as the landscape turned white. In no time we rode past the DZ and into Ste Mere to meet up with collector friends on the vehicle camp there. Spending most of the afternoon there, our bicycles attracted a lot of attention with people inquiring more about them.



People like a bike...

   

My 1942 Huffman bicycle on historical grounds...

By Monday many people had left and the region had become far less crowded then the previous days. Getting around became a lot easier and acces to museums and displays was smooth and fast. We had been to the Catz Tank Museum last year but the displays have improved a lot in the last few months and another visit was well deserved.

   



The Catz Tank Museum has both quantity AND quality...

Driving further down we visited the Quineville Museum and the Balloon Hangar at Ecausseville. It was contructed during the Great War and was used by the US Army as a depot in 1944.



The huge concrete hangar in the middle of the Normandy fields...

After getting some gifts and souvenirs in Ste Mere we came across a nice privately organised exhibition displaying dug artefacts from the grounds of the 25th General Hospital in Carentan. Some amazing items were to be seen there.



Dug 29th helmet and M1911A1 pistol from the Carentan area...

The last evening of our week in Normandy was spent in Arromanches which was very quiet by now.



The Arromanches Seawall held this huge billboard...



Realistic BSA Folding Bicycle mural at Arromanches...

Tuesday 10th June was our final day in the region and was spent returning home after a great week in France wondering what the 75th will be like….

 

 

Please go to the next page for a review of the 2009 Commemorations