Omaha Beach, France

By Chris Helgren

During the years of my career that I spent working in Europe, I met many veterans who fought and lost friends on World War Two battlefields.

One such occasion was in 2009, when I went to Normandy to cover the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the allied invasion that spelled the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.  

President Barack Obama arrived at the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, where more than 9,000 soldiers are buried, to pay tribute to those who gave their lives. I was only covering the Canadian contingent during this trip – a comparatively small part of the proceedings – but I vowed to return at a later date to explore the area.

Seeing the Normandy beaches nowadays, it can be hard to image the scenes that unfolded there almost 70 years ago. Below the sea of white crosses at Colleville is a beach where families now spend their summer vacations. It was here that the Americans had the toughest time making it onto land from their amphibious craft.

Where men once lay bleeding, under fire from German bunkers in the low hills, the flat sand now makes a perfect track for teenagers learning to pilot sand yachts.