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U.S. Marines Visit Normandy

MORÓN AIR BASE, Spain – The waves crashed onto Normandy beach and the wind blew strong, waving flags displayed near the monuments, as U.S. Marines and Sailors visited the sites, remembering the thousands of men who fought and died in the Allied Invasion of Normandy during World War II.

The Marines and Sailors were assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response – Africa. They visited historical sites in Normandy, France, from Dec. 27-28, 2014, as part of a professional military education battlefield study of the Allied Invasion of Normandy, commonly known as D-Day. While there, they visited Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

The first day was spent on Omaha Beach, where the Marines and Sailors were able to walk the coast, observe the landing sites from German defensive positions, and tour the gravesites of the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. On the second day, the Marines and Sailors visited the site of the famed Ranger assault at Pointe du Hoc, toured the memorials and museum at Utah Beach, and drove through the drop zones used by the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.

One Marine, Cpl. Robert Bowden, an infantryman assigned to SPMAGTF-CR-AF, found a personal link to D-Day on his visit. His great-uncle, Pvt. Barney B. Bowden, was a member of the 313th Infantry Regiment 79th Infantry Division. Pvt. Bowden fought heroically against the Nazi German Army and died on June 7, 1944, being posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

“When I told my father about our opportunity to visit Normandy, he told me to look for my great uncle,” said Bowden. “I looked for his name at visitor’s center and was able to find his headstone where I said a little prayer and thought about what he did that day.”

When asked about the overall experience of visiting Normandy, Bowden responded, “When we went to Omaha beach I was able to get some sand and stop to think. I was humbled thinking about all the soldiers fought on the very sand I was standing on.”

The battlefield study provided historical context and enhanced appreciation for the challenges and successes regarding the Allied landings on Normandy, from the planning to the execution.

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