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    • They said this was the last major ceremony to honor the veterans of D-Day because the youngest of them are 94 and the commemorations occur 5 years apart.

      Our neighborhood had just lost a beloved vet at 95 who had given us so much insight into the war and his generation, so my history-buff buddy Phil and I bought tickets to Normandy. It was the trip of a lifetime.

      The first thing I’ll never forget is how the crowds treated these very old men as rock stars. This vet stood for hours at the American Cemetery greeting the crowds and being besieged by the press:

      The store windows were painted:

      There were banners on the street poles:

      There were framed photos in cathedrals:

      There was stained glass with paratroopers next to Mother Mary:

      And there were military escorts. Phil and I have stories of talking to vets, that made both of us cry from sadness, gratitude and joy.

    • The second thing that amazed us was the devotion to restoring WWII equipment and bringing it there for the week from faraway places. Phil had a great conversation in German with this father-daughter pair — Germans — who drove their American Jeep from Germany. It took them three days.

      This group was from Germany too and I asked if Phil could sit in their Jeep for a photo. They were having a great time commemorating D-Day:

      Everywhere we went there were Jeeps, motorcycles, trucks, tanks, aircraft, amphibious craft:

      It was hard to know who were enthusiasts and who were involved in some organization that preserves things like tanks. Anyone know?

      I'll have a whole motorcycle story to do on ADVrider, but here's a taste:

      These kept flying low overhead:

    • There were 7 days of commemoration, but on the day the heads of state came to speak, Phil and I split up — he to the Macron/Trump speeches at the American Cemetery, me to the British with Teresa May/Prince Charles. 

      Phil had to take shuttle busses and next to him in line was a vet. I wasn’t there to take a pic, but this one of Phil with a vet from the day before shows how he loves to talk to them:

      The vet fascinated Phil with stories of what it was like to be there, and then a black van came to fetch him and take him to the ceremony. A few hours later, Phil sat in the audience and watched Macron bestow him The Legion of Honour, France’s highest award. 

      (I don't know if this is him, this image is credit The Washington Post):

    • The British ceremony had the same kind treatment of the vets as VIPs had. The crowds cheered them:

      Even Theresa May and Prince Charles got lesser (but still honored) treatment:

      Someone like @lula2488 could tell us if this is the Royal Scottish Regiment tuning up and marching, or?

      A digital tuning device for the bagpipes. Who knew?

      There was also a marching band:

      There were plenty of other badass-looking troops and vets pouring in:

      This vet was far too young to have fought in WWII: he was only 92. But he strode down the street like a 62-year-old who owned it.

    • The third thing that blew us away was standing there, imagining the scale, trying to grasp how the world changed due to the events we commemorate so passionately.

      Here is the German brass entering a high school that served as the allied command center, to surrender:

      We stood at those gates and watched students laughing and checking Instagram as they thought about where to get lunch. At the mall?

      I wonder if any of us really grasp what happened here and how it changed the world.

    • I have to quit for now because I'm boarding a flight from France but I'll close with this scene. How can the youngest generation ever fully understand when the vets are gone?

    • amazing, amazing, amazing images and thanks for sharing the experience. Yes, freedom is not free. I sort of believe Democracy is under attack in almost the same regards these days but the enemy flanks mostly in a digital force. That generation never gave a second thought to personal sacrifice for the greater good; now, personal sacrifice is mostly if you die taking a selfie on a cliff.

    • Hi Chris - I've traveled for years visiting historic places around the world, including these same Normandy sites that you and I spent the last week seeing. But this was different in a way difficult to articulate - it was as if a veil lifted to allow the past to physically permeate and mingle with the present.

      Young vibrant Allied soldiers once again filled the streets and cafes. Military vehicles rumbled in endless convoy through the Normandy landscape, jamming the narrow country roads and filled with purposeful young American GIs far from home. Old black-and-white war photos that I've studied for years suddenly burst from the pages of the books - I felt something a war correspondent may have felt. Photo opportunities everywhere. And yet, even by adjusting my camera settings to black-and-white in an effort to duplicate war-era photos, there was no way to capture what I was seeing and experiencing. I wanted to talk to these soldiers, to hear their story, to find out where they'd come from and where they were going. But they all seemed so busy and focused which intimidated me a bit. I didn't want to interrupt their work.

      To be quite honest, it's had a very confusing effect on my mind. Last night I dreamt I was there in the most real way imaginable. Actual experiences of the past week mixed indistinguishably with historical events from 1944 in fitful dreams. The way it was after the initial furious battles to secure the Normandy area, when troops and personnel poured through on their way inland. I feel like I've been there and seen it and It fills my eyes with tears for reasons I don't understand. I wanted to thank everyone I saw, but of course it wasn't them - they were just re-enactors, which in a strange way made it more painful. There was no one there to thank.

      Yet there was. Several times during the past week, an actual World-War II Allied soldier appeared. Not in uniform or driving a Willys jeep, but carefully stepping with a cane or being gently pushed in a wheelchair, almost unnoticed among the hordes of re-enactors and restored miliary equipment. I wondered - are they honored by what this commemoration has become? Or does it demean the sacrifices they and their comrades made? Those few that I spoke with felt honored and respected by the events.

      As for you and I, sitting at an outdoor cafe on a cobbled street in Bayeux, Normandy on our last night, four young Dutch men overheard us speaking English and timidly asked if they could buy us a drink. When we offered to instead buy for them, they replied, "No, we buy for you - you saved our country."

    • Responding to @Chris In the meantime, @ptaylor898 posted also

      Wow, I love this thread and the images you both have posted, especially of the folks in uniforms of the time. It is interesting that you met German tourists attending as well.

      @Chris The color filters you used for many of the images of the people in historic uniforms are just right!

      What a fantastic experience to have seen this - and talked to fellows who were actually there on D Day. The time left to talk to vets of WWII is rapidly drawing to a close. I wonder if there are recorded audible interviews of WW II vets , like the Brits did of WWI vets in the late 1920s? I know of many excellent books written by WW II vets.

      How can the youngest generation ever fully understand when the vets are gone, you ask?

      Sadly, I'm not sure they ever can. I see youtube interviews on college campuses of multiple adolescents, including college students, who cannot answer what country the Civil War was fought in, or when it occurred - a war that cost this country almost 650,000 military deaths and probably half that many civilian deaths. That a sitting president had his life blown away by a derringer in Ford's theatre.

      I am fortunate to possess actual paper letters of ancestors of mine, written as they marched from Indiana to Georgia and back, describe the camps and afflictions of the survivors. Little mention is made of the battles they fought in, or of the casualties. There were lots of questions about how the family and their farm was getting along. Hard, practical people who didn't dwell on their own hardships. Imagine marching from Vicksburg to Atlanta in the summer time. or standing night watch in Tennessee in 12º Fahrenheit in January.

      I am certain before the 100th anniversary of D Day there will be similar interviews about when it occurred and where it was fought - things you and I just know and take for granted that every American should know in their marrow.

      Every generation has to learn history anew, and history has a hard time competing with streaming videos from youtube these days, I suspect.

      @Chris As a amateur photographer, I am quite struck by your use of depth of field and color and monchrome choices. I don't want to yank this thread into a discussion of photo technique, but is it possible to see some of this information somewhere else in another thread, maybe?

    • Great images and reporting, @Chris , Thank you!

      I think these ceremonies may well go the way that commemoration of warfare in older eras, has, and instead become about the trappings and collecting of memorabilia than about the sacrifice and loss. The human mind is not designed to hold on to the difficult stuff, I don't think,

    • The human mind is not designed to hold on to the difficult stuff, I don't think,

      Most WWII vets I knew would not talk about the war. It was too painful and they didn't want to come off as heroes who brag or sought medals. They did it because they saw evil they thought had to be contained.

      Phil and I went out to the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, where Rangers had to scale the cliffs to get to the giant guns in the batteries, and we marveled at the waves of people who went all the way out to this place, seeking something. Understanding?

      And we wondered what the soldiers who fought here would think of these crowds coming out to understand what they did here. Do we do this for Korea, Vietnam, or Iraq? Maybe those wars were just too awful. Seeing the honor we bestow on the WWII vets, I couldn't help think of the soldiers who fought in Vietnam and wonder how they feel.

    • I was using my beloved Nikon D850 (because I don't care about size). I brought a 35mm f/1.4 because the motorcycles were parked close together and it was hard to get between them:

      But it was hard to shoot a portrait with it because you have to get right in people's faces:

      So I put on the 70-200 f/2.8 so I could get details up close without crowding these soldiers in the rain (shoulda used a longer shutter speed):

      And I could get closer portraits in stealth mode:

    • I was going to do one of those trixy blends of then and now of the school where the Allied Command Center was, where the Germans surrendered.

      When I came home I found this stock photo from Alamy that I bought. It was captioned Nazi prisoners marching:

      Here's what the school looks like now with students checking sports scores as they walk:

      But I didn't have to align layers in Photoshop and do a blend because someone already did:

    • The New York Times wrote a fascinating piece about Ernie Pyle, who was essentially the Walter Cronkite of WWII and was there for the invasion.

      For those who can't see the article, here's a key quote:

      Until D-Day, war had largely been an exhilarating experience for Pyle, terrible but often uplifting. Ten days after the landings, the awfulness of all the death he was witnessing in the “thousands of little skirmishes” in the hedgerow country of Normandy was carving away at his mental state. He reported having knots in his stomach from “constant tenseness and lack of sleep.” In a letter back home, he confided that he had to “continually fight an inner depression over the ghastliness of it all.” “Sometimes,” he wrote to Miller on June 29, “I get so obsessed with the tragedy and horror of seeing dead men that I can hardly stand it. But I guess there’s nothing to do but keep going.”

    • Sounds like he was suffering from PTSD.....and, on a side note, as I am a Veteran of no real war conflict but concerned abou the alarming rate of suicide amongst war veterans (military or civilians), I was very encouraged with this new treatment for PTSD that some Veterans are trying out.....thus, hopefully this will help many people that suffer from PTSD even if it is not war-related.