My unit was able to Jump in Normandy on D-Day last year and I unfortunately couldn't make it, funding fell through this year to do it. Hopefully next year we'll be able to get back over there and I'm definitely getting on that one. Would be a great experience!
My wife went to the beaches at Normandy when we were in college (she studied abroad for a semester in Europe). I've been wanting to go for a long time.
Maybe we'll plan on doing that next year.
That's a place I've always wanted to go. Will get there sometime. It strikes me as just a powerful, emotional place.
My uncle landed on Utah Beach on D-Day. He's told us about some of the other battles, but never wanted to talk much about that day.
Normandy is one part of France I've never visited & is definitely on the near-term itinerary--maybe as soon as the late summer. D-Day beaches a top target & I'm sure it will be emotionally stirring...
BTW let us not forget that Rome was also liberated on D-Day. A couple of my uncles fought in Italy--a nasty, nasty slog.
Slightly o/t, but something else I'd like to do--hopefully next summer on the 100th anniversary--is to fly into Paris, rent a car, & go northeast through the World War I battlefields (more properly, from cemetery to cemetery, since most of the dead were buried where they fell). I'd end up in Ypers at the Menin Gate when the local trumpeter comes out (as one does every evening) to play The Last Post in memory of the 50,000 British soldiers who died there with no known resting place & whose names are inscribed on the gate...
ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!
Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
- General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Consider adding this to your list: the American cemetery outside of Luxemburg City. It is administered very well. It feels like a monument to fallen soldiers should feel, including a visitor's center that is not an electronic sound and light show, and playing "Taps" over the loudspeakers periodically over high quality spakers, to be heard anywhere in the cemetery. Patton is buried there in a standard grave with no extraordinary markings.
If you make it that far, also consider going another hour to the new Battle of the Bulge visitor center and museum, adjacent to the huge battle monument, just outside the town of Bastogne, Belgium. It was closed for overhaul construction when we visited two years ago almost to the day, but should be reopened by now.
Went with the wifey 4 years ago. It's ridiculous when you stand on the beach and look up at the cliffs and picture guys in army uniforms rapelling UP the cliffs on ropes while Nazi's stood at the top and shot DOWN at them. Talk about ball sacks.. The cemeteries over there are incredible too. I think there are at least 10k Americans buried in the cemeteries over there.
If you can't make it to Normandy itself, you may opt for the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA.
Bedford was chosen because it suffered the greatest loss of life per capita during the invasion. It was home of one of the companies of the 116th Infantry Regiment, a National Guard unit that spearheaded the first wave at Omaha beach on D-Day.
Bedford and the D-Day Memorial are a good way's off from Baltimore, but it would probably work in well with a spring or fall tour of Sky Line Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I made it there about 25 years ago. We all pictured The Longest Day which was the closest Hollywood got to that event. Once Saving Private Ryan came out it put a whole new spin on it for those of us who weren't there.