The Price of Freedom

NICOLE: D Company, 2nd Airborne Battalion, was charged with Operation Deadstick, the mission to seize Benouville and Ranville Bridges, spanning the River Orne from the Caen Canal. SUZY: The fog rolls in, and it’s just– you literally can’t see anything. The bus is gone. People 15 meters away are just gone. You can see maybe 15– I could see you, but that’s about it. It was crazy. JR: The Atlantic Wall is much more than a simple wall; it’s a vast array of fortifications along the coast of Norway down to the border of Spain and France. BEN: The entire garrison was here, roughly 30 to 50 German soldiers, who started shooting the paratrooopers as they descended or captured them upon landing. KATIE: I was just thinking about soldiers dropping in from the sky in this square. And all of them being–not landing, all of them are being shot upon. It’s just an awful sight, and yet we were standing there on this peaceful Sunday morning. JEFF: The main mission was for the 82nd and the 101st Airborne was basically to block the causeways so that the Germans could not keep going into Utah Beach and attacking the Allies. But… It may sound simple, but it wasn’t as simple as it is. DAVID: So location-wise, Utah provides the perfect … point between the Allied objective, the Cotentin Peninsula and Cherbourg, and linking with Omaha Beach. LOGAN: Out of the 225 who scaled the cliffs, only 90 were still able to fight. So that’s a 60 percent casualty–or death–ratio. ALY: I couldn’t get over how many craters there were just on that one little area. And to think that was all over the beaches, that was all over the French countryside that’s what the villages looked like and these cities that were bombed. EDWARD: Just seeing the harbor and just trying to imagine the ingenuity, the effort that must’ve gone into something like that. It was just incredible, and just seeing that in person was really moving. ALY: The Canadians actually did push the furthest inland. They had one of the most successful landings at Juno Beach. Really brutal fighting between the 12th SS of the Hitler Jugend and the Canadians forces. KATIE: Hill 112–where we are right now– there are only 7,000 out of 16,000 troops left. NICOLE: Here we were on the side of a highway. We heard a briefing about what… the horrific events that took place on that highway. That highway became more than a highway. It became a place where someone’s life changed in an instant. RAVEENA: It was a very significant turning point. To critique it, this was no way a flawless operation There were a lot of hiccups along the way, a lot of things that were not considered seriously– there was quite a lot of friendly fire casualties. SUZY: This is La Cambe. It used to be a battlefield. There used to be German and American soldiers buried here in adjacent fields. MAGGIE: Getting to see the graves of so many– mainly men–who died, and then seeing the German graves as well. All of the soldiers were sort of on the same boat. EDWARD: I remember kneeling down by the grave, and the thought just popped into my head: “I’ll always remember this.” SUZY: You put so much time and effort into learning about this person, and you feel like you know them. BEN: You’re hearing all these amazing stories about these young men… But you know how the story ends. And that’s the hardest part. MEGAN: You know the date that he died. You know his name, you know his rank– but just seeing all of that there– you know, you get fluttered with emotion, and I immediately started tearing up. RAVEENA: Seeing his grave and cleaning it with the sand and everything… It was pretty powerful. ANDREA: Getting to know a single soldier so personally it really paints the war in a different picture for you. JEFF: I’ve seen his grave in the picture before, so I thought to myself, “I”ll be fine when I see it.” But when I saw it in person, for me, it’s like, “Wow, all that research I’ve done– he’s right there.” MEGAN: Just really trying to trace the narrative of the war through one individual– it was very powerful. RAVEENA: I can definitely say that this has been one of the most impactful classes I’ve ever taken before. BEN: You can read about it and see pictures, but seeing it in person was really impressive to me– and really impactful. EDWARD: Yeah, it’s really incredible just to think about what a special bond we’re always going to have because of this class. We did some really great research together that’s just wholly unique I don’t think you can really get it in any other kind of class. JR: It was a really great group of people, a very diverse set of people. We had a lot of fun both, you know, climbing around on the bunkers and running around by the Eiffel Tower in the middle of the night. ANDREA: I think that GW should make this class something that is going to stick around for a long time. MAGGIE: It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. I’m so excited that I got to be a part of it.

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