Upon your first visit to any stretch of Omaha Beach, but especially at Colleville and St. Laurent-Sur-Mer (site of the American Cemetery), if you do not, as an American, at least have your eyes well up with tears, then you are truly made of stone.
It’s more an experience than something you read or watch a movie about, although Saving Private Ryan comes the closest to visually depicting 6:30AM on D-Day. I’ve been there twice and still cannot get my head completely around what happened here. American combat soldiers typically don’t share much, except long after it happened, and only in small doses, and usually just the good times. Omaha Beach was so awful that it was rarely shared by those who lived through the experience. It was such a mess that they still don’t have accurate casualty statistics, but the latest research puts the estimate at approximately 3,000 dead, wounded and missing after a single day of combat along a 5 mile stretch of shoreline.
St. Laurent-Sur-Mer is a small village at an area called “Les Moulins” – an apocalypse depicted in the The Longest Day. The main Omaha Beach Memorial, Les Braves, is on the oceanfront, a beautiful stainless steel structure fanning toward the sea and sky. So, with that, watch all the movies and read the books (including D-Day by Stephen Ambrose), and then go there. If you have a teenage son, bring him too.