2019 marks the 75th anniversary of DDay. On June 6, 1944, Canada joined British, American and other Allied troops in storming the Nazi-held shore of France along the coast of Normandy.
Of the many things that could go wrong, most of them did. Yet the Allies persevered, and at the end of the day, all had gained a foothold onto European soil, the essential and long-sought after moment when they could begin to re-take Europe from the Nazis.
It's a fabled day in military history, one where true stories are better than any fiction, the subject of movies and documentaries and novels. And for countless families across Canada whose fathers, brothers, grandfathers and uncles fought on DDay or in any battle of World War 2, the place to honour their sacrifice and the almost inconceivable task they set to accomplish, is Juno Beach.
One of the five Landing Beaches, Juno Beach is Canada's beach. Today, you can stroll along a peaceful, sandy stretch looking across the Channel to England out of sight in the distance. Walk in the very footsteps of the soldiers who struggled ashore amid heavy gunfire. Re-live their stories at the Juno Beach Centre displays and learn about the entire Canadian war effort during the Second World War. Experience the imposing German fortifications still preserved on the beach that could easily have defeated the Canadians and caused DDay to fail.
The Juno Beach Centre
is a labour of love, the result of a vision of veterans themselves and the non-stop efforts of a private foundation to preserve and maintain the beach and its lessons for Canadians and the world.
For Canadians able to travel to Europe, a visit to the Juno Beach Centre is amazingly easy to accomplish. Its location makes it accessible by nearly any mode of transportation:
- Traveling independently by
- rental car,
- private tour or
- train and public transportation from all major cities of Northern Europe: Paris, London, Amsterdam and more;
- Land tours that include the Juno Beach Centre as part of a wider tour of France or Northern Europe or a War Memorial or battlefields tour in the region;
- Shore excursions offered by some cruise lines from:
- River cruises on the Seine River from Paris to Normandy; or
- Ocean cruises with a nearby city – usually the French town of Le Havre - as a port of call.
A visit to the Juno Beach Centre was described to me as a pilgrimage, and I agree. It's a pilgrimage every Canadian – new Canadians, old Canadians, French and English-speaking Canadians – should make.
Local cenotaphs and Remembrance ceremonies serve to remind us at home. But Juno Beach is special. For veterans, military and cadet groups, for families, even with young children (there's a children's program at the Centre), for community groups, for anyone who wants to include paying tribute as part of their vacation, honour this historic momen in Canada's history and our WW2 veterans by literally walking in their footsteps on Juno Beach.
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