June 6, 2019 is the 75th Anniversary of D-Day…the landing of the Allies on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. In a series of brief posts, Bill and I remember the highlights of our visit to Normandy in June 1994 for the 50th Anniversary.
Montreal, May 23, 1994 – Bill and I boarded the Royal Viking Sun. Our destination: Normandy for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1994.
Bill had been invited to join a crew of “old salts” (average age 70), along with a crew of young cadets from the California Maritime Academy, and steam from San Francisco to Normandy on the recently refurbished historic World War II Liberty ship, SS Jeremiah O’Brien.
The O’Brien was at the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, making eleven crossings of the English Channel carrying personnel and supplies to the Omaha and Utah beachheads. Of the more than 5,000 ships that formed the original D-Day armada, the O’Brien would be the only Ocean-class ship to return to Normandy 50 years later (though smaller vessels from many countries were planning to return).
Bill was part of the volunteer crew that had been hard at work since 1991 to get the O’Brien in shape for the return voyage to Normandy. Thanks to thousands of volunteer hours and generous donations of money and supplies from individuals and companies, the O’Brien was going to make the trip. She would steam through the Golden Gate, down the West Coast, through the Panama Canal, and across the Atlantic to England and France.
I, however, had another plan. I learned the Royal Viking Line was offering an 18-day trans-Atlantic crossing on the Sun, departing May 23 from Montreal to Paris, with two days in Cherbourg for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day events. I persuaded Bill to reconsider making the crossing on the O’Brien, and reluctantly he gave in. We made the voyage in comfort and style, though Bill admitted later that sleeping in a private cabin with room service did have its appeal, versus sharing bunk quarters with a bunch of shipmates.
To prepare for the cruise, Bill went on a Jenny Craig crash diet and dropped 15 pounds, and I signed us up for five ballroom lessons at the Arthur Murray studio in Santa Barbara.