In a series of posts, Bill and Sandra recount the highlights of their 1994 visit to Normandy. Bill will lead off with Post 1…
Montreal, May 23, 1994 – Sandra and I boarded the Royal Viking Sun. Destination: Normandy for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1994.
Originally, I was to join a crew of “old salts” – average age 70 – along with a crew of young cadets from the California Maritime Academy, and together we would steam from San Francisco to Normandy on the historic World War II Liberty ship, SS Jeremiah O’Brien.
On June 6, 1944, the commencement of the invasion of Normandy by Allied Forces, the O’Brien made 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 50 years later, though smaller vessels from many countries were planning to return.
The volunteer crew on the O’Brien 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.
Sandra, however, had another plan. She learned the Royal Viking Line was offering an 18-day trans-Atlantic crossing departing on May 23 from Montreal to Paris, with two days in Cherbourg for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day events. Reluctantly, I gave in to Sandra, though I have to admit 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, I went on a Jenny Craig crash diet, dropped 15 pounds, and Sandra and I took five ballroom lessons at Arthur Murray’s in Santa Barbara.
Stayed tuned for the next post from the voyage to Normandy…
Excerpted from the upcoming memoir Author, Publisher, Marketing Man, 1990-2015, by William and Sandra McGee All D-Day Posts