London/Paris, June 8-11, 1994 – After the 50th Anniversary of D-Day events on June 6 at Normandy, the Royal Viking Sun headed to London for a few days.
Also heading from Normandy to London – more specifically Greenwich, southeast of London – was the World War II Liberty ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien. Of the 5,000-ship armada that stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the O’Brien was the only Ocean-class vessel to return 50 years later. After years of restoration, she made the round-trip voyage from San Francisco to Normandy and back, manned by a crew of “old salts” (average age 70) and young cadets from the California Maritime Academy, without any mishaps. (See Post 1 and Post 3.) While the Royal Viking Sun was docked in London, fellow passenger Captain Ernest L. Murdock, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.) and a former Merchant Marine skipper, and I took the train from London to visit the O’Brien in Greenwich. (Note: Of the 2,710 Liberty ships that were in service during the war, only two would survive and be fully-operational: the SS Jeremiah O’Brien in San Francisco, and the SS John W. Brown in Baltimore, Maryland.)
The Royal Viking Sun’s 50th Anniversary of D-Day cruise, which began in Montreal on May 23, ended in Rouen, France on June 11. Sandra and I, along with the other passengers, disembarked and were bussed to Paris. Sandra and I stayed on in Europe for the next fourteen weeks visiting Paris, Warsaw, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Wengen (in the Swiss Alps), Florence, and Venice.
In Paris and still “in the mood,” Sandra and I attended the American Ball at the Hotel Intercontinental and danced to Big Band music of the 1940s played by the Glenn Miller Band. We had drinks at Harry’s Bar. I first imbibed at Harry’s in Paris in 1954 when I was a steel importer in the world trade business and became a charter member of Harry’s International Barfly Association. By the end of Sandra’s and my fourteen weeks in Europe, we had martinis at three Harry’s: Paris, Florence, and Venice. (Photo: Harry’s Bar, Paris)
When we were preparing for this voyage to Normandy, Sandra remembers what a friend said to her: “You won’t like it, being around all those older people.”
On the contrary, Sandra remembers the men and women she met on this 18-day Atlantic crossing – many of whom shared their memories – as one of the most meaningful times in her life.
This concludes our trip down memory lane for D-Day50. We hope you enjoyed it.
Excerpted from the upcoming memoir Author, Publisher, Marketing Man, 1990-2015, by William and Sandra McGee. Click for all 75th Anniversary of D-Day Posts