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.
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 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) along with young cadets from the California Maritime Academy, without any mishaps.
When the Royal Viking Sun docked in London, Bill and fellow passenger Captain Ernest L. Murdock, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.) and a former Merchant Marine skipper, 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 survived and are 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. Bill and I, and the other passengers, disembarked and were bussed to Paris. Bill 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.
While in Paris and still “in the mood,” we 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. Bill first imbibed at Harry’s in Paris in 1954 when he was on a round-the-world business trip as a steel importer in the world trade business. He became a charter member of Harry’s International Barfly Association. By the end of our fourteen weeks in Europe, Bill and I had martinis at three Harry’s: Paris, Florence, and Venice.
When we were preparing for this voyage to Normandy, I remember what someone said to me: “You won’t enjoy this cruise, being around all those older people.”
On the contrary, I remember the men and the women I met on this 18-day return to Normandy – many of whom shared their memories with me – as one of the most meaningful times in my life.
This concludes our look back at D-Day50. Bill and I hope you enjoyed it.