There is no substitute for being there.
I sat on a hillside above Portsmouth, England, five years ago, with a local aviation historian. We looked out over one of the landing fields used by the combined British and American forces as they prepared and executed Operation Overlord–known to us now as the Normandy Invasion, marked by one unforgettable dawn: D-Day.
With broad gestures, he described the arc each flight of Dakotas took as it assembled for the final line, the heading that would take those airplanes full of paratroopers or towing gliders over the Channel and into the air over the Calvados region of France. I interviewed soldiers who rode on board those Daks, and I talked with the pilots that flew them, either with a stick of troops in the back, or towing a glider.
With this movie in my mind, and the direct knowledge of how it looked, sounded, and felt to see a mass formation of Douglas DC-3s and C-47s march overhead, I could write that part of the airplane’s story (http://www.asa2fly.com/Together-We-Fly-Voices-From-the-DC-3-P1616.aspx).
But across the Channel? Where the action played out in all its terrible glory? No. I’d yet to go visit the beaches where my grandparents’ generation landed, where I could look out and picture where my great uncle, Richard Ellenberger, was on a supply ship standing off in the Channel as the invasion rolled out. Where so many of our young men fell, for a mighty purpose, never to return.
One thing I know from my experience at The Last Time (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=si0PpuGpgA8), from that grand assembly of DC-3s and C-47s in 2010, is that nothing replaces knowing in your body that physical feeling produced by the sights and sounds when they surround you.
You have to be there to know certain things. In fact, you don’t know what most of those things are until you go. So I’m taking the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see, hear, taste, and feel those things when I visit Normandy for the Daks Over Normandy (http://www.daksovernormandy.com/) celebration and remembrance this June. So I can know this part of the story just a little better than before.
from May 2, 2014