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Sand Sculptures on Omaha Beach Honor Defenders of Freedom

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 4, 2004 – Sand from the five landing beaches on D-Day, June 6, 1944, has been turned into "Sands of Remembrance" sculptures on France's Normandy Beach to pay homage to those who shed their blood for freedom 60 years ago, said Carmella LaSpada, director of the White House Commission on Remembrance.

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The World War II Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is situated on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel in Colleville-sur Mer, France. Photo courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

"This is the first time in history this has been done sand sculpture on the beaches of Normandy depicting the landing on the beaches," LaSpada said during a recent interview from her White House office. "We gathered sand from each of the landing beaches -- (code-named) Gold, Juno, Omaha, Sword and Utah."

The Sands of Remembrance tribute evolved out of discussions between LaSpada and sand sculptors John Gowdy, an American, and Dale Murdock, a Canadian.

They decided to create a historically accurate life size sand sculpture on Normandy Beach to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of D-Day. Gowdy later authored an article saying that the idea came to him in 2001 while he was digging in the sands of Hardelot, a beach north of Normandy.

"I hit something with my shovel," Gowdy recalled. "After brushing it off and rinsing it with water, it became obvious that the object I found was a piece of old, rusty barbed wire.

"Recalling my history studies," Gowdy continued, "I thought, 'Could this barbed wire possibly be from the German fortification of this very coastline some 57 years ago?' I showed the wire to the locals and they confirmed it to be true. It was a piece of the Atlantic Wall, which was a belt of fortifications constructed by the Germans."

The assault on the beaches started in the early morning darkness of June 6, 1944, when thousands of Allied paratroopers and glider troops landed silently behind enemy lines. At dawn, the Allies began their amphibious assaults on the five beaches. By nightfall, nearly 175,000 men were ashore.

The historically accurate, life-size sculptures were created by Gowdy; Murdock; Matthew Deibert of the United States; Mark Anderson and Edward Dudley of the United Kingdom; and Guillaume Pelletier and Julien Legaes of France.

Thousands will view the sculptures as the attend D-Day's 60th anniversary ceremonies. They will be on exhibit until June 6 in Vierville-sur Mer on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.

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Related Sites:
White House Commission on Remembrance
Sands of Remembrance

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