At 6:30 a.m. on June 6, a Lycoming College contingent stood
at low tide on Omaha Beach. The sun was low on the horizon
and the air was quiet – a late spring day and a perfect morning
for a walk at the water’s edge. This scene was far different from
Omaha Beach on the same date in 1944, when thousands of men
lost their lives crossing the Normandy beaches during the largest
military invasion ever staged: D-Day, the ‘Debarquement’ that led
to the end of WWII.
Only a few dozen other hardy souls had come out to mark the
exact time the landings began. Like D-Day, however, the tide was
low so the visitors could appreciate the great distance the invaders
had to cover – some 400 yards – before they found their first
cover. For two members of the tour, the moment was especially
poignant: Pam Walsh’s father had landed on Omaha on D-Day
and Bob Fredrickson’s uncle landed on Utah just a few miles
Organized through the Office of Alumni Relations, Bob and
Mike’s Excellent European Battlefield Adventure included 23
alumni, professors and friends of the College led by Dr. Robert
Larson, professor of history, and retired Col. Mike Ellicott, a
former instructor at West Point and a 26-year Army veteran.
The tour began in London on June 1 with visits to the Imperial
War Museum and Churchill’s War Room, an underground
labyrinth of map rooms, encryption equipment, radio installations
and living quarters used by the British high command. The
weekend was also the beginning Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond
Jubilee; London was decked out in its finest bunting and the
streets were filled with people celebrating her 60th year as queen.
The group then crossed the English Channel, following
closely the route taken by the Canadian forces. The boat trip
became very special when several members met some returning
British veterans of D-Day who were on an annual pilgrimage
of remembrance. For many, the opportunity to talk with these
veterans was the highlight of the entire trip.
Upon arriving in Normandy, the tour spent the next four days
in the beautiful, rural province walking the many miles of famous
beaches where British, Canadian, French and American troops
gained their hold on Europe.
The quiet landscape of fields and hedgerows served as the
setting as Larson and Ellicott described the strategy, tactics
and heroism of those who fought during those first few days in
June 1944. The American Cemetery above the beaches was a
particularly moving site as the group witnessed the morning flag-
The journey ended with two days in Paris, where Allied troops
marched down the Champs Elysee during liberation, with a
marvelous dinner cruise down the Seine River, slowly drifting by
the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.
Besides learning about one of the seminal events in 20th-
century history, the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to
renew old friendships and forge new ones.
LYCOMING COLLEGE 2012 SUMMER MAGAZINE