The World War II study abroad trip, offered by the history department at CSU, was first presented to me by Dr. Gudmestad (or Dr. G, who led the trip.) On impulse, I decided this was something I wanted to be a part of. Being blessed with this opportunity led to something I will never forget.
In-Class Preparation: Learning about Operation OVERLORD
The class gave me a chance to travel Europe, which no one can argue on that being awesome. Also, it focused on one of the most pivotal military operations in history: D-Day. Being able to study and visit the locations of where the Nazis began to crumble was a trip I couldn’t resist. Being a military person myself, the chance to study military history up close was a chance to better myself as a soldier and future leader.
The trip started with a week of crammed classwork at CSU. We got a brief rundown of WWII, articles and books to read, and a paper to write. This workload was intense, but well worth it. Everybody in the group had to choose a topic from Operation OVERLORD, which was the code name for the Battle of Normandy. We had to write a paper and prepare a presentation to give overseas. I chose the infamous 101st Division, the Screaming Eagles.
People may know about these paratrooper warriors from the HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers. After doing a large amount of research on their efforts in D-Day and the Normandy Campaign, it again made me realize how awesome this study abroad was. I admit, I procrastinated to the last minute on getting this paper done (sorry Dr. G), but the chance to learn about their in-depth role in D-Day was great. The paper ended up being really fun to write, and let’s just say I dread papers.
Visiting WWII Sites in England and France
The first stop overseas was London, England. I’ve always been a fan of English history, so I was super pumped to go to London. Our study activities in London were focused on the Churchill war rooms, where much of the planning done by Churchill and his staff happened. The museum was in Churchill’s secret bunker, where we saw much of what the public didn’t know about the war effort during that time.
We were also given some free days to explore London. The Tube (the London subway system) transported us all over the city with ease. I don’t know why, but it was so much fun to ride. Call me weird. But with the Tube, I got to go see much of the city, ranging from a Knights Templar temple to the oldest church in London. (I’m going back to London for Spring Break to visit a few more places.)
Next was the focus of the trip: Normandy! Taking a ferry from England, we arrived in Caen, France. All across Normandy, amongst sprawling fields of hedgerows (that gave the Allies trouble during their fighting,) were museums. My favorite was the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Église.
I noticed that in Europe, so many sites are accessible on foot. For example, on my early morning runs in Caen, I got to run right beside William the Conqueror’s castle. And there was a Nazi bunker I could just walk around near the main bunkers on display. We also visited the D-Day beaches. I stood where our soldiers fought, and I visited the American cemetery above Omaha Beach. I can never forget when they played Taps. Emotion washed over me, and again I was reminded of the sacrifice the Allies made during Operation OVERLORD. All I could do was take off my hat, send a little prayer, and stand silent, in remembrance our fallen men.
This trip is too hard to explain with words. I left out so much, and wrote way more than I thought I would. My impulse decision to go was one of my best decisions. The people I met on the trip, led by the Dr. G himself, were awesome to the core. We started in the classroom together, crammed knowledge in our brains, travelled Europe, and spent that great trip together. Makes me smile just writing about them.
Written by Quinn Malone. Edited for the CSU History Department website by Nicole Archambeau