War and Memory
On June 6, 1944, the world held its breath as over a half-million men from all over the world converged on 65 miles of the Normandy, France, coast to free Europe from Hitler's grip. In 1984 I felt the need to be there for the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, and painted throughout France for the month of June.
Because it was going to be a big event with many heads of state present including President Ronald Reagan, I contacted my then Huntington Beach District Congressman Dan Lungren's office for information, schedules and possible entrance to any events.
They advised that the main event, June 6th at the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-mer was full. However I could attend a short June 5 event at Pointe du Hoc where surviving Rangers who had scaled those cliffs on D-Day and their families would watchcurrent (and younger) US Army Rangers reenact their accomplishment and Ronald Reagan would speak.
When I arrived I decided to attempt a quick watercolor painting of both. Who could have known this would become the most memorable part of the entire celebration: President Reagan's now famous "Boys of Pointe du Hoc" speech.
For the reenactment I found a spot for a good shot of the bunker to get started and then quickly sketch in the Rangers as they appeared, and for the time available I thought it turned out well.
At the end of the day I asked some of the Rangers if they would sign the back of the reenactment painting, which they did. Although LtCol Rudder had passed away, his wife attended and she was gracious enough to sign it as well.
To capture President Reagan's speech I situated my self on the upper side of the large bomb crater to his left, high enough to get a good view of the entire event. The President is in a dark suit at the microphone, second from the right. The first figure is Secret Service, and the large obelisk like structure is a stone monument representing the Rangers' dagger.
The Rangers and their families are in the chairs and bleachers to the left of the President, and the US Army Color Guard and a composite US Army and Air Force Band in the near foreground.
June 10th was my birthday. A tradition had been established to spend my birthdays on the beach, so that day I returned to Omaha Beach and painted the eerily quiet scene above one of the bunkers.