2014 Travel: Celebrate D-Day 70th, Panama Canal centennial

Travelers will discover two important celebrations in 2014, the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the centennial of the Panama Canal. Photo: Transiting the Panama Canal (CLIA)

CHARLOTTEAugust 31, 2013 – As summer vacations come to an end it is not too early to begin dreaming and planning for next year’s adventure. Many travelers with an eye for history enjoy visiting destinations at times when a significant anniversary is taking place. Upcoming 2014 has a couple of great ones.

Omaha Beach from the bluff

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In June of 2014, the D-Day invasion of Normandy observes its 70thanniversary. Later, in August, the first transit of the Panama Canal marks a century of maritime links between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

All along a 50 mile stretch of coastline in northern Francepicturesque white sand beaches and jagged cliffs peer toward the English Channel that was the sight of the greatest military invasion in history.

Touring the lush green pastoral countryside today, it is difficult to imagine the magnitude of Operation Overlord in 1944 when 5,000 ships, 50,000 vehicles and 11,000 planes swept across five beaches in an all out assault against Nazi Germany.

Normandy American Cemetery

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Time has healed many of the wounds of that turbulent invasion, but the people of Normandy have not forgotten and some remnants do remain.

These include vestiges of the prefabricated floating Mulberry Harbor at Arromanches; gigantic artillery housed in massive concrete bunkers at Longues sur Mer; the pot-holed moonscape terrain of Pointe du Hoc and, perhaps most memorable, the Normandy American Cemetery at Omaha Beach.

Besides the 9,386 crosses and Stars of David that emotionally signify the ultimate sacrifice of American soldiers some seven decades ago, three other monuments pay tribute to those who gave their lives to preserve our freedom.

First is the powerful 22-foot bronze statue symbolizing The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves, which overlooks a reflecting pool and faces a chapel in center of the Normandy cemetery.

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Artillery at Longues sur Mer

Next is the circular chapel itself with its carillon that periodically rings out with haunting melodies and penetrating the soul with overwhelming gratitude.

Finally, there is the overlook panning a now grass covered bluff to a wide stretch of beach that leads to the sea. It was at that spot the American forces broke through enemy lines to achieve victory.

Standing high above the majestic panorama of earth, sea and sky, visitors are awed that success was ever achieved.

All too often we hear Americans complain that our sacrifices go unappreciated throughout the world. Not so in Normandy. Hundreds of museums, markers and monuments pay tribute to the event of June 6, 1944 — events that will be honored for the 70th time in 2014.

These are events that have never been, and never will be, forgotten by the thankful citizens of Normandy.

The Crossing of the Panama Canal

On August 15, 1914, the S.S. Ancon became the first ship to officially transit the Panama Canal. It marked the culmination of an idea first proposed in 1534 by the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, Charles V.

Building a canal

As the 100th anniversary of the Ancon’s historic connection between oceans approaches, the Panama Canal has become one of most popular cruise destinations in the world.

In addition, the 50-mile waterway is one of the greatest engineering accomplishments in history with more than a million ships making the journey.

It would be nearly 350 years after the original idea was proposed before the French would become the first to attempt construction of a canal in 1881.

Engineering failures, financial difficulties and epidemic outbreaks of malaria and yellow fever halted the project until 1904.

Under the leadership of President Theodore Roosevelt, the United States renewed construction at a cost of $375 million and a workforce of nearly 60,000 people. 

Gateway to the Panama Canal

Though many died from disease, the project virtually eliminated yellow fever and greatly diminished the threat of malaria in the region.

Amazingly enough, until recently, ships restricted their dimensions to 1,000 feet in length and 110 feet in width for nearly a century to be accommodated inside three sets of double locks. Vessels narrowly fit into locks like a supermodel squeezing into a tight pair of jeans.

Since the turn of the 21st century, however, with longer and wider ships being built, a multi-billion dollar expansion began in 2007 that is scheduled for completion in 2015.

Travelers with an eye for historic experiences in their itineraries can enjoy the centennial celebration of the Panama Canal aboard any number of cruise lines in 2014. 

Historic Panama Canal

Unfortunately, they are no longer permitted to swim the length of the canal as the daring adventurist Richard Halliburton did in 1928.

Travel never ceases to be an adventure and a link to the legacy of mankind. The year 2014 will be a perfect example in Normandy and the Panama Canal.

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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).

 His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

Read more of Travels with Peabod and Bob Taylor at The Washington Times Communities

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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.


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