She was selected by her History teachers to participate in The Normandy Academy — D-Day: Stories of Service and Sacrifice program, an incredible research opportunity that was funded by a private donor. Natalie was recently featured on foxnews.com!
About The Normandy Academy
The Normandy Academy is a partnership between The National WWII Museum in New Orleans and National History Day. High school participants choose a fallen soldier to honor from their home state. The program combines assigned reading prior to the program's commencement, an in-depth research project supervised by mentors on-site at the Museum, and a professionally guided field study in Normandy - all of which culminates in each student presenting an original, publicly-read eulogy at his/her serviceman's grave in the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach.
Q & A with Natalie
You spent three days in New Orleans before departing for Paris, Normandy, and Caen. What did you enjoy most about the cities?
My favorite thing about New Orleans was the attitude of the people. It was really nice to see people who loved their city so much and felt that it should be celebrated in the way New Orleans does.
In France, the history is tangible. You can literally feel the importance of a building by the depressions in the steps, and you can imagine how many people have stood in that exact spot. The beaches that we saw, where ships full of GI's charged the German batteries, were so beautiful and peaceful, but you could feel the sadness and the hope that remained after the men were washed away. It was such a powerful feeling.
This was your first time visiting a different country. What surprised you most about the experience?
The thing that surprised me most about France was the stereotypes that aren't true at all. People were so kind and welcoming. Everyone in Normandy had a grandmother or a great-uncle who remembers when the Americans liberated their home town, and they have the greatest respect for Americans. They loved to see young people remembering how the two countries supported each other during the war.
How many students were in your program?
There were twelve of us from all over the county; Louisiana, Utah, Illinois, Minnesota, Virginia, and Massachusetts. It was really fun meeting students my age from so many different states!
Describe one of your favorite day excursions.
I appreciated visiting Pointe u Hoc, a German battery that was attacked by the 2nd Ranger Battalion on D-Day, because it posed a threat to landing operations on both Omaha and Utah Beach. After the Rangers scaled the 100-foot cliffs using rope ladders, they found that the guns had been moved a mile to target Utah Beach alone. They hiked to the guns and destroyed them with ease. It was these Rangers who really allowed for the success of the Utah Beach invasion, and their story of strength and persistence is inspiring to me.
As we walked around Pointe du Hoc, the picturesque coastline falsely indicated a happier past, but the ground littered with craters and the crumbled remains of German bunkers showed the truth of the brutality of war. We were allowed to go into the bunkers and explore them, and it gave me such an incredible perspective into the fear that the German soldiers must have felt as they were being bombed. I could almost feel the chaos of trying to dodge the falling bombs. It was such an overwhelming place and it was hard to imagine the fear and anger that tainted the beauty of the natural landscape.
How did you choose your soldier? What did you learn about him?
I chose my fallen soldier through a memorial website for those who died on D-Day. My soldier, Private Jordan R. Krummes, lived in Solano County, California, and joined the 29th Infantry Division of the 116th Infantry Regiment when he was 19 years old. He stormed Omaha Beach, but died somewhere between exiting the landing craft and scaling the cliffs above the beach. His bravery and patriotism led him to give up his hopes and dreams to fight for his country and the hope of freedom for all.
How did your POLAHS History classes prepare you for this trip?
I left with the historical background of the World Wars to understand the importance of D-Day and the sacrifices of the men on all sides of the war. Mr. Mora's AP World History class helped me to understand what the Germans were fighting for, and what the French, British, and Americans were fighting against when the war reached Normandy.
What are your plans for the future?
I love to write and I love history, science, and culture, so my dream job would be to write for National Geographic. I think POLAHS has provided me with the classes and support that I need to make my dream a reality.
Thanks, Natalie! Congratulations on being selected for The Normandy Academy amongst hundreds of POLAHS applicants. We are proud of your patriotism and strong work ethic.
Read more about The Normandy Academy: