Indiana University
Journalism Ernie Pyle
Group at Caen
Photo by Jean Person
The group posed at Caen's city hall. They headed to Paris after their tour of the area.

The J460 From London to Normandy: In the Footsteps of Ernie Pyle class heads to England and France with associate professor Owen Johnson, the third time the class has traveled to places the World War II correspondent made famous in his columns. They follow Pyle’s path from London to Paris as he reported on the war in Europe. The group also visits Omaha Beach and Normandy.

Following are the itinerary with daily updates, and the daily blogs. Also, students have written reflective columns each day, available here.

Student reports:

March 20, 2010
By YeJin Kim
I can’t believe it is the last day of our trip! Time flies so fast. Having 10 days in the beautiful cities – London, Normandy and Paris – was too short for us. Even the weather was perfect, as if every place welcomed us.

Paris tour
Photo by Owen Johnson
Tour guide John Paul Fortney speaks to the group about WWII. From left are Ellie Flores, Dion Hazelbaker, Lauren Tappana and Abby Hull.

Although it was raining until the early morning on Saturday, the clouds scattered in the beginning of the afternoon. Everyone had free time during the morning and most of us went to shop. A few people and I went to the station, Saint Michel, near Notre Dame. I was so excited about buying bottles of French wine. It’s a cultural tradition, after all.

In the afternoon, we gathered together near Notre Dame. All of us had the “best ice cream,” according to professor Johnson. For a few minutes, we enjoyed ice cream with music by a three-man-band on the bridge called Pond St. Louise.

We had walking tour of Paris following the history of World War II with John Paul Fortney. Having a city tour by bus yesterday showed the broad picture of the city, and it was great that we walked so close to the places that we saw on the bus yesterday.

The tour began behind Notre Dame from “Deportation,” the monument that commemorates the French population in concentration camps during World War II. John Paul told us many great stories about the history of Paris in 1944, specifically in August during the French uprising against the Nazis.

The most attractive part of the tour was the memorials on the walls of several buildings. They were in memory of the people, such as a fireman and a nurse, who died during the time. There were flowers in front of them. The gun holes on the buildings were also very impressive. Those holes on the buildings tell us exactly what happened in that time. The gun holes were made during the time Nazis came to France. During the time Hitler wanted to destroy the city and ordered the general posted here to do so. The general decided to save it and be honored rather than obeying Hitler’s order. He was honored by France several years later. I cannot imagine this beautiful city that I see today if Nazis had gone through with their plans to destroy it.

Now we are packing up and getting ready to go back to our ordinary lives. Everything that I’ve seen and heard in this trip is unforgettable. The trip not only highlighted the gorgeous cities, but also told many great histories of the cities and World War II. Experiencing new people and culture is another great thing of travel. I have seen so many stylish French people on the street and people with a very gentle manner in the Metro, which was quite impressive.

I really don’t want to, but it’s time to say good-bye. We will miss you, Paris!

March 19, 2010
By Darcy Marlett

Caitlin Wenz
Photo by Owen Johnson
Caitlin Wenz at the Eiffel Tower.

Today was our first full day in Paris. After yet another wonderful breakfast that consisted almost solely of bread, pastry, coffee and orange juice, we headed off to explore more of Paris. Having gone out wandering the night before, we were slightly more prepared to take on the city’s extensive metro system this morning and we headed down to the Champs-Elysees to walk along the river and the shops.

Even though we had spent a considerable amount of time the night before stopping and staring, mouth agape, at the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower, we stared yet again this morning. We discussed how hard it is to believe that we are in Paris and we are actually looking at the Eiffel Tower.

The shops that line the Champs-Elysees vary from rows of small storefronts peddling Eiffel Tower key chains to intimidating, elegant stores that selling Rolexes and $400 Dior sweaters. We strolled along picking up trinkets, scarves, and T-shirts bearing the Eiffel Tower and Paris for friends and relatives.

Running slightly behind, we jumped back on the metro to make it back to the hotel in time for our tour. On our metro train was a violinist playing beautiful pieces that filled the small train car with music. It was a wonderful break from the usual standing in silence and listening to the squeaks of the metro brakes, and reminded us how exciting it is to be in Paris.

March 19 (Part II)
By Marilyn Jacques

Photo by Owen Johnson
Ye-Jin Kim and Lauren Tappana marvel at the crowd at the Pantheon.

Thursday night began our adventure in Paris. We celebrated our arrival watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle at midnight surrounded by the City of Lights. Although we would have loved to live in that moment forever, we could not wait to explore daytime Paris in the morning. Professor Johnson was gracious enough to let us sleep in today, but by 10 a.m., the class was ready to begin a journey in the immaculate city.

The weather was perfect for a day full of sightseeing, shopping and eating. Paris’ Metro system is much more difficult to navigate than London’s tube, but this did not discourage us from exploring the city, composed of nearly 4,500 streets, populated by nearly 14 million people. Throughout the morning and early afternoon, our class segregated into several small groups to satisfy everyone’s shopping and sightseeing desires.

By 2 p.m., our class regrouped at the hotel in order to take an organized, three-hour bus tour throughout Paris. With our cameras in tow, we loaded into our coach bus to see Paris’ 20 districts. There is a distinct architectural design to the majority of the buildings in Paris. The limestone structures have a unique symmetry to them and most have several black, iron balconies. The busy streets of Paris are overwhelmed with a plethora of cafes, cinemas, sidewalk vendors and museums.

In Paris
Photo by Owen Johnson
From left, Abby Hull, Amanda Uhles, Lauren Tappana and Rachel Janssen compare photos in Paris.

Of the 142 churches that are located in Paris, the Notre Dame is by far the most fascinating. This was one of the first historically significant places that we passed. The huge gothic-like structure overshadowed the buildings around it.

As we made our way through the city, we passed the Paris zoo, the beautiful botanical gardens, Sacre Coeur Paris, statues of Joan of Arc and Napoleon, and the Place du Pantheon. After driving two-miles down Champs-Elysees Avenue, we arrived at the Arc de Triomphe. All along the attractive avenue were sidewalk cafes, high-end shopping and rows of trees and traditional street lights. We walked around the arc, which displayed France’s flag.

We stopped outside of the 7,000-ton Eiffel Tower. Hundreds of tourists surrounded the symbolic structure to snap photographs and purchase souvenirs. After a few minutes of marveling over the tower, we gathered back on the bus and headed to our final destination: Montmartre. Located in the red light district, Montmartre required us to walk up over 100 stairs, where we were able to get a beautiful view of the city. Fortunately for us, we had the privilege of being entertained by a street performer; a man who danced to Cotton Eyed Joe and Soldier Boy.

After leaving the Montmartre, we all went our separate ways and enjoyed a delicious dinner — at the Indiana Café! — and more sightseeing. We are looking forward to another day of exploring the great City of Lights.

March 18, 2010
By Laura Mullen

Photo by Owen Johnson
The steeple of the church at Mont-Saint-Michel drew students' attention as they toured the area.

After exploring downtown Caen on St. Patrick’s Day, we awoke and had a breakfast of fresh croissants and other French staples. We boarded our bus and set out for our next destination.

About one hour from Caen, you will find the sanctuary that is Mont-Saint-Michel, an abbey that is said to date back to 708 and even survived the Hundred Years War. As we approached the receding island that is home to the abbey, we stopped to take pictures and take in the surrounding views.

Led by our tour guide, Fabrice, we climbed the 300-plus stairs to the very top – an easy feat compared to the 500-plus stairs we climbed at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. As we climbed, we took in the scenic views of the English Channel and the lands of Normandy and Brittany.

When we reached the top, we were guided through the chapels, crypts, courtyards and great halls that were once used by the monks of the abbey. Predominantly crafted in the Roman style of architecture, the abbey also consists of some 13th century Gothic styles as well. The builders strategically wrapped the buildings along the giant rock in the pyramidal shape of the mount the abbey sits on.

Upon finishing the tour, we wandered around the grounds of the abbey and the surrounding village. A few of us settled into a quiet French bistro for some lunch. Here, we enjoyed classic French crepes with bananas and chocolate, lasagna and French onion soup. Others visited the village at the foot of the abbey and perused the shops for gifts and souvenirs.

We boarded the bus again and began our five-hour journey into Paris. The French countryside looked familiar to us and reminded us all of being home in the United States. As our European journey comes to an end, we anxiously await our time in Paris.

March 18, 2010
By Abby Hull
Bonjour from Paris! After a great visit to the historic Mont-Saint-Michel abbey, we boarded the bus for a six-hour ride to the city. On the way, most people caught up on sleep or their journal entries while enjoying the French countryside.

As we approached the city, professor Johnson announced that we could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Seeing the famous landmark for the first time, even distantly, made me even more anxious to start exploring the city.

A little while later, some of us set off on the Métro, ready to look around and find some dinner.

As we turned a street corner, the l'Arc de Triomphe was suddenly right in front of us. It is larger and more beautiful in person than could possibly be captured in a picture. A massive French flag is flying in the middle, illuminated by street lamps. Some of us let out audible gasps upon first seeing it.

We continued down the street in the direction of the River Seine and the Eiffel Tower, stopping to pose with monuments and take pictures.

As we reached the front, thousands of lights on the tower began to flash and blink against the dark blue sky. The display was unexpected and exciting. One of the most recognizable symbols of French culture lit so spectacularly on our first night in Paris was a lovely welcome.

After eating and taking the Métro back to the hotel, most of us went to bed, excited to get to know Paris a little better tomorrow. Au revoir!

March 17, 2010
By Leslie Nix

Helen Gosselin (tour guide)
Photo by Owen Johnson
Helen Gosselin led the tour at Normandy. This is the third time she's led IU journalism students.

Our day began early, around 8 a.m. After eating breakfast and still rubbing the sleep from our eyes, we boarded the bus and set off on the one hour ride to Omaha Beach. Helen Gosselin, our guide, is a short, gray-haired woman with the jolliest of personalities and a laugh to remember. By sharing stories and history during our ride along with the countryside, Helen woke us from our sleep and engaged our minds.

Before Omaha Beach, we visited a place on the coast about 4 km to its west. A hole – probably 20 feet deep – rested in the corner, surrounded by trees. One in our group asked if perhaps the large hole was created with intention. Helen explained that the hole was the result of a bomb. Upon turning the corner, mouths dropped while others inhaled deeply. Dozens of bomb holes stretched out along the coast. Little space separated one from the next. All heads were turned to the ground in front of them, eyes careful to stay focused. Of course, since the bombs destroyed this earth, many wild grasses have grown back making the holes somewhat less devastating in appearance, but the emotional impact is intact.

We made our way to what was once an ammunition store. Men were expected to come to this building to acquire the necessary ammunition for their weapons. The steep stone steps and narrow passageways with the structure must have been difficult to navigate at night and under panic. I couldn’t help but realize that men were as likely to get hurt while scrambling to survive as they were from their enemies trying to kill them.

Tappana at omaha beach
Photo by Owen Johnson
Student Lauren Tappana considers the history at Omaha Beach. The students also visited the American Cemetery.

Omaha Beach was surprisingly small. The narrow shoreline was littered with garbage. It sparked interest, because though some empty water bottles would surely have gone unnoticed among piles of dead soldiers, they stuck out here like neon signs reading “disrespect.” We were lucky to be touring in 50 degree weather and perpetual sunshine; it served as yet another separation from that moment in time.

Possibly the most anticipated tour of the day came next: the American Cemetery at Normandy. There, 9,387 identified American soldiers are buried, and an additional 1,557 unidentified bodies lie in unmarked graves. The fallen are organized not alphabetically, but by plot, row and stone number. Burials began in 1955. Now, should remains near the beach be discovered, they are sent to America for DNA testing, but cannot come back for burial in the cemetery as it was closed as full in 1969. What sounds like a list of facts is seen as something entirely different.

We rounded the corner, talkative and excited to be in such an honorable place for our country, then got very quiet with the cemetery came into full view. It was a sea of white crosses over green. My eyes stung at the sheer number of them and only half were in view. Helen instructed the group to find two men at head stone numbers 11 and 12, row 15, plot F. There, we saw the graves of brothers Robert and Preston Niland. They both were killed in battle, Robert on June 6, 1944, and Preston on June 7, 1944. Their mother received the notifications of their deaths 15 minutes apart.

They chapel, located in the center of the cemetery, has this inscription: “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish.” It is sad to see so many dead and know it was only a fraction of those who lost their lives. But it is also evidence of American bravery, and we all walked a little prouder to the bus.

March 16, 2010
By Ashley Albrecht

eiffel tower
Photo by Amanda Uhles
Students posed in front of the iconic Eiffel Tower, one of their first destinations in Paris.

We woke up at 4 a.m. to catch our bus for the ferry from England to the continent. Destination: Normandy, France. Glazed-eyed and cranky, our group filed on the coach with mixed feelings of trepidation and excitement.

“I wish we had two more days in London,” said Dion. “I’m nervous – the language barrier is going to be a problem,” another student chimed in. For certain, most of the group had fallen in love with the cultural hub of England, from its bustling city streets to its historical poignancy to its diversity of peoples. Three days is simply not enough time to spend with Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s.

With such feelings of attachment to London, however, came waves of enthusiasm to travel to a new locale, with an entirely new language, and an even different set of customs. As we boarded the ferry to Normandy, it was clear that students were a tad nervous about communication on the continent. It was announced that there would be a time change from the United Kingdom to France, and the announcement was given first in French and then in English. Walking onto the ferry, students were greeted with the customary “bonjour” and replied with a “thank you” or a timid nod.

As the ship was divided into multiple levels, students explored the food options first, only to find that the fish and chips-style grub they’d become accustomed to in London had been replaced by brie and grape plates, Normandie cider and delicate French pastries. Clearly, French cuisine would be both more sophisticated and less hearty in comparison to the typical English fare.

While attempting to purchase said food and beverages, the students ran in to some monetary difficulties. Now, there was the choice of paying in either pounds or euros, as the ship traveled from the isles to a European Union member-state. No student knew which currency had the better exchange rate, and many of their credit and debit cards were denied. As the majority of European credit cards now come installed with a microchip, the “card swipers” on the ship failed to “read” the majority of students’ cards. No worries though, loyal reader, none of the students starved: leftover pounds and pence were dug out of pockets, and steak and fries were shared.

The approximately six-hour boat ride finally came to an end, as students forced themselves out of drowsy slumbers and compiled their belongings. Arrival in Normandy was majestic, as we boarded the bus to drive through the historic towns of the region, students oohed and ahhed. The signs read differently, the cars were smaller and the ambience was new. As we arrived at Novotel, Caen, it was apparent that the accommodations were markedly less luxurious than the last hotel, and that the rooms were smaller and more minimalist in décor. We headed out for a late supper and then to early bed, with dreams of Omaha beach and D-Day bombs in our head.

March 15, 2010
By Dion Hazelbaker

st pauls
Photo by Ashley Albrecht
Students learned about the Germans' attack on St. Paul's and the building supplied refuge and hope to the British.

Our third day here in London was just as busy and exciting as our first two. We finished our stay at in the city by visiting one of its most important landmarks, St. Paul’s Cathedral.

In our research about Ernie Pyle, we watched a video highlighting the German attack on St. Paul’s and how the building was the people’s symbol of hope and place of refuge during that attack. Our class saw the clergymen and volunteers fight the fires from the German incendiary grenades. Needless to say, watching this docudrama was interesting, but we weren’t able to grasp the scale of the threat.

Actually visiting the cathedral changed this. We entered its massive, revolving doors and our eyes met a towering work of Baroque architectural art. Statues of biblical figures and stained glass panels are throughout the building. Columns shoot upward throughout the cathedral and in the dome area, seemingly hundreds of feet tall, there are murals and more statues that look like they have been preserved perfectly despite the attack about seven decades ago.

Despite all of the biblical figures inside, my favorite wasn’t a saint or prophet, it was the statue of poet John Donne. Literary enthusiasts will remember him as the 16th century author of the Holy Sonnets, but I prefer to remember the way he divorced his wife in a letter, “John Donne, Anne Donne, undone.”

The most relevant aspect of this cathedral to me was climbing the to the top. According to a pamphlet, we climbed a total of 528 steps to reach its Golden Gallery at the top. This means during the London Blitz, there were men and women who were continuously sprinting hundreds of feet with buckets of water to keep the Nazi flames from destroying London’s most important symbol.

Being in this place made me realize a few things. First, cardio workouts must have been huge during the 1940s in London. Seriously, climbing St. Paul’s stairs is a workout.

Humor aside, visiting this place has made it so much easier for all of us to comprehend what the people working to save the cathedral went through. Besides dealing with the exhaustion from running up and down St. Paul’s stairs, working to save it was most likely doubly hard because of the extreme narrowness of the stairwells. To make matters worse, once they reached the top they would have to climb the steep and slippery cathedral roof.

None of us can fully understand or experience the desperate struggle the Londoners faced from the Blitz, but I believe that without this trip we wouldn’t have been able to retell the story of St. Paul’s survival and felt the emotional connection to the place we now have.

With the end of our visit to St Paul’s we bid London farewell and with it all of our fantastic adventures and new friends. The city has been great to us all, and experiencing the similarities and differences between these two cultures has been a real treat. Lookout France, the Ernie Pyle crew is coming!

March 14, 2010
By Daniel Byrd
Today, we went to the Imperial War Museum and then to the War Cabinet Rooms via the London Underground and then a scenic walk down the Thames River. The War Cabinet rooms are where Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his war cabinet commanded the British forces during World War II. The rooms are a glorified bomb shelter reinforced with a slab of concrete and steel.

The war rooms serve as a reminder of how afraid the British people were of a German invasion. Imagine living in a basement for five years in order to escape destruction from enemy bombing; now, imagine living in that basement and effectively running a country during a time of war.

Also included with the War Cabinet Rooms was the Winston Churchill Museum that chronicles the life of Great Britain’s most famous prime minister. Churchill’s life is an inspiration to anyone devoted to the ideals of democracy and freedom. He took a strong stance against Nazi Germany and Communism.

Churchill made many enemies during his life for being outspoken. My favorite quote by the two-time prime minister was when he was at a party one night and was approached by a woman who told him, “Prime Minister, you are drunk,” and Churchill responded, “Yes Madam, I am. And you are ugly, but in the morning I will be sober, and you will still be ugly.”

The life of Winston Churchill and the War Cabinet rooms have inspired me, and the rest of the students lucky enough to be part of this trip, to believe in something. Then, stay true to those beliefs even when faced with an enemy powerful enough to cripple an entire country in one decisive strike.

March 13, 2010
By Caitlin Wenz

Big Ben
Photo by Ashley Albrecht
Students found sunny days in London as they visited Big Ben, rode the tube and soaked up history.

Welcome to London! The Ernie Pyle students landed at Gatwick Airport at 7:15 a.m. local time after a safe – albeit, slightly bumpy – ride. After little sleep and limited access to soap and water for over 18 hours, we were grateful to stop at the hotel to freshen up and eat a good breakfast before officially starting our day.

We spent the morning on a bus tour of London, with our guide Janine, who not only has a great sense of humor but also has quite possibly the most impressive memory of anyone I’ve come across. Our tour included glimpses of Buckingham Palace, where the changing of the guards was conveniently taking place just as we drove by; Hyde Park, Europe’s largest shopping mall; and Piccadilly Circus. The frighteningly high speed of traffic didn’t allow for much time to take pictures, which resulted in the students scrambling across the bus seats trying to get the best shots they could out the window. With so many incredible buildings and monuments, getting pictures of anything was quite a challenge.

After our ride through the city, we were dropped off in front of Westminster Abbey and could also see the London Eye, Big Ben and the Parliament building. Westminster Abbey is incredible, both for its amazing architectural and artistic detail, but also because of the history packed into one location. Notable people are entombed at Westminster, such as the 24 monks who died of the plague in the 14th century, the tomb of the unknown soldier, Charles Dickens, Isaac Newton and Queen Elizabeth I.

The tombs are so richly decorated and contain so much symbolism that it became somewhat overwhelming to try and see everything at once. Luckily, we had Janine to point out the particularly important parts. We also saw the throne used for coronations, the altar where Princess Diana’s coffin lay at her funeral, and a corner dedicated to commemorating brilliant writers, including William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Byron Keats and the Brontë sisters.

I get the feeling that it could take a solid week of exploring Westminster before you really got to know it, but unfortunately we only had about an hour and a half. While the majesty and grace of the Abbey was certainly memorable, there were other parts of London waiting for us.