Storming the Beaches of Normandy

This weekend I went to France.

Well, sorta. I and a group of friends gathered in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania to partake in the 2014 ION (Invasion of Normandy) Paint Ball event.

TL;DR: ION is 4500 people gathering in a paint ball scenario event based around the Invasion of Normandy and the events following thereafter. As members of the Allied force, we ‘stormed’ the beaches and then pushed inland, securing territory, accomplishing missions, and doing various other things.

It should be noted that I have never played paint ball before. Prior to arriving at ION, I never even fired a paint ball gun (aka, marker). Fortunately, my older bro loaned me his gear so I didn’t have to shell out a lot of money outside of buying paint and a few other minor things. It worked well enough.

Getting to ION was an adventure itself – a 15 hour drive that began from Iowa City at 5pm (where I met a friend) and straight through the night, arriving about 10am. Only managed an hour of sleep on the drive (nerves? uncomfortable? don’t know) so Friday was quite rough. We left Sunday for another 15 hours back home (leaving about 8am and arriving back in Iowa City about 10pm where I stayed the night at a hotel and came home Monday morning).

Why yes, I've only had one hour of sleep in the past two days. How could you tell?
Why yes, I’ve only had one hour of sleep in the past two days. How could you tell?

 

ION itself though … epic and amazing. The main event was Saturday, starting with the beach landings at noon and running until 9pm. The group I was with was about 30-35 people, all of us familiar with one another and working as a team (which in itself was great fun). We went out onto the field three times – beach landings, wood patrol and missions, and an evening tree line fight. All told, it was about 3-4 hours of actual fighting and the rest recovery. Very much needed recovery.

Some highlights:

  • Storming the Beach. I was in the third boat, front row which meant I had a perfect view of what was to come. Even before the ramp dropped, the shots started coming in. It sounded like hail against a metal roof – light at first and then ramping up until you couldn’t even hear yourself think. Then the ramp dropped and all you could see was chaos – smoke, paint balls in the air, people running back and forth. I darted out, cut left, and dove behind a barrier that was hit by dozens of shots a second after I arrived. It was amazing.
  • While still on the beach, I led a group of random strangers into assaulting a position that eventually led to a break through in the enemy lines. I simply grew tired of being pinned down, ordered two people to provide covering fire, grabbed two others, and pushed forward. It worked.
  • Going out on a mission with 10 of us and watching about 250 Germans charge the ‘Pentagon’, then discovering we were on their right flank which was now exposed. The ten of us wrecked havoc until we were discovered and lit up by about a hundred guns.

There was a lot more. The entire experience was fantastic and I’m glad I went. Already making plans for next year. Now, a few pictures (click on all of them to enlarge).

Minutes before the first landing.
Minutes before the first landing.
Standing about 10 meters from where the German line would be. Our boat can be seen just in front of the red container, flying a British flag (we were Sword Beach, the far left flank of the assault).
Standing about 10 meters from where the German line would be. Our boat can be seen just in front of the red container, flying a British flag (we were Sword Beach, the far left flank of the assault).

 

Some of the woods in which we fought. There were also streams, swamps, overgrowth, etc. It was tough ground.
Some of the woods in which we fought. There were also streams, swamps, overgrowth, etc. It was tough ground.
The Pentagon (aka, Paris) and surrounding terrain. This is near where we attacked the German flank.
The Pentagon (aka, Paris) and surrounding terrain. This is near where we attacked the German flank.
A little worse for the wear after the final excursion.
A little worse for the wear after the final excursion.
Some of the wounds I suffered.
Some of the wounds I suffered.
Post Insertion Shots 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Halfway Home on Sunday
Post Insertion Shots 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Halfway Home on Sunday

 

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