Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Normandy's D-Day Invasion Beaches

On this historic date, the Allied Countries invaded the northern coast of France to begin the final push to end Nazi Germany's control of the European mainland. As German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had predicted on April 22, 1941 about this inevitable Allied invasion, ". . .For the Allies, as well as the Germans, it will be the longest day."

Operation Overlord
The Code Name for the Invasion

My goal was to primarily tour the western half of the 75 mile wide D-Day beaches, i.e., the areas code named Omaha and Utah Beaches, where most of the American forces landed.

Arromanches, France
Overnight home of Port Winston

This was ground zero on D-Day and my first stop.

On June 7, 1944, after the brutal first day of fighting, 17 old ships sailed 90 miles across the English Channel to this harbor. Their crews then placed each boat's bow facing the next boat's stern forming a sea barrier after these same crews sank all 17 ships.

WWII Wreckage at Arromanches

After sinking the ships, the Allies then used 500 tugboats to tow 115 football field sized cement blocks called Mulberries across the English Channel as well. These were also sunk and thus a four mile long breakwater was created a mile and a half off shore.

By June 12th, 54,000 vehicles, 326,000 troops and 110,000 tons of goods had safely crossed the English Channel.

The British were responsible for this incredible piece of engineering and they called it Port Winston after British P.M.  Winston Churchill.

Eleven months later, Hitler was dead and the war in Europe was over.

WWII Normandy American Cemetery

Located on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, 9,387 American Soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during the fateful days of the invasion are buried here.

The Graves are simple,
the men in them are not

What were their individual stories?

"The Spirit of American Youth"

Near this statue are the names of another 1,557 American soldiers whose remains were never found.

The Invasion Battle Map 

Close up of the Omaha Beach
portion of the map

Omaha Beach

Open, long and with no cover to speak of, many were lost here. Remember, a German machine gun on this bluff could fire 1,200 rounds per minute!

So peaceful on this day, nothing like the carnage on D-Day during the six hours it took to secure this beach from the Germans.

Standing on Sacred Ground
at Omaha Beach

German Gun Battery at

A total of four of these still exist here about 300 yards from the beach. They are the only ones of their kind still in existence along the Normandy coast. These guns were accurate for a range of 12 miles.

Observation Bunker

This bunker was on the coast and used to direct the firing from the big guns farther back.

A War Memorial at

Lots of open beach to cross at
Vierville-sur-Mer as well

The very steep bluffs at
Pointe du Hoc looking West

Point du Hoc bluffs looking East

American Rangers were given the task of scaling these bluffs on D-Day. They even brought ladders borrowed from the London Fire Department to help them get started.

The Germans most heavily fortified defenses were located here. Only about 1/3 of the Rangers survived the attack on D-Day.

Bomb craters at Pointe du Hoc

Because of the defenses here, the Allies had bombed this area very, very intensely. The craters from these bombing raids were never filled in or leveled out creating this surreal lunar landscape.

The Ranger Dagger

Planted firmly in the ground, this huge cement dagger is a memorial to Rangers who fought and died here.

Utah Beach

Our first two beaches offered landing problems due to first open beaches and then steep cliffs. At Utah Beach, the problem was marsh land as soon as you crossed the narrow beach.

Many paratroopers landed inland of Utah Beach to both support the men landing by sea.

American Navy Monument

The Western end of Utah Beach

American Forces are still appreciated
to this day in Normandy

Ste. Mere Eglise

This was the first village liberated by the American troops.

Note the parachute snagged on the top of the steeple with an American paratrooper hung up way above the ground. This really happened here. The man was Private John Steele.

The grim German Military Cemetery

This was the site of the American Military Museum before it was moved to its current location near Omaha Beach.

A total of 21,000 German soldiers are buried here.

A lot of men died as a result
of D-Day, he was one of them

This was a very solemn, inspirational and uplifting weekend for me. 

No comments: