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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Normandy & D-Day

During our vacation in France, we visited Normandy and the D-Day beaches.  It is a place that we have always wanted to see to help us appreciate the sacrifice that took place here during WWII.  Seeing it in person helped to visualize the struggles and challenges that our servicemen overcame during this invasion.

We stayed in a small town of Bayeux, France.  It is about 10-15 miles from the Normandy D-Day beach sites.

 Cathedral in the center of Bayeux.  It was the original home of the Bayeux Tapestry and is a national monument of France. The site is an ancient one and was once occupied by Roman sanctuaries. The present cathedral was consecrated on 14 July 1077 in the presence of William, Duke of Normandy and King of England. It was here that William forced Harold Godwinson to take the oath, the breaking of which led to the Norman conquest of England.
 Bayeux Cathedral
Top of the cathedral in Bayeux.
 An old water mill in Bayeux.
 Bayeux mill.
 German artillery bunker between Arromanches and Omaha Beach.  The site had 4 bunkers situated in a semi-circle to allow for coverage of a wide range of the beaches.  The guns had a range of 12 miles.
Checking out the guns.  They could rotate almost 180 degrees.
Notice the interior of the barrel.
The artillery bunkers were made with reinforced concrete.
All of them showed spots where they took direct hits but were not destroyed.
Look at the marks on the exterior of the concrete--
holes where shells struck the bunker.
This is a pill box/observation bunker.  It was heavily reinforced and
gave a wide view of the surrounding beach and ocean.
The interior of the observation bunker.
Checking the horizon for signs of invasion forces.
The next several pictures are of Omaha Beach.  It is sobering to walk on this sand
and remember the sacrifices that were offered here.
We were here at low tide--which was also when the invasion started.
Low tide was necessary for Allied success because it exposed
the mines and barriers that the Germans had put into place.
The sandy hills just off of the beach.
This area was filled with pill boxes and machine gun nests.
Looking up the hill from the beach.
Omaha Beach
At low tide, the US soldiers had to cross this area before they could find cover.
The hills above Omaha Beach.
Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach
After the US soldiers cleared the beach,
they then had to take the hills above the beach.
The Germans had brought in a regiment of seasoned veterans to guard this area
a few weeks before the invasion--a fact unknown to the Allied forces.
These crack forces exacted a huge price from the invading Americans. 
Steps up to the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach.
The Stars and Stripes flying proudly over the American Cemetery in France.
The crosses at the cemetery.
There are approx. 9,600 American soldiers buried here.
Although all of the sources give different numbers,
about 5,000-6,000 of these Americans died on Omaha Beach during the invasion. 
Most of the graves list the name of the soldier, his home state,
and which Armed Service regiment he served in.
Here Rests in Honor and Glory A COMRADE IN ARMS Known But to God.
A note to a fallen loved one.
This soldier died 66 years to the day of our visit.
It was the anniversary of his death.
The graves of the Jewish soldiers are marked with the Star of David.
This spot of ground is hallowed.  We should never forget the sacrifices that others have made in our behalf.  These young men willingly gave their lives so that others could experience freedom--both at home in America and for others in Europe, the French, British, Dutch, Belgium, Norwegians, and even the Germans and the Italians.  They gave up their lives, the ultimate sacrifice for others.
 A quote from General Mark Clark.
Point du Hoc--this sharp point that juts out into the ocean is located between Omaha and Utah beaches.  It was heavily fortified with large German guns capable of controlling the beaches as well as destroying the Allied ships at sea.  Taking Point du Hoc was considered vital to the success of the D-Day invasion.  300 Army Rangers were assigned to take out this artillery battery after it was bombed by Allied planes.  The Rangers had to climb a cliff from the sea with ropes and ladders.  Only about 90 of the Rangers survived but they were successful in their mission.
Point du Hoc--base for one of the large cannons.
Point du Hoc was one of the most heavily bombed sites during D-Day
by the Allied forces. Some of the bomb craters were very deep.
Notice all of the craters though out this site.
The sea cliffs at Point du Hoc which were scaled by
the Army Rangers with ropes and ladders.
Arromanches--a small town between Omaha and Gold Beaches became the beach headquarters.  Because there was no natural harbor that would allow ships to unload in this area, the Allied forces built an artificial harbor here to unload their equipment.  Huge blocks of concrete, the size of football fields were towed from England and set into place to allow docks to be built.  Older vessels were scuttled to allow the harbor to be usable.
British tank on the hill over-looking Arromanches.


Keri said...

Wow, beautiful pictures of a sacred place. Sobering to even think about.

CeCelia Jade said...

Oh my goodness, I've been there! It was a very neat place to visit and imagine all of the things that happened there, and France is just beautiful. I'm so jealous, you guys are just having a party over there!

DSigns said...

My grandpa-inlaw was in a tank there on dday and after. He said the shots sounded like popping sounds,when they made it onto the beach/land he said they had to move very slowly-maybe a few feet every hour. He said they had to drive the tank over all the dead soldiers/which covered the entire ground. He never wanted to go back to France after the war was over. his wife went and he didn't.

Mike & Emily West said...

That is amazing! What a special and sacred place. We miss you guys...really, really do!