Part 5: Normandy Beaches


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The Trip

We engaged a professional guide to give us a tour of the Normandy beaches associated with D-Day.  What we saw was both eye-opening and humbling.  Many men lost their lives in those first day of the invasion that was the precursor to the fall of the Nazi empire.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

The famous church at St. Mer Eglaise.  There was a museum near-by that was  filled with relics from the era.  The invasion resulted in plenty of damaged or abandoned equipment.

An M-1 Sherman tank which was a poor match against the German Panzer with their 88mm guns.

These tanks were of WWI design and lacked the anti-tank gun that made the Panzer so effective on the battlefield.

An American anti-aircraft gun.

A propeller geared hub from a crashed C-47.

A mock-up of some of the typical uniforms and equipment "kit" from the era.

A C-47 radial power plant.

From the museum, we traveled in the guide's van to Utah beach where we spotted the German command bunker above.  The bunker had been converted to civilian use.

Utah beach itself was nice and flat and made for a successful landing.  Happily for the Allied forces, it was not heavily defended, unlike Omaha beach.

We stopped at a local museum for lunch and spotted this German soldier's helmet.  He did not have a good day.  There was a large exit hole on the other side of the helmet.

The museum had some interesting displays and the owner's own personal collection of artifacts.

Next stop was Pont du Hoc where we spotted this 1917 vintage 155mm shore gun.  Rommel had most of these guns removed from this area before the Allies attacked.  These guns were quite accurate for their day.

One of the German fortifications at Pont du Hoc that was damaged during the pre-attack shelling and bombing.

The 155mm gun would have been on a mount inside this concrete fortification.

A personnel bunker at Pont du Hoc.

The American Ranger battalion attacked by climbing up these cliffs.

A  crater left over from one of the many naval shellings of Pont du Hoc.

The Ranger assault came up the cliff in the area where matting has been installed.

The group inspects the targeting bunker at Pont du Hoc.

The group checks out the observation port that allowed targeting of the shore batteries.

A direct strike by a 1,000 bomb.

From Pont du Hoc, we got in the van and went to Omaha Beach.  Omaha is a narrow beach at high tide and the Germans had a number of gun emplacements that provided defensive strength.  The Allies encountered many problems and made many mistakes at Omaha.  This, combined with the strength of the German defensive position resulted in a very high casualty rate.  This is a machine gun emplacement on one of the only beach exit point at Omaha Beach.

One of the pontoon bridges that allowed rapid construction of an artifical harbor and road to allow dockage of supply ships at the beach.

Underneath this monument is a German 88mm gun that was used to shoot the attacking forces.  This gun had a clear line of fire along the entire beach.  The muzzle of the gun is visible behind the grate.

Omaha Beach today is, not surprisingly, a tourist atttraction.  Most of the beach has a road over it as well as a rock seawall.  This is, of course, not anything like what the Allied Expeditionary Force saw when it went ashore under intense German fire.

A later generation "tank killer" with an effective anti-tank cannon.

From Omaha, we went to the American Cemetary.  Above is one of the monuments at the cemetary.

This map in the monument shows the path of the D-Day invasion forces.  The 3 arrows at the lower left were Juno, Sword and Gold Beaches.  The center was Omaha and thet right Utah.

A better view of the statue at the monument.

There were over 9,000 Americans killed and interred at the cemetary.

Not every soldier interred was identified.

9,000 is a lot of headstones.

Sadly, the wind was blowing at me resulting in a less than optimal flag photo.

The reflecting pool at the American Cemetary.

Next, back to Caen for dinner and then on to M. St. Michele on the following day.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2013, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.