The day started in Arromanches, France for breakfast. There’s a museum here, but we’d heard it was “more of the same”, so we headed up the hill to hit the 360 theater, which sits high on a cliff overlooking the town and the ocean. The theater is a complete 360 degree experience and was truly fantastic. Also, as you can see, the view was breathtaking.
We then headed to Point du Hoc, which was the Alliies’ number one target on D-Day. The nazis had released a film showing Hitler proudly taunting the Allies to just “try and take” this installation, and Eisenhower made it his mission to do just that. With the new evidence that’s been coming lately though (since a bunch of new records etc were declassified in 2004,) it’s looking more and more that the Nazis used Point du Hoc as a decoy, leaving the Maisy Battery complex untouched until a day or two after the initial invasion. It’s a beautiful site though, and one of the only sites where the bomb craters haven’t been filled-in, and they’re MASSIVE! It’s a sprawling network of bunkers, all located on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach, and is definitely worth a visit.
We left there and stopped in a small village called St Laurent Marie. Jeff and Paul had stopped here a few years previous, and had met the mayor of the town, who gave them some pretty cool info about what had happened on D-Day in that area. The church, and the monuments in teh cemetery still show damage from shells and bullets, and when you go inside, there are a few of the stained glass windows that were changed after liberation. They depict the armies moving-in on the beach, and the paratroopers flying in to save the locals. It’s quite moving when you think about how this small town was affected by the outside world in such a terrible way,
From there, we headed to the American Cemetery at Normandy, which actually overlooks Omaha Beach. It’s tough to even describe what I saw, especially when you walk past the hedge rows only to see what looks like endless rows of crosses, all perfectly placed in rows and columns, as they stretch for what seems like eternity to the back of the field. A small chapel sits directly in the middle, and a massive memorial sits at the end, with a semi-circled wall where the names of all of the missing are placed. I was speechless as I walked slowly past all of the monuments, seeing where the men were from and when during the operation that they’d lost their lives. I don’t care who you are, walking through this field of fallen soldiers will affect you deeply.
After that, we stopped in Port En Bessin for a cigar and to check out low tide, as all of the boats in the water were currently sitting in the mud. There was a German batter atop the hill in this town, but British RAF Elite stormed and liberated the installation, but at a heavy price. The twon now though, is pretty much like any other port town, even down to the fresh fish market on the pier.
Our last stop was the battery at Longues Sur Mer, which is one of my favorite sites that we’ve seen so far. The biggest reason being that the original guns are still present, with two fully intact, a third partially damaged, and the last taking a direct hit from a shell, obliterating the gun and taking the back wall out of the bunker. There’s also a lookout and radar post right on the cliff, which we almost missed since it’s a good distance away from the main guns. It’s amazing to see how these were all built, and it makes me cringe to think of how loud it had to be in those bunkers when they were firing these huge cannons.
Tomorrow, we stop at the Pegasus Bridge and one last gun battery before heading back to Belgium. Talk to you soon!