Thursday, October 1st.
In the morning we headed across the peninsula toward the D-Day Landing Beaches. Code named “Operation Overload” it was the largest military operation in history. On the morning of June 6th. 1944, swarms of landing craft- part of an armada of 6000 boats and ships-hit the northern beaches of Normandy and tens of thousands of soldiers from the USA, the UK, Australia and Canada and elsewhere stormed onto the beach.
How they accomplished this was documented very well through audio, film clips, movies, tours and museums throughout the area. Since this information is also available on line I will just highlight the things we found interesting and thought provoking over the next three days.
The majority of the 135,000 Allied troops stormed ashore along the 80 km of beaches north of Bayeux code-named (from west to east) Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
We walked as much of Utah beach as we could with the tide in. The Utah Beach D-Day Landing Museum was built on the very spot where American troops landed on June 6th, 1944. The museum recounts the events of D-Day in ten sequences from its planning right through to the taking of Cherbourg. It houses a rich collection of objects, vehicles, equipment and accounts of the invasion.
It is a very moving and though provoking memorial.
Pointe du Hoc was reached by going inland around a large bay then back out to the coast. This was a strategic point in the German defences on the coast. The 2nd battalion of Rangers achieved an incredible feat by climbing the 30’ cliffs under heavy fire. This monument is being preserved as a natural site by the US Government.
We stayed on the paths as recommended and wandered the site which still bears traces of the German artillery battery as well as deep scars from the fierce fighting which took place on June 6th an 7th which cost the lives of 135 Rangers.
Omaha Beach was a real trap for the troops of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions. The first assault wave was brutally cut down and the second left the beach strewn with the wounded, the dead and broken equipment. By midday, they began to breach the German defences and at the price of heavy losses, the Americans finally emerged victorious and took possession of the coastal villages.
One of the most poignant pictures I saw in a Museum was an older man kneeling beside a downed soldier, whose upper body had been covered with a sheet, and a lady bending down to put flowers on the soldier’s back.
Every town we passed through and many homes flew the US, Canadian, British and French flags. Considering present day politics we were quite amazed and delighted that those on the Normandy coast remembered and were thankful
We tried to enter the Normandy American Cemetery but we were 5 minutes late. It closed at 5 PM.
The night was spent at a beautiful RV Resort; Camping Port’Land in Port-En-Bessin. Each pitch was huge and they were all divided with hedges. The facilities had it all; seats, paper and soap!
The on-site restaurant was a short walk from our pitch and we enjoyed wine with our dinner.