Normandy history day two (30/21,430ks)

(written by Dave)

We’ve had another interesting and somber history day in Normandy.  We went on an organized tour this morning out to La Point Du Hoc, moved onto Omaha Beach and finished the tour at the Normandy American Cemetery.

La Point Du Hoc was where the first Americans came ashore on 6, June 1944.  Here the first group of US Army Rangers scaled high cliffs in order to take out some strategic German big guns.  They were largely successful but found the several of the guns were actually logs used by the Germans to trick aerial photographers.  The Rangers had an “easy” go initially but over the next two days, faced with several German counter attacks, they lost over ½ of their 220 men.  The lunar landscape created by bombardment still remains today.  We were warned to “stay on the track” but assured that all the bombs had been removed.  We stayed on the track.

Our next stop was Omaha Beach.  It was here that the American forces suffered their worst losses.  The Germans were clever.  They didn’t point their guns at the sea, but rather they pointed them down the beach.  This meant the soldiers disembarked fairly easily, only to meet brutal crossfire as they reached the shallow water.  Many of the German bunkers, machine-gun fox holes and the original seawall and road are still intact.  Standing on a spot were such a brutal battles took place was kind of eerie.  Throw in a foggy, grey morning and you get the complete effect.

From Omaha we moved onto the Normandy American Cemetery.  Here almost 10,000 Americans are buried.  There are some 300 unknown graves, but most are named.  According to our guide, the land here has been given by France to the US (there was no passport control).  The white marble crosses are quite stark, all in perfect rows cascading over the hill towards Omaha Beach.  Just like yesterday the cemetery it is a place where all the statistics of war become very real.  One cross, one person has given their life.  Unfortunately our tour was on a time schedule and we couldn’t linger in the cemetery very long.  It really is a nice place to walk and ponder.

We were dropped back in Bayeux just in time for lunch.  Nancy had croque monsieur, while I had croque madame.  The later was basically a croque monsieur, except they put a fried egg on top.  We can’t handle a glass of wine mid-day these days so we split a glass of red wine (woohoo – party animals).  At least we would be able to stay awake in the afternoon.

In the afternoon we tried to get a bus out to Arromanches, a site on the coast where they have constructed a 360 theater that gives people a full look and feel of what the landing day in 1944 was like.  The bus was going to be a couple hours wait so we hopped on our bikes and races out for the 3:10 show.  We just made and barely grabbed our spots and the film started.  We enjoyed the film but our racing hearts, combined with some very realistic, almost 3D, video left us both a little light headed.  The movie was realistic and interesting.  If they had piped in some smoke, you might have even thought you were in a time machine.  Our heads at least were ready for it to end after 30 minutes.  We were lucky, the boys on the beach didn’t have this option.

Tomorrow we head to Paris.  We are catching the train there, most of the way.  Whenever we start feeling a little guilty about the train, we look outside and see it starting to rain again.  Even though we had a nice afternoon, the weather remains decidedly unsettled here.  The guide today mentioned that they have had one entire week of summer here this year (in July).  Guess we picked the wrong year to tour France.  All the same, the side trip to Normandy has been well worth it.  We’ve both had our eyes opened a bit to all of the suffering that our forbearers went through over here in France.  No matter how difficult a day we are having, nothing could match what the boys went through here in Normandy.

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4 thoughts on “Normandy history day two (30/21,430ks)

  1. In looking at your pictures I can understand how you feel, I left the holocaust museum feeling numb and disoriented. You would think that the human cost (the loss of brothers, fathers, uncles, etc.) would be enough to keep us from going to war.

    • It is sobering, and tiring. After a couple days I need a break from the cemeteries. Most of what we’ll see in Paris will be considerably lighter…


  2. Hi.. well, we just got back from a visit with Alice and Becky, Bi;; and even Matts came to see us…Also Pamela came by the night before so we got to see everyone except David and Nancy OK just finished reading all the blogs I missed..and Normandy almost did me in… the cemetary was and is beautiful;.thank God you weren’t born yet.. or my son.. I couldn’t handle giving up a child to war…This won going on now makes me sick…for what ???? anyway..just wanted to say, I loved that town or whatever it is ..Bayeay.. loved the buildings..roof tops pictures os all..Same with Mon St Michael… you two are priceless… and the food pictures are really too much..bring home clotted cream and scones, please We love you and what you are doing.. AP

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