Friday, April 1, 2016

The Landing Beaches

Today was a gift from the gods of weather.  The climate today was just wonderful.  No rain, not too cold, not too much wind.  Here we are on the way to Bayeux, on the wrong damn road, again, because of the wretched GPS. As it turned out, there is a page three levels down in the menu system that had "avoid motorways" checked, and so its logic was to go all over hell and back to avoid a highway.  Once we discovered that, our relationship with the GPS improved.
Anyway, isn't it lovely?  See the sign on the right?  That's for an upcoming round about, you must know where your cities are to navigate your way points.

This is La Cambe - another small cuter than a bug French village.  This was on the way to the German cemetery.  We drove through here a couple of times looking for the turnoff.

This was an American cemetery until 1947.  Then the dead were exhumed and sent back to the US for burial.  Beginning in 1948 the German War Graves Commission began the job of relocating their dead to this and other cemeteries.  There are 21,000 German soldiers buried here.  Most of the German war dead are in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Look at how young he was.

This is in the center of the cemetery.  It's a sad place.

Then we drove down through Grandcamp Maisy  It's now a very cool little sea shore town.  There are vacation homes and fishing boats.  This boat has been hauled up onto the stone boat ramp and is awaiting a bottom job.

There is camping in the area, as well.

Behold, a French dump station.  See the blue liquid on the right?  That looks like black tank chemicals.  Apparently one drives over the trench, and opens the tanks.  Ewwwwwwwwww.

This is actually an RV park.  There are twelve sites behind a fire station.  We did not see any hook ups at all.

Pointe du Hoc.  As part of D Day, the point had to be taken. The Germans had gun emplacements there, pointing at Utah Beach.  Army Rangers climbed the near vertical cliffs and held the beach and point.  Reinforcements were to have come from Omaha Beach, but they were pinned down by the Germans.  This area still bears the marks of shells fired from Allied ships off shore.

A gun emplacement.

The cliffs scaled by the Rangers.  Originally they were going to use rocket propelled grappling hooks to get the ropes up to the tops of the cliffs.  Most of the rockets failed due to  the attached ropes being soaked with sea water.  Instead the Rangers relied on ladders and brute strength to get up.

This is the Ranger Memorial.  When we were here in 2003, it was cordoned off because the cliff was about to fall into the sea.  If you click on the link HERE, you can see pictures of how the whole thing was stabilized.

 This is Omaha Beach.  Many soldiers died here.

The Germans had the high ground.

As we drove along the beach road, looking at some truly palatial vacation rentals, it was hard to reconcile this with the death and destruction that had occurred decades ago.  Just up that bluff, death had been dealt.

We continued on to the American Cemetery.  There is an excellent information center there.  If you visit, plan to spend some time reading about the logistics of an invasion of that size.  Today there was a high school band from Fort Mill, SC  playing at the WWII memorial.  They raised enough money selling scrap metal to transport a huge band and their chaperones to participate in a cemetery program.  It was impressive to see that many kids up on stage.

The cemetery is huge, and really brings it home how many gave their lives in this war.

More of Omaha Beach at the base of the cemetery.

After the American Cemetery we started the drive back towards Caen.  But first there were sheep to be photographed.

And there was a church.

Bullet holes in the church.

It's surreal being in this part of France.  It's such a beautiful area.  Rolling hills (excellent tank country), fields bordered by hedgerows (really bad for tanks), and generally gorgeous scenery.


  1. A thorough and moving post...
    Box Canyon Mark

  2. Thanks for the visual history lesson. How interesting to be there where it all happened.
    Any idea how much that huge vacation rental might go for??

    1. No real data, but I suspect it's more than we'd have available for it.

  3. Never been to "the beaches." Thanks for the most excellent tour.

  4. Those cemeteries are really poignant places and as you said the ages of the soldiers really brings it home. The cemeteries are also very well maintained often by the War Graves commission. We were there the other year and it coincided with a battlefield tour by restored WW11 army vehicles. For me visiting the area is good but it has an aura around it. My daughter has taken schoolkids there on history trips and hardened lads have been known to shed a tear. By the way those waste water disposal areas on the sites are for "grey" water only. The other stuff gets dumped in Chemical disposal areas.

    1. Thanks for that info on the dump stations. They're so different in the US, we've been wondering how it all works.
      You're right about the aura. In the cemeteries, there is a hush.