Saturday, April 2, 2016

Maisy Battery, Utah Beach and Rural France

Greetings People of Earth.  Today was another gift from the weather gods until late afternoon.  Last night, while surfing the internet, Jim stumbled upon mention of the Maisy Battery.  My beloved knows a lot about WWII.  He had never heard about the Maisy Battery - so that is where we went today.  Traveling can be so interesting.  Along the way, however, there was a stop to take pictures of the French cows.  These cows are huge.  Jim refused to go through the fence and stand next to a cow for scale, so you'll have to take my word for it.  Huge cows.

This map is from the Utah Beach museum.  It's out of sequence but I want to point out the Maisy Battery.  Look at Point du Hoc, move your eyes left and down just a little, and you'll see the word Maisy.  So, we've established that Maisy existed.

The Maisy Battery is around 100 acres.  There were ammunition storage areas, large caliber artillery  emplacements, anti-aircraft guns, hospitals, living quarters and etc. and etc.  Before the end of WWII the Army Corps of Engineers bull dozed and leveled the entire site, and additionally took the time and effort to fill in the bunkers by hand.  It was not excavated until 2004, when an amateur historian and militaria collector, Gary Sterne, found a map and wondered why he'd never heard of the place.   Shortening the story, he came to France, bought the acreage, dug it up and found Widerstandsnest 83, which was part of Hitler's Atlantic Wall.  The site was situated so that it could fire on Omaha, Utah and the ships at sea.  The crux of the whole thing is why was the site covered up.   The story continues to evolve every year as documents in the UK and the USA are declassified and more is known about D-Day.
Here is Jim, contemplating the first trench we must pass through.

A concrete structure, this was a barracks for the soldiers stationed here.

A 155 mm howitzer.  This is not original to the site.  It was hauled in here after excavation.

More trench.

Another concrete structure.

I do not have sufficient knowledge to have a valid opinion on why the site was covered in dirt.  There are many theories.  If you're interested, here are some of the internet sites we've been reading.

Update to post 6/2/2019:  WAPO has done a piece on the Maisy Battery.  It's interesting reading.

Update to post 2/20/2020:  With the help of the Discovery Channel, more of the facility has been revealed.  You can read about that here.

After leaving the Maisy Battery, we headed up toward Utah Beach.   They have added a museum to the area since we were there in 2003.  This is a restored B-26 in a temporary hanger like those used in forward landing fields during the war.  Its housed in a glass box to keep it out of the weather, but it's interesting to see the structure.

This is a Goliath.  The Germans made them.  It's about 5 feet long.  They're wire guided bombs.  They carry 220 pounds of explosives.  The Germans would drive them into Allied targets and blow them up.

This was taken in the main square of Ste Marie-Du Mont.  See the soldier on the far right?  We parked right behind him today.  It's just weird, being around all of this history.

Utah Beach.  It was so cold and windy, I could hear the sand hitting the hood of my jacket.

If you have seen the movie The Longest Day, you will remember the 82nd Airborne Division parachuted in before the actual invasion.  Winds were stronger than anticipated, and many men ended up off course and died or were captured.  In the movie and in real life, John Steele ended up on the church spire in Ste Mere Eglise.  He faked being dead to avoid being shot.  He was captured, but escaped and rejoined his unit.  Ste Mere Eglise has really capitalized on this event.  Here is their church, where Mr. Steele landed.

The inside of the church.

Here is one of their stained glass windows.

Here is a detail.  See the paratrooper?

I'd say half the businesses in town are in some way related to that night.  Like many small towns in France, they are losing population, and they need some way to be economically viable.
Terrible weather has returned once again.  Given that tomorrow is Sunday, many things in France are closed.  I'm not sure what we're doing tomorrow. 

1 comment:

  1. I dont if you just doing the battlefields, but if not there is a very interesting town, Honfleur, not far [120k] from Pointe du Hoc.