D-Day 65 Years on. Omaha Beach, how peaceful and tranquil it looks now. How different it must have been for the men who fought up and down this coast. If you sit and look at the cliffs and beach fronts you can visualise in your own mind how it must have looked. The full horror of what faced these troops must have been so overwhelming its almost to hard to understand. These beaches, the cliffs, the fields, the hedgerows all formed part of the most historical battle in human history.
St Mere Eglise, now famous from the film The Longest Day and many computer games that have been written about the 101st and 82nd Airborne drops in this area and the subsequent battles with the Germans.
Pegasus Bridge, is now a hive of activity. The original bridge was replaced with the same style bridge but with 2 lanes as opposed to the original one lane. The cafe still exists, and offers nice baguettes and drinks for weary travellers.
Juno Beach to the Longues Battery, Juno beach was the Canadian landing area, again fierce fighting took place here and the “Cassy” casement is also here, so called by the private who blow it up and now it rest on its side in the sand, that was some explosion! The Mullbery harbour also appears on this part of the coast, its was made in England and pulled across the channel as a tempory harbour for all the ships and supplies after D-Day, it still remains today! The Longues Battery houses the 105mm Skoda guns, 3 of which are still there the other exploded internally. Famous from the film “The Longest Day” as this is where they filmed the famous scene where the German Officer sees the advancing ships through the slit in his bunker.
Omaha Beach and Pointe Du Hoc, it is here at Omaha beach that the worst fighting took place resulting in huge losses for the advancing US forces. To sit on the shore line and look back at the cliffs, hill and sand dunes it is so hard to imagine what it must have looked like for the soldiers leaving the relative comfort of the landing craft. I visited the 3 of the exit points on this beach and in some places the case mates and trench systems are still visible. I also took a visit to the recent Maisey Battery along the coast, if you want to read up on this please do a Google search and you will see why its discover is such a “hot potato”.
Utah Beach to Deadmans Corner, the US landed on Utah Beach south of there objective, as a result they landed at Exit 2 which wasn’t as heavily defended as there main objective, the current had forced the craft south of the main objective. By contrast to Omaha Beach the resistance from the Germans here was minimal. Somewhat assisted by the destruction of the Guns at Brecourt. The move inland followed the main road (Exit 2) to Ste Marie Du Mont scene of street to street fighting. From here the road leads in land to Deadmans Corner on the outskirts of Carentan.
My last day in Normandy, i spent an hour in the pouring rain trying to get from Ste Mere Eglise to the Iron Mike statue, Mere Eglise was closed off for the celebrations and there was a memorial jump by parachutists, which had attracted visitors from all over France. Having walked with all my camera gear without wet weather gear I had to turn back, about 1/4 mile before the site. My dad and I were pretty wet by the time we got back to the car, but in the blink of an eye the sun came out and some glorious sunshine dried my clothes out!
Normandy and the Landing Beaches are a must see for any European, it reminds us of what it means to be free.
It has to be the most definitive operation of human existence.