Today we took an all day trip to visit the beaches of Normandy. We landed in Le Havre, France -- a major port city. During WWII it was almost destroyed by bombing. Today it is a rebuilt with modern structures. The French consider them to be ugly as they are used to looking at old buildings. A large part of the passengers will travel to Paris. We are going to Normandy.
We left at 8:00am and rode the bus for 2 ½ hours each way arriving back at 6:30pm. We didn't know how to behave. There were no clouds in the sky. Nothing but sun. What were we to do?????
As we drove through the countryside we were surprised to see stacks of hay in the field as big as buildings.
We drive through many towns and farming communities. They remind us of parts of our own homeland. As we arrive closer to our destination we begin to get some commentary from our guide.
When we arrive at Normandy, we are driven directly to Utah Beach. At a later stop at the cemetary there is a graphic on one of the building walls that illustrate how complex and involved the invasion was. The American forces were responsible for capturing Utah and Normandy Beaches. The other allied forces captured the others.
The distance from the parking entrance to Utah Beach is about 1/4 mile. We walked along a grave pathway and eventually catch our first glimpse of the beach.
Imagine trying to scale these cliffs with an enemy firing at you.
No modifications have been made, nor are they allowed, at the battle site with the exception of some pathways that have been built or worn into the ground by previous visitors. The holes in the ground are a result of shells blasting the ground away during the battle.
It all looks so serene. The shoreline that you can see in the distance is about 18 miles away. It was just in range of the Nazis cannons and forms the southern rim of Utah Beach.
These are what remains of the German bunkers.
Utah Beach is considered to have been a failure. Prior to the invasion our air force had made several flyovers to determine what kind of weaponry was installed. From the air the pilots, and cameras, could see the massive cannons this making this a prime target. Over 13,000 men died taking this fortress only to discover that Hitler had moved the cannons inland about 20 miles and replaced them with telephone poles to fool the enemy.
The inside of the bunkers were constructed as a track allowing the cannon to be swiveled. The photo on the right is of the rear of a bunker with access and escape doors.
This is one of the few cannons that are left.
As we left the battle ground we passed a couple of these strange structures that look like foot bridges to nowhere. We later learned that they were parts of landing bridges used to build a temporary port about 50 miles away. On our way to Normandy Beach we pass a number of homes similar to the one above.
As we drive to our next destination we come to realize that we are driving along Normandy Beach. On the opposite side of the road we see a number of homes. Some were here during the war while others have been added.
We stop for a moment while the guide explains that there are a number of small cemeteries along the way.
We are at a point about half way along the beach. A couple of sculpture have been built to commemorate the beach landing.
One artist was commemorated to design and construct this sculpture.
We go into a small coffee shop for some refreshments. Across the street is a home with a fruit stand. Lynn found it humorous how the names of the fruits were spelled.
We arrive at the memorial. (Notice the graphic on the wall, It was used previous to begin the photo tour.)
The air was completely still. Lynn had hoped that a breeze would blow to unfurl the flag reflected in the pool.
We walked among the crosses trying to find one from Michigan.
For those who remain unidentified the inscription reads "Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God."
We continue to our next stop which will include lunch at a golf club.
The right photo is of a par three -- a finishing hole for one of the '9'.s' The tee box is down at the road that we can just see in the photo.
Flags fly at the club commemorating all of the allied forces involved with the invasion.
As we leave we pass a number of churches with cemeteries. We learn that a number of soldiers are buried therein.
Our last stop is at t he Normandy Visitor Center about 50 miles from the beaches.
In the Center we watch a 30 minute video showing how the invasion was planned. This is when we learned that this city was selected to be a temporary port to transfer personnel and ammunition to the battleships. The dock facilities were built in England and floated to this location. This was all done under wartime conditions without Hitler learning of its inception or construction. If he had the results would have been quite different.
To act as a breakwater of the sea large concrete 'tubs' were built in England measuring about 20' x 30' x 20' high. When they were floated in place a plug was pulled at the bottom and it sank creating the wall. The dark short patches you can see at the horizon is the remaining exposed tops of these breakwater structures.
If you were interested in a tour of the city the train was available.
I don't remember the name of the city in the distance but the cross was built to commemorate those who fought and died for France's liberation. As we get close to La Havre we begin to see some apartments' along the way.
As we approach the port we see a bridge that we will cross that is very unique. Instead of just crossing a river it actually forms a loop to the left (from our vantage point) and joins a roadway on the left. On the bridge we can see our ship in the distance. It is now around 6:15pm. We will sail at 7:00pm. Tomorrow we will depart the ship and travel by train to Cardiff, Wales to visit Crystal's sister and husband -- Hazel and Jim.
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