One of the main purposes of our July trip to Normandy was to visit places that commemorate the landing of allied forces and the opening of the Western Front 70 years ago.
The traces of the Second World War have been well preserved in Normandy, and carefully eyed today. This was the scene of a brutal and bloody battle, which cost the lives of thousands of soldiers and prejudiced the outcome of the Second World War. But there it is a huge plus for France, who has never tried to wipe out the traces of the fascist occupation or forget an unpleasant part of history.
I didn’t study the opening of the Western Front in school. Although, it was believed that the main events took place on the Eastern Front and the British and the Americans only took advantage of the favorable situation. But if it weren't for D-Day, it would be difficult to imagine any outcome that would have been as favorable as the modern political map of Europe today. It is worth knowing what happened off the coast of Normandy 70 years ago. Moreover, many things have preserved exactly as it looked just after the battle, and this makes this part of Normandy an invaluable exhibit of military history for the world.
The most powerful amphibious operation, organized by Britain and its allies on July 6, 1944, took place at the same time along the huge coastline of Normandy. It is clear that it is not physically possible to inspect all 49 miles (80 kilometers). Especially as the French have turned this battlefield into a giant, open-air museum, consisting of a multitude of interesting objects in honor of the anniversary of that date.
All the territory could be inspected for weeks. Therefore, those who do not have much time should know in advance where to go and what to see first.
It is worth remembering that the entire landing operation, under the code name "Overlord", was divided into five sectors - Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sord (now the so-called corresponding beaches of the Normandy coast). It occurred in two stages. Paratroopers numbering 24,000 were put on the ground the first night. And then, at 6:30 a.m., the amphibious assault began.
In total, 156,000 soldiers, 30,000 landing crafts, several planes, tanks, guns and other equipment took part in that operation.
The allies had surprisingly managed to outwit the German command. The Germans followed the preparations and the teachings of the allies and seemed to be ready to attack. But there was a storm at sea a few days before the start of operations, and it had completely sacked the Germans.
Despite the surprise effect and the enormous numerical superiority, there was a moment when the operation had almost broken. The fate of the grand battle was decided in the Omaha sector.
So, first I went there. The local places resembled the famous California coast. Today, there is not a lot of buildings reminiscent of the massacre of 70 years ago.
American paratroopers had killed nearly 3,000 people in just a few hours of fierce fighting, early in the morning. Almost all the tanks, and many other vehicles, were destroyed.
The Germans had excellent firing positions, which, due to bad weather could not be suppressed by the allied aviation and naval artillery. At one point, the American command on this site was on the verge of canceling the operation and withdrawing surviving troops.
By 1 p.m. on that fateful day, the Germans reported an almost complete victory, but it was too early to rejoice. Firstly, the Germans suffered a crushing defeat on other sectors of the coast. And secondly, several American rangers managed to consolidate and break into the enemy fortifications. The German military men in the sector of Omaha were forced to retreat or surrender by the evening of the first day of battle.
Today, the largest American military cemetery in France is located near the coast. We did not go there. The place is well known to tourists. I was much more interested in exploring the preserved German defenses.
The gun bunkers fired the coast from side sectors, protecting itself from direct hits from the sea. Several underground shelters and firing points were preserved.
The entire coast could be seen from the coastal hills.
The main problem when it came to landing wasn't the Germans, but the bad weather and underwater currents. Today, several war memorials and a museum are located on the beach of Utah. There you can see a plane that was used for landing.
There were lots of people due to the easy access, a large car park, and the restaurant. This place did not seem like a monument to military history, but rather a well-advertised brand.
, located near the Gold Beach.
Four powerful gun bunkers are located in the middle of the field. Also, there’s a perfectly preserved observation gunner station very close to the shore.
During the commemoration of D-Day, three of the four guns were damaged, but the battery did not stop firing.
It was bombed from the air and shelled from ships, but in the evening, the personnel surrendered to British paratroopers who had surrounded them.
Quite a different story occurred with
. Only dilapidated concrete domes of the battery have survived to our days. It was built about 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) from the shore, on a small hill.
I saw with my own eyes the place where history was made 70 years ago.