Friday, January 11, 2013

Visiting D-Day Sites in Normandy: Pointe du Hoc

June 6th, 1944. The Germans occupied France and much of Europe. The Allies began their D-Day invasion to recapture the continent.

We booked a private half-day tour of the American sector sites of the D-Day invasion in Normandy. Our guide, Eva Ruttger with Experience Normandy, was FANTASTIC and obviously loved what she did. She told us the amazing story of the invasion and even had photos and maps to share with us. I wish I'd taken notes as I've forgotten a lot of what I learned! But, what I took away was the incredible planning that went into planning the invasion.

Alex, my mom, me, my brother & his girlfriend in front of a pillbox that would have housed a 'big gun'
This is a picture of us outside of one of the bunkers at Pointe du Hoc. The bunkers are where the Germans kept their 'big guns' which could shoot 10-12 miles and hit the ships at sea. Eisenhower wanted to make sure these guns were destroyed. Pointe du Hoc supposedly had five of these guns at this Pointe which overlooks Omaha Beach. Troops were supposed to land at 6:30 a.m. at Omaha Beach and the guns were supposed to be inoperable by then.

Alex, me & my brother standing in a crater at Pointe du Hoc- you can see a 'pillbox' in the background
American planes sent planes to drop bombs in the area of Omaha Beach. This was to clear a way for Allies when they landed. Because of bad weather, the targets were missed and Omaha Beach did not have any bomb craters where the soldiers could have hidden as they landed. But, here on Pointe du Hoc, there were craters.

After crossing the English Channel from England, the Rangers had to scale these 100 foot tall cliffs of Pointe du Hoc. While landing on the narrow shore and climbing the cliffs, they were being shot at and having gernades thrown down on them. There's a great, 9 minute clip from The Longest Day which shows this scaling and shows the very places I've photographed and visited.

Part of a monument at the site
Here is a quote by President Reagan on the 40th anniversay of D-Day: June 6, 1984:
The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers - the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machineguns and throwing gernades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After 2 days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms.

This is a relief map from that monument. The water (closest to us) is the English Channel. The The part that sticks out is where Pointe du Hoc is located. On the left side of the photo is another American invasion site: Omaha Beach. On the right is a British invasion point: Utah Beach.

Here's a photo I took from near the tip of Pointe du Hoc. If you could see down below, you'd be able to see Omaha Beach.

Our wonderful guide is on the left - I'll have to look up her name and the name of her company. She was incredible! Anyway, this is also taken at the tip of Pointe du Hoc but looking away from Omaha Beach.

I'm standing inside of a bunker at the very edge of Pointe du Hoc. From this point the Germans could watch over the seas. The opening was maybe 2 foot tall and arched almost 180 degrees. There were also a couple of rooms in this structure where the troops must have lived or spent a lot of time. There were bullet holes in the walls from when the Allies captured this Pointe.

From here, we traveled to Omaha Beach... which will be a separate post.

Note: I got some of my information from the American Veterans site on a page titled "The Guns of Pointe du Hoc."

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