Caen and Bayeux are both places from which D-Day tours depart. I had looked at tours for Gail (a history buff with a special interest in military history) from Caen. Satisfied that we could find a good tour, I booked non-refundable hotel rooms in Caen. But when I went to book the D-Day tour, none were available. Fortunately I found one out of Bayeux, but that meant a bit of extra strategy to pull it off.
Laura and Gail had to get up extra early and take a train to Bayeux and find the tour office.
Because they wouldn’t be back until after our hotel’s checkout time, Elton and I dawdled in the morning, checked out on time and took their bags to the train station with us. The plan was that as soon as the tour was over, Laura and Gail would take the next available train back to Caen, find us at the station and we’d all jump on the next train for Paris. What could go wrong? Nothing, this time -it worked out perfectly.
While D-Day is a well-known date (June 6, 1944) from WWII, I hadn’t realized how overwhelmingly complicated the whole plan was for the USA and our allies, in particular Canada and Great Britain. Each country had their own objectives as part of the invasion. D-Day was the beginning of the Battle of Normandy and it raged from June 6 through August. It was the biggest seaborne invasion in history. What happened there is both tragic and heroic, but the victory resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe.
It is a testament to those who fought that even when the original plans went awry -they just kept going and got the job done. For the Americans – the US Army Ranger Assault Group was assigned to take Pointe du Hoc where there was a 100 ft cliff fortified by Germans. The plan was to land 3 companies of rangers at the base of the cliff before the main attack. They used ropes, grapples and ladders to climb the cliff –all while under enemy fire. It took them nearly 3 days to secure the Pointe. Landing craft carrying supplies for the climb were swamped or sunk on the way to shore. When they finally landed, they landed with ½ of the original force they started out with. The ladders (which they got from the London Fire Brigade) ended up not reaching high enough on their own for the Rangers to scale the cliff, but they still found a way. Once they got up the cliff (if they even did) they were supposed to signal the back-up force of Rangers with flares. Because of the landing delays and utter chaos, the signal arrived too late. The back-up Rangers ended up landing at Omaha Beach instead. And that’s just one story of many from D-Day.
Due to the logistics, I wasn’t on the tour. I’m sharing some of Gail’s pictures. Both Laura and Gail found this tour interesting and emotional.
The next stop was Omaha Beach. The D-Day objective for Omaha Beach was to secure a beachhead for the armies along approximately 5 miles of shoreline as a link between the British Army landing sites and the American landing sites at Utah Beach.
The American Cemetery is 172.5 acres contains 9,386 graves It overlooks Omaha Beach Laura was very impressed at how beautifully the site is kept.
Reading the history of the D-Day battles is mind blowing – it is so hard to encapsulate the many, many details into an easy to read story. What happened that day is both tragic and heroic. While Canada, England and the USA were the major players there were also soldiers from other countries. I know this post doesn’t do this place justice – it is one of those places you have to experience in person, I think.