Monday August 13, 2018
Bayeux is situated in the heart of Normandy, not far from the beaches on the English Channel, the beaches that were at the center of the massive effort of the Allies in World War II called D-Day, June 6, 1944. The beaches today are known by their code names—Utah Beach and Omaha Beach which were the American Sector, Gold and Sword which were the British Sector, and Juno which was the Canadian Sector.
A plaque in a museum gives the following figures involved in D-Day alone—the Invasion fleet of 6,939 vessels, 11,680 types of aircraft, and 159,000 ground troops. As I walked the beaches and grounds of Omaha and Gold beaches at low tide and looked out at the channel I was astounded at the logistical issues involved in planning and preparing for such an assault and what was needed to sustain the assault into Europe—eventually over 2 million personnel came through the beaches, and, of course, there were many who would be evacuated across these beaches because of injury and those who would never return.
At Arromanches in the harbor are remains of the Mulberry Harbor, an artificial harbor started on D-Day +1. These artificial harbors allowed the rapid unloading of cargo to facilitate the invasion efforts.
Point du Hoc, on Omaha beach, is noted for its 30 meter (over 90 ft.) sheer cliffs which were heavily fortified. These are the cliffs scaled by 225 Army Rangers led by Lt. Col. Rudder. Today, there are a few remnants of German bunkers, and the land is pock-marked from a series of bombings before the invasion. It is said the number of bombs dropped on this tiny point of land equaled the force of one of atomic bombs used in Japan.
Of course, war has its price. Overlooking Omaha Beach is the American Cemetery and Memorial, a 172 acre cemetery with the graves of 9,385 military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations, and a memorial wall, ‘Walls of the Missing,’ inscribed with the names of 1,557 whose bodies have not been recovered. It is a most solemn place, meticulously maintained, which receives over 1 million visitors per year.