Gone but Never Forgotten


I was most excited to see Normandy when I found out I would be going on this trip. In respect to the military history of WWII, Normandy is extremely important especially to us Americans. I was looking forward to seeing the remnants of the Atlantic wall and I was just generally ecstatic about seeing and experiencing all that we had learned about.
Our accommodations in Bayeux were here and there. I quite liked the hotel we stayed in even though they kept moving us around. The town itself was very nice and full of history. We even visited the Bayeux Tapestry which was a very detailed account of William the Conqueror’s rise to the throne of England.
I think what I was most excited to see in Normandy were the beaches at Utah and Omaha. However I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed by what I saw at te beaches. Firstly it was high tide at both places and so we didn’t get the full effect of seeing just how far the soldiers had to go to get off the beaches. Also I was expecting there to still be some remnants of the war there. I was looking forward to seeing large bluffs and huge bunkers overlooking the waters. Instead there were no bunkers and only smaller hills by the beaches. I don’t mean to say that I don’t think the beaches were formidable but I wish there was still enough there to give visitors a feel for what it would have been like.
What I was most surprised by was Point Du Hoc. I was expecting a small outcropping to be what we would find. However when we got there the area was much larger than I imagined and it was pot marked by enormous craters from bombs and naval artillery shells. The landscape was also dotted with German bunkers and gun emplacements left exactly has they had been at the end of the war. It was an amazing site and I enjoyed climbing around the ruins and finding more and more of the German complex that was there. Also this helped me to get a better feel for the nightmare of a battlefield Point Du Hoc would have been during the war.
The museum that we visited in Caen was a great WWII museum. Something different about French museums is that they are very heavy on the reading. There is much to be read at each exhibit and I have to say I didn’t mind. Each part of the museum told stories from WWII that I hadn’t even known. Another cool thing that they had was actual weapons from the war. I have seen a good many of the weapons used in the war before but this museum had some I had never seen. These included weapons such as the mp-40 and the German mini tank that acted as a remote controlled bomb car.
When I think WWII I tend to think of everything being very condensed such as it is in the movies and games. What was a constant theme for my visits to the sites of the war was the sheer size of the battlefield. What people don’t realize is that the countryside, beaches, and towns that played host to the war are much larger than one can imagine. The beaches for example are extremely wide and the town of Saint Mere Eglise is a lot bigger than I thought. The square for example is open and devoid of cover and paratroopers landed right in the middle of it. When I saw that I wasn’t surprised that many of them didn’t make it.

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