Southeast of Cherbourg, Normandy lies Pointe du Hoc, an area stretching above huge, jagged cliffs. The ocean crashes onto these cliffs up which a U.S. Army Ranger Assault Group scaled on D-Day to protect Utah and Omaha Beaches during the Allied invasion of Normandy. The hundred-foot cliffs are not the most stunning feature of Pointe du Hoc, however.
The land is pockmarked by craters from Allied bombing. Were it not for the concrete bunkers and tangles of rebar, one might think that the craters are a natural part of the terrain. The 40 foot wide and 20 feet deep craters are filled with grass and weeds and wildflowers. Nature always finds a way to make even the remnants of warfare stunning.
One of the great elements of this study program is the opportunity to make real the places where historical events happened. Here, on these clifftops, American soldiers fought and held key positions to protect their comrades landing at Omaha and Utah Beaches later that day. As I walked past craters and stood in German artillery bunkers, the invasion of Normandy became real to me. Unlike Omaha Beach, where little but monuments remind the visitor of the thousands who died there, the craters of Pointe du Hoc tell a story all on their own—one I could never glean from books alone.
So many lives, so many resources were spent in the great battle against fascism. Standing among the craters I looked out at the sea. The waves broke against the brown and gray cliffs. A breeze swept through the tall grass as I stood amidst the destructive capacity of mankind.