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D Day Beaches Normandy

Normandy

6th June 1944 ‘D Day’,‘Operation Overload’ is in progress which later changed the course of World War II. Place Normandy, northern shore of France, England is just across the channel. Hours before the sunrise English channel is buzzing with allied warships and fighter planes. German radars have noticed it. As the morning paves and sunlight comes in, the fighter planes and warships have opened an attack. Strong German Atlantic Wall is defending.

Pointe du hoc, thin peninsula jutting out of coast of Normandy deep into the sea. Strategic German base to keep an eye on the shores of Ohama and Utah. This place had fortified bunkers, battery animation and artillery guns that can fire to the range of 25 kilometers, line of sight. The shores of Ohama and Utah are within its fire range which is merely 15 kilometers. After every few kilometers Germans have series of such stations making it what they called Atlantic Wall. American soldiers are landing on the shores of Ohama and Utah in thousands. They have put ladders on the cliffs of pointe du hoc and trying to climb it. MG42 machine guns equipped with tripod and telescope, having ability to fire 1500 rounds per minute. German gunmen have advantage of height, killing US army men below, blood shed mud of men dying and wounded.

In Spite of German advantage of height Americans climb up and take control of Pointe du Hoc. British and Canadian troops land on the shores of neighbouring Gold, Juno and Sword  beaches (all code names). German Atlantic wall collapses. German front is moving back. By the evening of the 11th June Allied forces could land 325000 men, 54000 military carriers, 100000 tons of goods into Normandy. This is the beginning of Paris and Berlin victories of the allies.

Bonjour! We started from Bayeux on motor scooters to La Cambe 49.341940, -1.026380 which is a German military cemetery. This has graves of 21000 German soldiers who lost their lives in Normandy. Black stone cross in the group of five stand here in peace, in the grand lawns of La Cambe. The Central monument has symbolic statues of German parents and cross. Bayeux to La Cambe is 30 km distance by road. Normandy has various 27 war cemeteries where 110,000 men from both sides are resting.

   Pointe du Hoc 49.39718, -0.98927 is 11 kilometers from La Cambe. We park the scooters near the information center and start a walk from left side foot path. The path leading to the German Command center passes near bunkers and bomb creators. Here we have American Rangers Memorial. The view of the sea from the memorial is awesome. We are not going to Utah so we see it from here. This place is 40 meters high from the beach located on a cliff jutting into the sea. D day would have been brutal massacre here. We return to the parking from the right side trail seeing some more bunkers.   

Pointe du hoc had 6 artillery guns. Americans were lucky that guns were moved to lower stations before D Day. Rangers found it who destroyed it using Thermite grenades.  

 We started return from pointe du hoc, ride with green agriculture fields both sides. The hill road parallel to the sea suddenly turns left towards sea. High gradient slope of 40 meters. We ride carefully. Beach has D Day memorial 49.37069, -0.87974. La Sapiniere Restaurant is very near where we have some food. Bon Appetit.

Both Omaha Memorial and Overload Museum both are worth a visit. Further east from Ohama memorial parallel to the sea is American cemetery 49.35867, -0.85145. If you have watched the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan’ they have shown it there. It has graves of 9387 American soldiers. 1557 soldiers names are carved on the half circular memorial. These soldiers went missing or could not be identified. The memorial also has a chapel.

We move on leaving Omaha behind. The next destination is Longues sur mer 49.3435, -0.69438. This is between Omaha and Gold beach. 152 mm four naval artillery guns mounted in concrete casement. Command post, machine guns and fortified walls. This is the battery east of pointe du hoc. Series of such defense stations make German Atlantic Wall. 1500 ton bombs were dropped here one day before the D Day. Most of them missed the target and fall in the neighbouring villages. Allies warships destroyed 3 guns out of 4. The fourth one was firing till evening. The next day this battery station surrendered to Allies.  

The next destination was Cap Manvieux 49.34551, -0.64044. The view from cap is splendid. The sea here and the adjacent Normandy beach has floating docks and pontoons. From beach 2 kilometers into the sea and again back to the beach from another end. The pontoons had formed a floating harbour. Allies were highly depending on this temporary harbour for porting all the war goods and vehicles. 49.34018, -0.62026 beach here has a museum, this is the last sightseeing in today’s itinerary. From here we rode back to Bayeux, a distance of 10 kilometers. 

Overall today’s ride was fruitful. This was approx 90 kilometer circular ride. 76% of land in Normandy is under vegetation and cultivation. Most of the agriculture produce is exported via ports of Caen and Rouen. The ride in the french countryside opens beautiful landscapes one after another.  Beach roads accompany you with scattered remains and wounds of World War II. It is summer, sunset will occur at 10 pm today. We had our dinner and discussing today’s ride and plan for tomorrow on the laws of our hostel. The air is full of ecstasy.

Madhukar Dhuri

Image source – all images are from wiki public domain 

One can reach Bayeux via Caen from Paris by train in 2.5 to 3 hours.

cycles and scooters available on rent at Caen and Bayeux

GPS coordinates of the other D Day sites nearby

49.28749, -0.25235 – Museum of the Atlantic war

49.30369, -0.45056 – Canadian war cemetery

49.33647, -0.46166 – Juno beach museum

49.41529, -1.17489 – Utah beach landing museum and memorial   

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