Sunday morning dawned beautifully clear and we decided to head back to Arromanches to resume our tour where we had left off the previous day. We wanted to cover the ground more rapidly so chose the main road out of Caen. The first obstacle to deal with was the peripherique (ring road) around the city. After a minor glitch, all went smoothly and we returned to Arromanches, this time into the town and onto the beach front itself rather than on the overlooking cliffs. Our timing was perfect and the tide was low revealing massive remnants of the piers built in 1944 to unload supplies and sustain the invasion following D-Day. It was quite a sight now but I cannot imagine what it must have looked like completed and in full swing. The scale of the operation defies imagination.
Next we were off to the American sector and Omaha beach. “Bloody Omaha” was the hardest beach to take due to the strength of the defensive German positions and their commanding field of fire directly down onto the beach. After seeing the beach itself, now looking deceptively calm and peaceful, we drove up to the higher ground and along to visit the main American cemetery. Over 9000 brilliant white crosses and Stars of David, all perfectly aligned along every axis, made a very moving sight in typically immaculate surroundings.
Further west still lies the Pointe du Hoc, scene of an assault up a sheer cliff by American rangers using special climbing gear, necessary to neutralize German guns with a commanding field of fire over both Utah and Omaha beaches. The site has not been restored and still bears many craters and structures, even what appeared to be original barbed wire, as a memorial to those involved.
Being a little beached out now, we skipped Utah beach but did want to see Sainte-Mère-Église, scene of a famous incident involving an American paratrooper getting ensnared on the church by his parachute. An effigy of the hapless paratrooper (though he did survive the incident) hangs on the church now as a tourist attraction. Though I’m glad to have seen it, were it not for the somewhat theatrical dangling mannequin, there really would not be much to see.
Returning to ward home base once more, we passed the largest German cemetery at La Cambe and made a swift detour to call in. Here lie over 11000 German dead. How different this looked from other cemeteries we’d seen. Small, simple plaques lying flat on the ground each marking two graves with relatively few dark gray crosses somewhat thinly scattered in groups of five around the field. An intensely sombre look resulted.