Finally, the last post about the Summer ’14 France trip!
We had a fitting end to our French nuclear facilities tour with a day paying tribute to our American heroes who fought alongside the Allied forces in WWII in Normandy. We started out in Sainte-Mère-Église, then made our way to Pointe du Hoc. The Pointe du Hoc is a cliff atop a promontory separating Utah Beach (to the west) and Omaha Beach (to the east).
On D-Day, American paratroopers landed on both Utah and Omaha Beaches. A group of Army Rangers also scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc and captured the Pointe from the Germans.
The Germans had really hunkered down in Pointe du Hoc. There were numerous gun mounts, surrounded by concrete trenches where the soldiers could hide.
There were also a number of bunkers looking out toward the English Channel. We walked down into a dark, cavernous bunker where soldiers would have slept.
The remains of some of the collapsed bunkers show how sturdily these things were built. This wasn’t merely reinforced concrete, but reinforced with steel I-beams.
The landscape at Pointe du Hoc is pock-marked with what initially appear to be rolling hills — then you realize that these divots were created by explosives and grenades. It was surreal to see how warfare permanently altered the landscape.
Our final stop was at the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. The beach is so soft-hued and subtle, it’s hard to imagine all the bloodshed that occurred. Yet, one gains an appreciation for what a great disadvantage the paratroopers faced, having to scale cliffs or climb up this steep, vegetated hill to face the sturdily bunkered-down Germans. That kind of courage is so rare anymore.