Tuesday, June 5, 2012

68th Anniversary of Normandy D- Day-We Remember Always

Sainte Mere l'Eglise
June 6th marks the 68th anniversary of D- day landings. After four long years of German occupation of France, the Allies launched operation Overlord, an air, land and amphibious attack designed to liberate Western Europe. More than 300,000 service personnel from USA, UK, Canada, Free France and Australia took part in this historic event at a cost of a great number of lives and for that the French people are forever thankful.

 It started at the wee hours of the morning of June 6 when the paratroopers units of the U.S. 82nd Airborne and U.S. 101st Airborne Divisions dropped in the little town of Sainte Mere l'Eglise under heavy German anti-aircraft fire. One brave  US soldier, John Steele found himself, stuck with his parachute dangling from the church steeple for hours faking death to save his life.

U.S. Coast Guard Collection in the
U.S. National Archives.
At 6:30AM the first and 29th American Divisions started their amphibian assault on the 6.5 km stretch of Omaha Beach under heavy German fire coming from blockhouses at the top of the cliffs that fringe the beach front.  Many casualties were  incurred as boats with troops were sunk before hitting the shore and soldiers who landed were hit from the lack of shelter cover on the beach.   Only after mid-day when General Omar Bradley was about to call a retreat, a company of Rangers managed to gain access to the cliffs, break through the sand dunes and finally pierce German defenses at great loss of lives.

Pointe du Hoc
At 7:10 AM , 225 rangers of American 2nd Ranger Battalion under the direction of Lt. Col James Rudder started their capture of  the Pointe du Hoc-- one of two prominent sets of vertical cliffs jutting out to sea halfway between Omaha and Utah Beach.   A six gun battery in a concrete bunker was at the ready guarding the coast against beaches invasion. Under Naval artillery cover, the Rangers using fire brigade ladders and grappling irons and ropes managed to scale the face of the 100 foot cliff to the summit for two days while withstanding German counter-attacks. For 36 hours, 155 able Rangers resisted the German counterattack.  Only 90 soldiers came out of this battle unharmed.  Today the 30-acre battle scarred area remains much as it was left on June 8 1944.  It is poked with bomb craters and you can explore the remains of German bunkers and fortifications.

American Cemetery
A tour of Normandy d-day sites will  take you to revisit these sites along with American Cemetery in St. Laurent sur Mer where looking out to the sea and to Omaha Beach, 9,387 Carrara marble crosses and Jewish Stars of David stand aligned like little soldiers. The Garden of the Missing  contains the names engraved on stone tables of the 1,557 missing in action for which no remains have been recovered.

Other D-Day memorial sites include Arromanches 's Mulberry Harbour –an artificial harbour—that was used to discharge on French soil massive number of materials, vehicles and troops necessary for the fighting and Gold and Juno Beach where British and Australian troops landed respectively on that June 6, 1944 to successfully liberate Arromanches on that day.  


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