Last September, we visited Arromanches-les-Bains in Normandy. This tiny town sits between what was called Omaha Beach, by the Americans, and Gold Beach, by the Brits. Farms stretch inland and the nearest city is Caen. 
There were 500 people living in Arromanches on June 6, 1944, and there are 500 there today, most involved with some aspect of tourism. 
We went to the beach, the museum and then up the hill to lookout points and a viewing of an incredible 360-degree film, made from news footage and new video of some of the same sites. There is no narration, just natural sounds. It was a harrowing experience just watching and listening. I can't even imagine how horrible it must have been to have been there on that day. 
The story of how the Brits made Mulberry Harbor was new to both of us. First, they sank old ships off the coast the create a breakwater. Then, they brought in landing platforms and created floating roads to move men and tanks onto the beach. Oddly enough, they met little resistance from the Germans, probably because they were otherwise engaged down the road at Omaha and Utah beaches. The sunken ships are still there, and so are a few landing structures. 
What amazed me in Arromanches was not only the bravery of the soldiers but that of the civilians trapped in this little town, with no way to escape the horror. A memorial stood across from where we stayed, listing civilians killed and local citizens sent to concentration camps. The streets are named for D Day heroes and civilians executed for spying on the Germans. Most were age 19 or 20. 
A very moving experience.

 


Comments

06/13/2013 07:36

Sometimes it seems as if the energy left behind by historic moments is still palpable decades later. It doesn't take a vivid imagination to feel the terror and horror of moments like this.

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