NORMANDY DAY 2: THE D-DAY MUSEUM

We awoke to our second day in Normandy facing the greyest of days, something that the region is well known for and a challenge that the Allies faced many years ago:

Most of May had fine weather, but this deteriorated in early June. On 4 June, conditions were clearly unsuitable for a landing; wind and high seas would make it impossible to launch landing craft, and low clouds would prevent aircraft finding their targets. The Allied troop convoys already at sea were forced to take shelter in bays and inlets on the south coast of Britain for the night.

It seemed possible that everything would have to be cancelled and the troops returned to their camps (a vast undertaking because the enormous movement of follow-up formations was already proceeding). The next full moon period would be nearly a month away. At a vital meeting on 5 June, Eisenhower’s chief meteorologist (Group Captain J.M. Stagg) forecast a brief improvement for 6 June. General Bernard Montgomery and Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff General Walter Bedell Smith wished to proceed with the invasion. Leigh Mallory was doubtful, but Admiral Bertram Ramsay believed that conditions would be marginally favorable. On the strength of Stagg’s forecast, Eisenhower ordered the invasion to proceed.

The Germans meanwhile took comfort from the existing poor conditions, which were worse over Northern France than over the Channel itself, and believed no invasion would be possible for several days. Some troops stood down, and many senior officers were away for the weekend. General Erwin Rommel, for example, took a few days’ leave to celebrate his wife’s birthday,[7] while dozens of division, regimental, and battalion commanders were away from their posts at war games.

Plotting out a D-Day tour is pretty easy thanks to the Normandie Memoire website. The interactive map provides potential tour suggestions and the highlights while touring the coast.

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We contemplated hiring one of the many guides that are available, but passed on the €400 fee. Instead, we used the website of a local tour guide who offered up a book on the landings, Stand Where They Fought which had a write-up on each of the beaches, all though it is very US centric.

Our first stop was the D-Day museum. It is not what you expect. A family business, ran out of a small metal building with relics of World War 2 scattered around the parking lot. You can just imagine how this business was created: after the havoc of war the proprietor scrounged, bought and bartered for the contents of the museum. I am sure there was plenty of stock strewn everywhere! A few items below ….

The German machine gun turret which obviously took more than one hit. Multiple machine guns would stick out of the holes affording the men inside great protection and a wide range of view. I counted over 20 hits, many did not penetrate.

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German artillery, note the camouflage and the dim sky ….

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The D-Day landing craft, which were available for climbing.

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Not a lot of room ….

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A German 88.

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Inside were weapons and remnants of the war spread down the metal building.

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This one made me stop. The coral growing on the helmet. I wonder if the American owner lived after it dropped into the ocean …

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After the museum it was time for a crucial decision, either down to Omaha beach or to Pointe du Hoc. A wall sign talked about Point du Hoc and on a whim we drove away from Omaha beach to explore, glad that we did.

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