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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I had a free day during a business trip to Paris, so a couple of us decided to knock an item off our bucket lists. It was too late to sign up for a guided tour, so we walked across the rou to the Montparnasse train station and rented a car. When the Sixt agent said it was a diesel, I just smiled. It was a Peugeot 208: 51 MPG at 130 kph/87mph. Such fun! Here's what I have to show for the $126.00 rental, 30 Euros in tolls and 45 Euros in fuel.

We started in St. Mere-Eglice, which has been turned into a WWII tourist trap. A mannequin in uniform has been hung from the church in the middle of town, the main town square is now a parking lot, and most of the old shops are restaurants or gift shops. It's still spooky if you look past all of that.

Architecture Building Sky Medieval architecture Church Land vehicle Vehicle Car Parking Parking lot Residential area Town Neighbourhood Street Street light

Next we drove East to Utah beach. I couldn't take any pictures of the hedgerows because I was driving, but they're as bad as you've heard. The Utah landing beaches were lightly defended, so there were few bunkers. We were there close to low tide, so the long slog to the dunes (and defenders) was clearly evident.

Natural environment Beach Sea Coast Ecoregion Sea Beach Coast Shore Natural environment Sand Ecoregion Plant community Outcrop Soil Bunker Rock Concrete Fortification

The Utah landing occurred further East than intended, which is a good thing. The areas just a little West were much more heavily defended.

Ecoregion Sand Coast Grass Landscape Natural environment Coast Shore Beach Raised beach Rock Sea Bunker Coast Grass Archaeological site Bunker Historic site Ruins Ancient history Road Thoroughfare Mountain pass Asphalt Geological phenomenon Property Land lot House Tree Rural area

All I have to say about the Rangers who Climbed Pointe du Hoc is - what the hell were they thinking:

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The Position was very heavily fortified, though overhead cover had only been completed for two of the heavy guns. The most prominent feature is the observation bunker, and there are many support bunkers to the rear.

Historic site Ancient history Architecture Archaeological site Ruins Architecture Rock Escarpment Outcrop Cliff Bedrock Formation Bunker Rock Fortification Building Historic site

Of course once the Rangers climbed the cliffs, they found the guns had been removed. That was probably because we'd been pounding the place, and had destroyed one of them. I'm guessing it was mounted in the ring in the first photo.

Archaeological site Land lot Landscape Trail Soil Vegetation Geological phenomenon Soil Grass Plant community Grassland Grass Soil Land lot Pasture Geological phenomenon Outcrop Rock Plant community Bedrock Natural landscape Rock Plant community Biome Outcrop

What's humorous to me is that the emplacements on Pointe du Hoc were built to house French built 155mm guns identical to the ones we built under license During WWI, between the wars and during WWII, until replaced by an updated version. The positions constructed were very similar to those we built to mount our 155's in the coastal defense role, though none of ours I've seen had bomb-proofs built into the edge of the ring. As they were first used in the canal zone, we called them Panama mounts. There were a couple of the later concrete and steel rings on Fort Barrancas in Pensacola when I was there 20 years ago. Don't know if they survived the Hurricanes or not.

Cannon Missile Archaeological site Ruins Historic site Land lot Landscape Rock Grass Bedrock Landscape Concrete

The tide had come up by the time we made it to Omaha beach. The West end of Omaha is a family beach; seeing it now, it's hard to imagine what happened there so many years ago. We saw several of these flanking batteries along the beach, and heard a guide tell his group that there are many more emplacements covered by brush in the bluffs above. The property owners hide them so as not to attract trespassers. The National Guard Memorial is built on one of them. The Eastern sectors are less developed, but the bluffs are just as high.

Beach Body of water Coast Shore Sea Architecture Memorial Building Tourism Historic site Fortification Wall Ruins Historic site Building Vehicle Car Residential area Road Parking Sky Sand Beach Shore Natural environment Beach Coast Shore Sand Sea Nature Natural landscape Sky Vegetation Natural environment

A stop at the Normandy American Cemetery is mandatory. It is meant to inspire awe, and it does. We found several markers for service members that had died before the invasion and the establishment of the cemetery. Those we found were aircrew, and were probably moved there as their original burial sites were captured.

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And then it was time for the 3-1/2 hour drive back to Paris; the car was due back by 2200, and we had an early pick-up to the airport. We would have made it had we not gotten lost in Bayeux, and circled Caen one and a half times. These people sort traffic by setting up three and four adjacent traffic circles - we only had to double lap one once.

On a side note, this area is absolutely covered with museums. It was a chance to get photos of some things that I'd not seen before. Some of the German bunkers were armed with standard anti-tank guns on field chassis, so one museum had an 88mm PAK 43 sitting out front, and our version of the 155mm. Another had an M10 Hellcat tank destroyer. Just hadn't seen them up close and personal.

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Wow, what can I say but wow.:eek:
Brings it all home seeing stuff like this, I could only imaging seeing it in person.
Thanks for sharing this MSG, I would say it was money well spent. Who needs a guide when you know the history from those who were there in 1944.
CaptMax
 

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Did you go into the church at St. Mere-Eglise and see the stained glass windows of the drop (or the Roman mile marker over by the church)? When I was there years ago there were two stained glass windows related to WWII, but I am told there are now three of them. The museum in town was pretty good. The "sleeper" of the museums was in Bayeux - small town, GREAT museum, right by a WWII British cemetery (also home of the Bayeux tapestry for all the fans of Norman conquest). Go to Omaha beach in the early morning when the tide is out and is it amazing to see how much wet sand those men had to cover to get to dry land. It will make you wonder how any of them made it.
 

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This is excellent! Thanks for sharing these great pics Msg.
I read about the landings, look at many pictures but seeing it threw your camera is much much better.
I sure wish I could go see all these places.
Thanks again
Steamer
 

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Great pics, thanks.
 

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Outstanding Mike thank you so much for sharing the pictures did you happen to see the museum for the 116th? They just added a great bronze statue for the 70th celebration of the landing and they have a sister museum in Staunton, Va. they are a great bunch of guys. I hope to make that trip someday and see where my grandfather came ashore but at least my daughter was lucky enough to have been there while he was still alive and they had one heck of a phone conversation.
 

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This post totally ROCKS! Wow! I was only in France once, when I was 8 years old, and we didn't go to the beaches from anything I can recall. While my dad was in the army for ten months of the war, before his honorable discharge, but they would not ship him overseas. I don't recall how much interest he had in the war history, but he was not medically capable of getting a combat assignment and so had no personal experiences to tell. (He had disabilities due to a childhood bout with polio.) Many others in both my parents' families served in combat, I just never got to know them well enough to ask if they had stories to tell. Seeing these pics makes me realize how much opportunity I missed. Even if none were in the D-Day invasion, there would no doubt have been much to learn from them. Being among the youngest of all my cousins, living far from all the rest, I just didn't get much time with all my uncles who saw combat.

Thanks, MSG, for posting the pics and observations. Definitely a bucket list item!
 

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I do Normandy about 5years ago for the anniversary of the invasion. If ever you get a chance do it. The had para troopers re enactors and seeing the beaches in the morning light with everyone standing around is probably the most moving thing I have ever felt. I took about 4k pictures. Definitely an amazing trip. I was fortunate enough to talk with some veterans who it was going to be their last trip. It was so enlightening.
 

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Great pictures! We went there last year and had an excellent tour guide. I would go back in a heart beat. It puts things in better perspective when you SEE it yourself. The movies do not do justice to what the troops had to do on D day.
 

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Mike -- Amazing pictures, amazing trip. Sounds like you must've been staying at or near the same hotel we were at, last time in Paris -- owned/operated by an ex-pat, down a side street, and with a wonderful little cafe 100 yards on down across the street where nobody spoke English. First breakfast there, I ordered toast with it, using my guidebook French -- not knowing that of course it would come with a baguette anyway. They much have thought "there's just another crazy American." Most trusting and pleasant folks we met in Paris. For some reason we couldn't use our credit card and they directed us several blocks away to an ATM -- no concern as to whether we'd come back to pay. Of course, we did. So many good stories to tell about Paris, France and the French. Nice to be so close to the Paris Gare Montparnasse. I've often wondered about offering to gather a tour of folks from this board for a tour just such as you've shown us in you pictures. Thanks, for those of who want to go back and those of us who never will.

Carry On!
Gary
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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Did you go into the church at St. Mere-Eglise and see the stained glass windows of the drop (or the Roman mile marker over by the church)? ....
We went in the church briefly, but stupid me had left my clear glasses in the car. Can't see much in a dimly lit building while wearing dark gray sunglasses. What I could see was very moving, but I wasn't about to pop a flash in the place.

.... did you happen to see the museum for the 116th? ....
I've read about those guys. You'd think they'd have learned by then that it's a bad idea to put a large number of men from the same area in the same combat unit. That's just one of the problems with the Guard and Reserve. We didn't really have time for any of the museums. I'd wanted to see some of the larger coastal defense batteries and the artificial harbor in the British sector, but we didn't have time for those either.

Staunton, VA? While at University I dated a girl enrolled at Mary Baldwin. A small private girls college just across town from the state hospital for the criminally insane - isn't that the setting for a lot of horror flicks?

Mike -- Amazing pictures, amazing trip. Sounds like you must've been staying at or near the same hotel we were at, last time in Paris .... For some reason we couldn't use our credit card and they directed us several blocks away to an ATM .... Nice to be so close to the Paris Gare Montparnasse....
Carry On!
Gary
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The company puts us up at the Pullman, that huge hotel across the street from the station. Being so close to the theater district, there are plenty of good restraunts in the area. Fun with credit cards: a lot of the card readers and ATM's in Europe only accept RFI/chip cards. I've had to hunt for ATM's with mag strip readers. Standard Paris humor: What are the two tallest structures in Paris proper? The Eifel Tower and the box it came in - the tower at Montparnasse.
 

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autofire SEZ ".... have to add that to my bucket list."

Bucket, schmucket, let me know when you're ready. Cheap rental car and a bit of planning can make it relatively inexpensive. From Europe to Australia to the Caribbean and back, my "good ol US of A" trip have been my most expensive experiences. Of course, I do fly free, so add that in too. Let's go -- maybe October? A small group of 1919a4'ers?


Carry On!
Gary
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Great images. I have none from my visit there....
That's OK, the Army doesn't have many either. Several years ago I finally heard the reason why: All the combat photographers were instructed to take their film to a single collection point for transport back offshore. While being transferred the bag was dropped overboard and lost. The few films and images that survived were taken by a photographer who was wounded, and couldn't make it to the collection point. MSG
 

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The Business Manager and I finally made the trip to Normandy, did it all, didn't bother with the "T" shirt. All these pictures you posted only convey a part of the immensity of it all! My souvenir? A rock, picked off Utah Beach at low tide.

We stayed in some very nice places in the locale, in Chinon (HOTEL DIDEROT, a 15th century limestone mansion) at a very reasonable $77/night w/breakfast, and met some great French folks. The finest seafood meal ever was also in Chinon (L'Oceanic) at $28 apiece, very French nouveau cooking, very, VERY good. The "sleeper" of the museums in Bayeux was closed for two weeks (in the 'off' tourist season) for refurbishment, so we missed it and the famous tapestry. We could see the stained-glass windows from the outside, but of course not as dramatically as from the inside with the light streaming in. The small French towns of the coastal area still appreciate Americans as much as ever -- maybe for the tourist trade as much as anything else, but we did save their butts!

Short of our three-day mule ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, this was probably our most memorable trip ever.

I still wish we could get a bunch (or at lease a couple) of 1919a4'ers together to do this; I'd do this one again.


Carry On!
Gary
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