We put Bayeux, France, on our itinerary in order to visit Omaha Beach (pics) and other related parts of the Normandy coast. This is, of course, where the Allied invasion took place during World War II, specifically, June 6, 1944.
Unfortunately, during this time of year, many of the museums in this area are closed since there just aren’t many visitors. But we were able to take a tour that took us to the American cemetery and its associated visitor’s center, Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc. The cemetery is a moving site with its 9,387 perfectly aligned granite markers. There is a large memorial and a chapel on the grounds of the cemetery. The nearby visitor’s center has a very moving film that pays tribute to the American soldiers that gave their lives in this invasion. It also has several exhibits providing background on some of the men as well as details of the invasion.
Pointe de Hoc juts out into the ocean with Omaha Beach to the east and Utah Beach to the west. The Germans had established several 155mm artillery positions on this point which has 100 foot vertical cliffs above the ocean. It was vital to disable these artillery in order for the invasion to take place. Two hundred and twenty-five men from the 2nd Ranger Battalion made the assault on Pointe du Hoc, scaling the 100 foot cliffs. In spite of earlier heavy bombardment by the battleship USS Texas, the Germans put up fierce resistance. The Rangers were successful in removing the Germans from Pointe du Hoc but only 90 of them remained.
Point du Hoc has not been altered since that time. You can see all of the bomb craters, the artillery emplacements and the bunkers built by the Germans with 2 meters thick concrete walls, some of which are still fully intact. There is a simple granite dagger mounted atop the bunker farthest out on the point as a tribute to the Rangers.