Woke up this morning to new snow at Zion. It’s been an absolutely gorgeous day. (I tried to post this yesterday, but the internet wasn’t cooperating.)
Woke up this morning to new snow at Zion. It’s been an absolutely gorgeous day. (I tried to post this yesterday, but the internet wasn’t cooperating.)
Sunrise this morning in Zion National Park.
I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!
I will do my best to post more frequently in the coming year. I have so many posts planned, but it seems that work and life get in the way too frequently.
It started raining last night and it’s been raining most of the day. This is the first time it’s rained here in 154 days! This broke the previous record of 145 days with no rain, from about 40 years ago.
Not far from Paris is the small town of Meaux. This is where the Museum of the Great War is located. (For more information, please visit their website www.museedelagrandeguerre.eu/en.html.) Everything in the museum came from a single private collection of World War I memorabilia. The tour in the museum starts with the end of the previous conflict between France and Germany in 1870, and ends with the Treaty of Versailles in 1918. Plan on a few hours at the museum to learn about the causes and effects of the war.
There were several causes of the Great War, among them the alliances that formed in Europe between England, France and Russia to confront Germany; also, there was an alliance between Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy. Some other causes were the assassinations of Jean Jaurès, the leader of the French socialists, and the Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand and his wife Isabella of Sarajevo. The killing of Mr. Jaurès made it easier to rally the French workers to the national cause of war against Germany. The assassinations of the Crown Prince and his wife gave the excuse to declare war on Serbia. Not long after, Russia mobilized their troops followed by France. Germany declared war on Russia and France, then invaded Belgium which brought in England. Germany then called on its alliance with Sarajevo and Italy, and boom. All of Europe is at war.
The war raged for three years before America joined the fight. It was the sinking of the Lusitania that was the impetus for joining the war effort. Before that, America was refusing to join the war.
There was a huge push to produce more food, while consuming less and sending the surplus to save the French people.
The war quickly became stuck in the mud and trenches. Conditions were bad at best and appalling at worst. To give you an idea of what the trenches look like, there is a mock-up in the museum:
Above the trenches was “No man’s land”, or the space between the enemy trenches. Many trenches were just yards apart, usually slightly further than one could throw a grenade.
To give you perspective from the trenches, sometimes soldiers would see this over the top of their bunker. Not something to be happy about.
There was a large human cost to the war as well. Thousands came home “shell shocked”, what we call PTSD today, and many thousands returned from the war wounded and maimed. A new medical science had to be developed to cope with the injuries, and that is the field of prosthetics. Every conceivable form of prostheses had to be developed for these former soldiers to even cope with life after the war. Here is an image of the myriad forms of prosthetics developed.
After four long years of battle, the war ended on November 11, 1918, and the armistice was signed at 11:00am that morning, this became known as Armistice Day which we celebrate as Veteran’s Day today. The treaty of Versailles was signed a few months later officially ended the war and set the stage for World War II. Germany got the short end of the stick in the Treaty, they had to pay reparations to the rest of Europe, and rebuild their country at the same time. This devastated their economy and allowed a young radical named Adolf Hitler to gain power in the country to rebuild the military, which was banned under the Treaty.
This monument was built by the American Friends of France in 1932, and it was dedicated to memory and silent voices of those who gave their lives in the Battle of Marne, in September 1914. This monument sits behind the Museum of the Great War.
A few miles away at Chateau-Thierry stands the American Memorial to the Great War. The inscription reads: “This monument has been erected by the United States of America to commemorate the services of her troops and those of France who fought in this region during the World War. It stands as a lasting symbol of the friendship and cooperation between the French and American Armies.” The figures were sculpted by Alfred-Alphonse Bottiau, and represent Marianne (symbol of France) and Columbia (symbol of America) clasping hands to represent the lasting friendship between the two nations.
This monument was erected in 1930.
Underneath the monument is the American museum dedicated to the service of American troops in France during World War I.
A few kilometers away is Belleau Wood, the location of a fierce battle between the Americans and the Germans. It is now the location of the US cemetery for World War I soldiers. Sadly, we arrived just as they were getting ready to close the gates for the day. Every soldier buried here received the Purple Heart individually, to their families posthumously, but there is one here for all the soldiers.
A stone’s throw from the American cemetery is the German cemetery for the Battle of Belleau Wood.
The white crosses in the background is the American Cemetery, and the German cemetery in the foreground. Over 8,000 men are buried in the German cemetery, and about 67,000 men are buried in the American cemetery.
It was a very humbling experience to visit these locations and learn the history as it really happened. My goal here is to convey a sense of history that normally isn’t discussed or viewed. It’s my wish that everyone could visit these monuments, museums and cemeteries to gain a better understanding of our history so we don’t repeat it. It’s also my wish to pay homage to these men for paying the ultimate sacrifice to pay for the freedom that exists in the world today. I also wish to honor all those who have served and are serving in the Armed Forces today.
Happy Veteran’s Day,
I have a few more planned posts of Normandy that I’m skipping by request from a friend to “get to Paris!” These posts are to revisit Utah Beach and Omaha Beach; also, for Point du Hoc, Longues sur Mer, Saint Mer Eglise, La Fiere Bridge and Pegasus Bridge. I will publish these in the near future, so keep an eye out for them.
After arriving in Paris (and a lengthy stay at the police station-see my post Paris, and a Lesson Learned for details), I was able to explore the city with my friends as planned. I was able to see the Eiffel Tower at a distance, but never got close. I also wanted to photograph the Tower at night, but apparently they turn the lights off at 1:00am, so I missed it. Although as compensation, we drove around the Arc du Triumph about six times while raising a ruckus.
Not far away, is Napoleon’s Mausoleum and Tomb, these are next door to the Military Museum. I will have a post on the Military Museum at a later time as well.
Napoleon’s Mausoleum Napoleon’s Tomb
Looking toward at the Military Museum and Napoleon’s Mausoleum:
By the way, the police station is under the far right side under the park. Going the other direction is the River Seine and its magnificient bridge.
The River Seine, with the Eiffel Tower in the background:
No visit to Paris would be complete without visiting the Louvre. We had actually planned it for this day since it was open later than normal, but that was scrapped because of the visit to the police. On the second to last day in France, we were able to make it to the Louvre but they closed at 6:00pm, and we didn’t arrive until about 8:00pm. It’s still an amazing place.
The Louvre is extremely large, this is inside one of its courtyards.
After leaving the Louvre, it’s easy to get lost in traffic even with a GPS unit, and what do you see when you get lost in Paris? Why Notre Dame of course. I was hoping to visit this magnificient edifice but that was dashed when it caught fire earlier this year.
Paris is an amazing city. There are many interesting things to see. If you do visit, secure all belongings and don’t carry too much cash, especially on the subways.
I know it’s been several months since I’ve been to France, and a few weeks since I last posted. First, my apologies. I have so many posts that I have wanted publish, but I haven’t been able to sit down and write them. Here is such a post.
I’ve done some research on Mont Saint Michel Abby, and it was first constructed in 800 AD by the Romans as a military outpost. Later, it became a hallowed shrine by some monks from Ireland. Within a few centuries, it was rebuilt as a Catholic Abby.
During the 100 Year War, it was fortified to withstand the sieges that happened here. During this period the outer defenses were constructed around the village. During high tide, it’s completely shut off from the mainland.
In the early 1700’s it fell in decline and was pretty much abandoned by the monks, so Napoleon took it over and converted it into a state prison facility for political dissidents. By 1847, it was falling into neglect and disrepair, so Victor Hugo spearheadded a movement to save the Abby from desolation and destruction. By 1900, it was again occupied by monks as a monestary.
I have been wondering why it wasn’t destroyed during World War II, and in my research, I found that it was occupied by the Nazis for almost the entire war. There was a garrison in place to monitor radio communications, but that was pretty much it. They revered this Abby so much that they were adamant that nothing happen to it. It became a relaxation resort for German officers and their families during the war. At the end of the war, an American journalist and another American soldier drove up to the gates of the Abby to visit it, and the German soldiers there immediately surrendured and the Abby was liberated.
I read somewhere that the treasures from this Abby were taken to Saint-Lo for safe keeping in the church there. Sadly the city was devestated by the Americans to force the Germans out and all treasures were destroyed. The treasures of Mont Saint Michel were ancient texts and writings. However I haven’t been able to verify the accuracy of these events regarding the treasures of Mont Saint Michel.
During our visit, we were able to go into the village a bit, and wander about the outer wall.
The inner gate that looks like it could close off and defend the village and Abby at any time. Inside, there is a weighted wall and portcullis that looks operational, along with a drawbridge.
Other views of the Abby from along the wall.
Our visit the the Abby was at 10:00pm, just before sunset at 11:00pm. Looks like we might not make it back to the mainland with the tide coming in…
It was an enjoyable adventure, and if you ever get the chance to visit this amazing place, DO IT!!
Imagine, if you would, a small idyllic town on the coast of Normandy about halfway between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. It has a nice pier, harbor and access to the English Channel. This town is known as Grandcamp-Maisy, France. Not too far from town there are several farms. Looking across these fields, it looks lovely, peaceful and a place you’d likely want to hang out for a while looking at the ocean.
You might want to look a tad closer, because there is something here that shouldn’t be. Do you see it? If you look closer, you’ll see a bit of concrete sticking out of the ground. But then you turn around and look the other direction, and you’ll see something very strange.
Is that really there? Yes, it is. You’ve stumbled upon one of the most heavily fortified bunkers of the German Army, known as Maisy Battery. This site was extremely top secret during WWII. It was built in secret by prisoners of war from the Eastern Front in 1941-1942 as part of the Atlantic Wall defense system, and they were likely executed afterwards, but there’s no information on that. Maisy Battery is thought to have been used to shell Utah and Omaha Beaches during the invasion. However, both beaches are almost impossible to see from the observation mounds at the site. It’s more likely used for shelling the ships to keep them away from the shore to stop an invasion.
The people in Grandcamp-Maisy had no idea what was here, and they weren’t allowed into the area at all. This site has 2.5 kilometers of trenches (over 2 miles), 4 large 155mm guns, several 2.5cm flak guns, bunkers, mess hall, and a field hospital. The mess hall was completely destroyed in the bombing raid, and the field hospital was partially destroyed in the bombing raid and is now inaccessable.
These are the trenches in Maisy Battery.Maisy Battery had four of these 155mm guns.Staff BunkerInside the bunker
The site also has a radio communications bunker that is surprisingly intact. Normally they’re bombed out from shelling either by ship or by bazooka rockets.
This site has something that was only found in one other spot in Brittany, a RADAR Flak Control Center. This was used to analyze incoming airplanes all along the French coast and sent out communications to flak guns up and down the coast shooting down Allied aircraft.
What’s interesting to note, or disturbing to note depending on who you talk to, is the Ranger task force that was sent to capture Point-du-Hoc was also ordered to capture Maisy Battery, but they never did. They stayed at Point-du-Hoc guarding the road. The radar site and flak guns at Maisy Battery were likely shooting at the aircraft that were dropping the 81st Airborne and the 101st Airborne.
Finally on 9 June 1944, the Rangers captured this battery and took dozens of German soldiers as prisoners of war.
Soon after the war was over, Maisy Battery was classified top secret and buried by the US government, literally buried. It was covered by earth and smoothed over and returned to the citizens of Grandcamp-Maisy as farmland. For 60 years this site was erased from the history of D-Day and all memory of existing. Why? No one knows for sure.
It wasn’t until 2006 when an avid military collector was looking through a pair of pants from WWII, and he found a map of the area that was only designated “heavy resistance”. He looked into it further, purchased the property that was on the map and started digging. To date, his team has unearthed a large portion of the Battery, trenches and bunkers. Today, the Maisy Battery is open to the public and self tours are available. It is now in the condition that the Rangers left it 75 years ago.
There is more to this story that is still unfolding. Maisy Battery was recently featured on the Science Channel, part of the “Secret Nazi Bunkers” series. For more information, please visit www.maisybattery.com
I was recently honored to visit the 9/11 Memorial in NYC. To see all those names of people who lost their lives in the horrific event was truly sobering. May we never forget this tragedy and always remember those who perished 18 years ago.
A salute to the troops that fight for our freedoms, without their sacrifice of time, blood, sweat, tears and even their lives we would have no peace anywhere in the world. Thank you.