Grandcamp-Maisy, France (Maisy Battery)

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. IMG_3621IMG_3627IMG_3628Not 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.

IMG_2232You 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.IMG_2231

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.

IMG_2205 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.

IMG_2345IMG_2216These are the trenches in Maisy Battery.IMG_2144Maisy Battery had four of these 155mm guns.IMG_2153Staff BunkerIMG_2157Inside 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.

IMG_2191This 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.

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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.IMG_2323

Finally on 9 June 1944, the Rangers captured this battery and took dozens of German soldiers as prisoners of war. IMG_2129
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

Enjoy,

Kelly

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9/11 Never Forget

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.

101st Airborne Memorial

After a long day of visiting the American Cemetery, the D-Day Experience, and other places around Normandy, we visited the 101st Airborne Memorial.  It’s on a corner next to a field that used to be Brecort Manor, away from town where they dropped behind enemy lines to secure key intersections, bridges and towns.  IMG_2097

We also visited Dick Winter’s Leadership Memorial, which was not far away.  IMG_2106

Right after we got there, a group of soldiers from the 101st Airborne arrived.  We talked for a while and had a wonderful conversation.  I was honored to take a portrait of one of the soldiers.  I’ve been looking for a way to get this image to him, but I have no contact information.

IMG_2101I hope he is able to see this post and if he does, please contact me for a high-res image that I will email.

Normandy American Cemetery and Museum Colleville-sur-Mer, France

I’ve been wanting to post this for a while now, but life seems to be getting in the way (that and my internet connection is extremely slow). I also know I’ve had a couple of posts already about the American Cemetery in Normandy, located on the bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. At the visitor center, there is an amazing museum that has artifacts and comprehensive displays of the history surrounding D-Day and what the costs were.

However, it was quite crowded there a couple of days before the 75th anniversary of D-Day, so we had quite a walk to get to the museum and cemetery. Along the way were vintage WWII vehicles, and a person well known for helping defeat Germany in the war, none other than Winston Churchill, of course this is a re-enactor, but hey, he looks the part.IMG_1986IMG_1991

The displays in the museum start with the occupying of France by Germany, how the French people were treated, and the Allies’ goal of liberating France.

It also has a replica of the Czech hedgehogs designed by Rommel as part of the “Atlantic Wall”. There were several layers of defense put in place all along the coast of the English Channel, here specifically are the coastal defenses.

The French Resistence played a major role in helping the Allies get intelligence about the occupying forces, their movements, etc., and they had to risk their lives to do so.  Even owning a radio was forbidden.

Did you know there was a training exercise for D-Day?  It was called Exercise Tiger, which had heavy casualties causing the US military to take actions for training so the actual invasion would be successful.

Operation Titanic was designed to take the focus off of the paratroopers landing in France, it consisted of dropping exploding dummies among troops to confuse the Germans.

There were displays of several US troops and their stories.  Here are three.

Hundreds if not thousands of civilians were also killed on D-Day and following the Allies’ arrival into France.  Saint-Lo was totally destroyed by air bombings in a matter of hours.  It was such an important crossroad that it was necessary to create a gap in German defenses.  I’ve read somewhere that the treasures from Mont Saint-Michel were taken to Saint-Lo for safe keeping but were destroyed in the bombings; however, I haven’t been able to verify that yet.

The human cost of the invasion was extreme: approximately 8,500 US and Allied troops were killed, wounded or went missing in action on D-Day alone.  Approximately 225,000 Allied troops were killed during the Normandy campaign, and about 18,000 French citizens were killed during this time as well.  The Germans suffered approximately 400,000 casualties during the liberation of Normandy.

Which brings us back to the American Cemetery.  In our history of engaging in war on foreign soil, we were never there for conquest or gain, only for freedom and liberation; all we ever asked for were plots of land to bury our gallant dead.

Bayeux Revisited

Bayeaux is a small city about 17km from the Normandy coast.  It is a beautiful place with narrow cobblestone streets.  The homes are reminiscent of old France.

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IMG_1965Bayeaux is a very old city, dating back to the 1st Century BC, known as Augustodurum when it was part of the Gallo-Roman Empire.  The city became part of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century.  It was later occupied by the Vikings from the 9th Century AD to about the 10th Century AD.  It was liberated by the Normans in the 12th Century, and was under the rule of William the Conqueror’s half brother Odo, Earl of Kent, who was instrumental in the construction of Notre Dame Cathedral de Bayeux and dedicated the Cathedral in 1077. IMG_1977

I can’t decide whether I like the black and white image of Notre Dame better, what do you think?

IMG_1977 bwBayeaux was then conquered by King Henry I of England after his father’s death in 1087 (Henry I was the son of William the Conqueror), and the city didn’t gain independence from England until 1450 by Charles VII of France.  It then prospered and grew to the present day.

During World War II, Bayeaux was the first city of the Battle of Normandy to be liberated.  On 16 June 1944, Charles de Gaulle made the first of two major speeches in which he made clear that France sided with the Allies.

IMG_1949The city was virtually untouched during the Battle of Normandy, since the German forces were fully involved defending Caen from the Allies.  The Bayeaux War Cemetery has the largest British cemetery dating to World War II in France.

On 5 June every year, at 1530 hrs (3:30pm for the rest of us), the Royal British Legion National attends a beating retreat ceremony at the cemetery.

On 6 June, at 1015 hrs (10:15am), there is a remembrance service in the Notre Dame Cathedral.  This year, French President Emmanuel Macron and British PM Theresa May were in attendance.  We happened to be there about an hour or two before their arrival, but we were unaware of this, so we left for Omaha Beach.

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I think that soldier in the far right corner is giving me a strange look, trying to decide what I’m up to, I guess.IMG_3553.JPGThis soldier was in the right place at the right time, since he looks to be joining his counterparts behind him in the window, smelling the wonderful food.

Enjoy,

Kelly

Happy Independence Day!

Recently I was privileged to visit Utah and Omaha beaches on D-Day. It was sobering to see what our soldiers were up against to liberate Europe from fascist control. Here lie thousands of our boys in solemn ground after giving their lives for freedom.

Remember, the only reason we’re celebrating our Independence Day is because our forefathers rose up against tyranny and oppression of the Crown, said enough is enough and defeated the greatest military on earth at the time with a ragtag group of farmers and craftsmen. Afterwards they created the greatest government that has ever existed on the planet, at the base of which is the belief that all men are created equal, and are endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and governed by consent of the people, not a monarch born into power.

Remember freedom isn’t free and it is only one generation from extinction, so it must be fought for by the voting in those people who understand and believe in freedom and personal liberty, otherwise once a freedom is lost it can never be regained.

Wandering Around New York City

After visiting the World Trade Center, we walked all over Lower Manhattan in New York City.  A couple of blocks from St. Paul’s Church is Trinity Church.  This is the one featured in a recent Hollywood blockbuster film.  Interestingly enough, the original was built in 1697 then destroyed in the Great Fire in 1776, the second church was built in 1790 and later damaged by a heavy snow storm in 1838 and later demolished to build the one standing today and dedicated in 1846.  It is still an active parish with regular services and community outreach.

A brief history of Trinity Church.

Trinity Church is currently undergoing some structural reconditioning.

Trinity is the burial place of Alexander Hamilton, his wife and her family, and many other people from the time of the Revolutionary War.

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A few blocks south of Trinity Church is the Bull of Wall Street, although it seems that it’s on Hollywood Boulevard and not Wall Street.  It’s also nearly always heavily occupied by tourists that want their photo with different parts of the bull. Go figure, right?

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Just around the corner from the Bull is the old Custom House which is now the Native American Cultural Museum, part of the Smithsonian Institute.

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Across the street is Battery Park and the Statue of Liberty.  It was amazing and awesome to see Lady Liberty.  IMG_1899.jpg

Coming out of the subway in another part of the city, the first building I saw was this one, that looks like it has a helipad next to the penthouse suite.IMG_1810.jpg

Just down the street is the Empire State Building.

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Another subway ride away is Times Square.

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IMG_1838.jpgThe saxaphone player on the left was jamming out some hot jazz, so we stopped there for a while to listen.  It’s crazy how many people are in Times Square.  It reminded me of the crowds in Zion Narrows.

Looking for a place to enjoy lunch, we found Bryant Park.  It has a nice pavilion for concerts, several cafes and a great view of the City Library.

Somewhere along the way near Central Park I found one of the oldest operating Jewish Synagogue in the country.  IMG_1773

I had a great time in New York, but this was just a stop over point to Paris and Normandy.

Enjoy,

Kelly

New York City Revisited: World Trade Center

I made it home from my trip to France without too many difficulties.  Luckily I still had my passport, prepaid airline tickets and hotel rooms.  If you’re wondering why, see my last post on Paris and a Lesson Learned.

Anyway, I’m going through my photos from this adventure, and I decided to post some about every part of this trip (this is what happens when there are over 3,000 photos to sort through).

On arriving in New York City, it was decided to store our luggage so we wouldn’t have to drag it around the city all day.  After negotiating the subway system (and seeing a string trio playing beautiful music at a station, another station had a rap performer), we made our way to the World Trade Center Memorial.

I know I briefly touched on this in a previous post, but I wanted to give this some more time because it is a significant place of honor in our country.  Standing at the memorial was humbling and moving experience and a privilege to witness what these people went through on that fateful day. It must have been a harrowing experience for them knowing they might not survive the day, and many did not. To the families of those who perished and to the survivors, you have my deepest respect and sympathy.

 

The second image shows a special tribute to some firefighters that gave up their lives to save others.  Thank you for your service, you will never be forgotten!

Not far away is the World Trade Center 1, aka, The Freedom Tower.

 

The other buildings surrounding the Freedom Tower are also part of the World Trade Center.  It’s quite a complex.

Nearby is St. Paul’s Chapel, where George Washington dedicated America on 30 April, 1789.   This church survived the attacks on 9/11/2001 when many buildings were damaged or destroyed by the falling towers nearby.

I found it interesting that the World Trade Center complex was built on land that once belonged to St. Paul’s parish.

On a plaque in the chapel above George Washington’s pew, it reads “Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that you will keep the United States in Holy protection.” source

 

Standing here in the shadows of these buildings made me realize that it’s important to remember George Washington’s plea to keep our hearts and minds in tune with Almighty God and to serve those around us with love and peace.

Enjoy,

Kelly

Paris, and A Lesson Learned

After leaving Normandy last Friday, we made our way to Paris. After much rain and congested traffic, we finally made it to our hotel. The room was 10×15, three beds (one was a bunk bed), and a bathroom that was 4×6. Needless to say, it was tiny but comfortable, for the most part. No, I didn’t get photos, it just didn’t make sense.

The next morning, we drove to the nearest subway station, purchased our tickets and boarded the train heading for the military museum and after, to the Louvre. I realized I was a victim of pickpocketing when I went to get my cell phone and wallet and they were not in my pockets. I was devastated. Luckily I was able to contact my bank and cancel my credit cards and carrier to suspend my cell service. This is why I fell off the face of the social media world on Saturday.

Here’s the lesson I learned. When using public transit, there are some things you need to do to keep your valuables safe. If you have a bag, backpack, etc., put your wallet and cell phone in the bag and keep it in front of you. Better yet, if you don’t need your wallet, don’t take it with you, just enough cash to get you through the day in a coin purse in your bag. Don’t wear expensive watches or jewelry either, that makes you a target. Luckily, they didn’t get my passport or main camera. I was able to recover the photos I took with my phone.

The biggest lesson I learned was this: don’t use a password generator app to keep your passwords secure. If I had been able to login to my cloud service, I could’ve shown the police where my phone was. Yes, I spent about 3 1/2 hours in the police station filing a report. I couldn’t access my email because the password was generated by an app and stored securely, yes, on my phone, as were all my other passwords. I tried everything I could to change my email password so I could get the security code to access my passwords, to no avail. Always know what your passwords are.

After the stint in a Paris police station, we made it to the military museum with an hour to spare. No, we didn’t make it to the Louvre either. I did get some photos but we were rushed and couldn’t really enjoy it. We went back the next day for a longer visit and I’ll do a post about it once I get my photos processed.

Over the next few days, we made it to the museum of the Great War (WWI), the US memorial to the victims of WWI at Chateau Thierry, and at closing time to the American Cemetery in Belleau Wood. Nearby is the German cemetery from the same war. I’ll do posts about these places as well.

After a wonderful, high stressed stay in Paris (as you could probably guess), we made our way back home.

I enjoyed my time in France, with memories that will last a lifetime.

Enjoy,

Kelly