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.
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.