There are hundreds of stories concerning D-Day and a number of movies that continue the storytelling, but we visited some sites that stayed with me. There are so many memorials and monuments that it’s hard to go very far without coming across another one. Many of the small villages we drove through had their own memorials they created and continue to maintain – not on any list or website, but past actions were still honored. Here are my two.
Richard D. Winters
He parachuted with the 101st Division during the Normandy invasion and lost his gun during the drop. Regardless he gathered the men together and therein learned he was the highest remaining officer and at that point took command.
He led an attack with formidable efficiency to neutralize the enemy guns and also got his hands on a map detailing the location of German weapons. He was also well-liked by his men, sometimes at the cost of his career and commander. A few stories exist where his commanders felt threatened and tried to get him removed and/or demoted.
For the remainder of the war, he rose in rank and was a part of numerous battles. General Omar Bradley presented him the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions. Stories persist of his actions during the war that demonstrated his leadership, fearlessness and efficient planning that his men relied upon and subsequently followed him.
His Command considered him indispensable to his men and kept him in Europe to supervise the demobilization of his men. He agreed to his likeness for the statue, but insisted it be dedicated to all the men who landed on D-Day, not to any one person.
The small actions at these 85+ft cliffs were given the name of Pont-du-Hoc and conducted by the US Rangers.
This area was fortified by the Germans and reconnaissance indicated heavy artillery pieces with a range that would threaten the two landing beaches. It was considered essential to knock them out of service as soon as possible.
The Rangers were founded one year earlier and truly had baptism by fire with the invasion of Normandy.
Earlier reconnaissance indicated a large German fortification with guns that had a range threatening the two landing beaches. It was deemed essential to knock these out of service as soon as possible. Before landing the Allied bombers made three waves of runs, dropping 500lb bombs that later discovered were insufficient for piercing the shelters. Here’s a short video of the serenity in existence during our visit, which was abruptly interrupted that morning.
Their objective was to land on the beach, climb the cliffs and destroy the German artillery, firing a flare at 7am upon completion. I wasn’t surprised to read that navigation errors, strong current and smoke along with the loss of one of the landing craft delayed their operation more than 40 minutes. Hence no flare or reinforcements.
Upon reaching the top it was discovered there were only dummy guns. Two rangers went on a reconnaissance and upon seeing skid marks in the mud discovered the new location and neutralized the guns. The rangers hunkered down overnight but reached a critical point. The western flank was overrun, and 20 rangers stayed behind so 50 comrades could escape – and the 20 were captured by the Germans.
What the bombs didn’t destroy, time and weather took its toll on the location as seen below.
The area is littered with concrete pieces across the landscape.
225 Rangers began this mission and afterwards 90 were able to continue the invasion after the landing.
I found this quote in the visitor center and thought it was fitting.