Chapter three

Day 3, Saturday, June 6th 2015.

Despite the cold (and it has been consistently bitterly cold overnight since we arrived here), we were up and about early; we needed to get to UTAH beach in time for the re-enactment of the landings at 06:45 . We were on our way by 05:45 and had fairly clear roads for most of the way although heavier traffic was anticipated up ahead as we neared our objective, hence our early start for a relatively short journey, supposedly of about 7 Km. but it turned into a police-enforced roundabout route, a journey of about 14-15 km. to parking lots not too far from the beach. As those lots filled up newcomers were forced to park farther and farther "along the line".

Eric let me off opposite one of the breaks in the hedgerows and I walked through, turning right with others to walk a few hundred yards down the road and on to the beach through a gap in the bluff running along the beach - apparently one of the same still-extant openings actually used by the forces as they came off the beach 71 years ago today. To our dismay an error had been made in our timing and the disembarkation had taken place at the original 1944 hour of 06:30 and by the time we arrived virtually everything was over except for the casual return of some troops and various pieces of equipment from the water's edge some 6-700 yards out and, in truth, it would have been difficult indeed - especially facing directly into the sunrise - for most of the spectators to have been fully appreciative of any detail of what was actually going on out there, had we been on time.

The men came in on 20 LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) carrying four companies from the 8th Infantry Regiment.

At the exit to the bluff has been placed a landing-craft with the ramp down and coming off the ramp one of the most compelling and effective group-statues I have seen, that of three infantry-men moving out onto the beach facing an inevitable hail of fire; a remarkable and graphically telling representation for anyone with enough imagination to visualize and internalize the message it conveys of the raw courage those thousands of men displayed throughout operation Overlord and - of course - any and every similar military operation. I couldn't take my eyes off it for quite some time.

Later on in the morning there was a parachute drop using modern style equipment and we came back to Utah to watch it. Very close by, up on the bluff, a ridge about 10-15 ft. high and running virtually the whole length of Utah, is the memorial to the Naval branch of the services and the price they and their ancillary forces paid to the allied victory; I took the opportunity to photograph the Naval memorial, before returning to the farm to spend time with the group:


Needless to say, the entire area is rich in memorials to events, battles and individuals who played a significant and conspicuous role; for example Major Richard Winters (1918-2011)....

"He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,"
Henry V Act IV Scene iii before Agincourt

....whose illustrious WWII record can be read here:-

Major Richard Winters

"...But he will remember with advantage what feats he did that day..."
Henry V Act IV Scene iii before Agincourt

We also visited the the Battery of Crisbecq which was very impressive and towards the end of our visit there watched a re-enactment of a ground-forces attack on the battery:


We were just getting ready to leave when we spotted a tank beginning to manoeuvre and Eric took the opportunity to film it; looking through the camera viewfinder Eric had a somewhat foreshortened view and didn't realize the tank was making in his direction until the tank "commander" stopped the tank and shouted at Eric over the noise to clear out of the way...It took him a moment or two to realize!!:-

It was also during today that I was invited to join Hervé as a passenger in his command car for quite a while (but this is only if you really want to watch - it's just a video of a drive in a command car...!):-
...this was when we visited the site of "Dead Man's Corner" a most strategic road junction at the south eastern corner of the Cherbourg Peninsular, between the towns of Carentan and St.-Côme-du-Mont. The capture of that junction was an essential move and vital to the American thrust west from Utah Beach to cut off, isolate and eventually capture the entire Cherbourg Peninsular. The first tank to reach the junction came under heavy fire and the commander was killed as he stood exposed in its turret. It was not possible to remove him immediately because of the ensuing battle and he remained there for several days:

....and as it was:


Continuing on from there we drove into Carentan for the group to buy a few stores before going back to the farm at Le Grand Chemin.

On the way back from Carentan we stopped for a short break at a pleasant spot where we shared some water-melon...


....continuing on our way afterwards...
A short while after we arrived and were enjoying each other's company, there was a further drop that we could just about see in the distance over the tree-tops towards the beach area, this time using conventional "military" drop-equipment.

And so ended our last full-day stay in Normandy. Tomorrow morning Eric and I will be making our last couple of stops on the way home at Arromanches, to see the remains of Mulberry Harbour and then on to Ouistreham and the Pegasus Bridge.

This link will take you back to the Introduction

While this link will take you back to    Chapter One

This link will take you to the Chapter two

...and this one will take you to   Chapter Four