Europe 2012: Day 28, Normandy


The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. The cemetery is located on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach (one of the landing beaches of the Normandy Invasion) and the English Channel. It covers 70 ha (172 acres), and contains the remains of 9,387 American military dead, most of whom were killed during the invasion of Normandy and ensuing military operations in World War II. Included are graves of Army Air Corps crews shot down over France as early as 1942.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

I woke at 7am.  While my DH showered, I went out for sandwiches.  We have a tour scheduled for 8:30am.

Today, the USA celebrates the 4th of July.   My DH and I will be touring the D-Day beaches of Normandy (Gold Beach D-Day Tours).   Both occasions seemed to be fitting.  Both deal the American principle of freedom from tyranny and the struggle and sacrifice required to make that principle a reality.

I can’t be flip about this topic.  Afterall, what do I know about war?  So, I will let some pictures do the talking for me (captions are snippets from Wikipedia):

Utah Beach was the code name for the right flank, or westernmost, of the Allied landing beaches during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, as part of Operation Overlord on 6 June 1944. By the end of D-Day, some 23,250 troops had safely landed on the beach, along with 1,700 vehicles. Only about 200 casualties were recorded during the landings. (Normandy, France).

Click here for more information on the Utah Beach assault.

Omaha Beach is the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during World War II. Very little went as planned during the landing at Omaha Beach. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landing craft to miss their targets throughout the day. The defenses were unexpectedly strong, and inflicted heavy casualties on landing US troops. Ten landing craft were swamped by the rough seas before they reached the beach and several others stayed afloat only because their passengers bailed water with their helmets. Seasickness was prevalent among the troops waiting offshore. By the end of the day (June 4, 1944) the 21:00 landing of the 26th RCT completed the planned landing of infantry, but losses in equipment were high, including 26 artillery pieces, over 50 tanks, about 50 landing craft and 10 larger vessels. Of the 2,400 tons of supplies scheduled to be landed on D-Day, only 100 tons actually landed.Casualties for V Corps were estimated at 3,000 killed, wounded and missing. The heaviest casualties were taken by the infantry, tanks and engineers in the first landings. The 16th and 116th RCT’s lost about 1,000 men each. Only five tanks of the 741st tank battalion were ready for action the next day. The German 352nd division suffered 1,200 killed, wounded and missing; about 20% of its strength. Its deployment at the beach caused such problems that Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, commander of the U.S. First Army, at one stage considered evacuating Omaha, while Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery considered the possibility of diverting V Corps forces through Gold Beach.

Click here for more information on the Omaha Beach assault.

Click here for more information on the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

The tour we took was good!  The tour guide, Anne, was a young Normandy women with a cute 2-year-old son named Thomas.   She was very knowledgeable about WWII.  It rained only once, a downpour while we were at the US Omaha Beach Cemetery — we all looked like drowned cats (especially our tour guide who’s hair clung to her face like a slick helmet)!  Oh well, the weather was bad on D-Day too.

Unfortunately, my DH was responsible for yet another international incident.  Because the tour company wanted an extra buck, our full day tour of the beaches (costing around $100/person) was interrupted by a return trip back to Bayeux at noon.  Before arriving in Bayeux for a 50 minute lunch break, my DH politely inquired from the back of the van, “Is this the normal route for a full day tour?” just to clarify if our expectations were correct.   “No,” she said.  “We have to make a change to pick up two others who want to do the afternoon half-day tour.”   We were both disappointed with the answer and felt we were misled when we booked the tour.  This meant that we (and four very nice British tourists) spent less time at Utah Beach and its museum, we missed the Le Fiere (the bridge highlighted in the movie “Saving Private Ryan”), and the opportunity for a leisurely lunch in the Arromanches.

A minute later, one of the British ladies turned to my DH and asked “Why do you ask?”   My DH said “because we are losing valuable time on this tour to drive 30 kilometers back to Bayeux.  We were expecting to be having lunch at a cute town as part of the tour.”   And that was the end of it, or so we thought.

Once we arrived back in Bayeux, my DH spoke privately to the tour guide to express our disappointment.

After lunch, when we all met back at the van, the British lady accosted my DH and asked, “What did you negotiate?”   Apparently during lunch, the four Brits also became upset at the change in the tour schedule and wondered what my DH did about the situation.  She said, “We want to pay 75 Euros instead of 89!”  Oops!

DH was shocked (and later he told me, secretly pleased as this was why he asked while in the van)!   We were more concerned about missing the bridge and the chance to eat our sandwiches in a cute little Normandy coastal town.  The Brits, on the other hand, were a party of four people with a rental car sitting in a parking lot.

My DH – I can’t take him anywhere!

By the time we made it to the tour office to pay the bill, we were all ready to take up the matter of compensation for the unvisited site and wasted time with the tour manager.  The tour manager, a short, stout woman with hair that looked like a wig – blew us off!  She said, “This was not a private tour.”   With that said, we all paid for our tours and made a pact that we would all get some satisfaction back when we all post our review of this tour company on TripAdvisor.  Yeah – we will show her how Americans and Brits win wars today!

We arrived back at the hotel around 7pm.  I worked on my blog, my DH checked his feeds on his iPod.   At 9pm, we went out for a pizza at a pizza/crepe place around the corner, Le Domesday — it was raining again.

Quote of the Day:  “I can’t take you anywhere!”  — Anna to DH

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14 thoughts on “Europe 2012: Day 28, Normandy

  1. I hope you DO blast the company online so that other travelers are
    not subjected to misrepresented (or shortened) tours,
    and then rudeness on top…Insult to injury.

    Sounds like you did have an enjoyable day, despite the
    tour difficulties. Very timely to see that site on the 4th.

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