Click under the cut to read the recap of my trip. Warning: lots of information comes with the pictures. Feel free to skip. :D
I went with my mom and since she doesn’t have a drivers license, I had to drive the whole 700 kms myself. This being the first time I drove sooooooo long and far, I was exhausted and stiff by the time we arrived in Carentan. I forgot all about my tiredness as soon as I saw this lovely city. Carentan is depicted in Band of Brothers as one of the towns they had to capture. The name of the hotel we stayed in is Hôtel Le Vauban and it’s owned by a very generous and lovely young woman. She spoke excellent English (which is rare in France…) and she made us feel really welcome. If you ever want to go to Normandy, I highly recommend this hotel! The hotel itself was small and the rooms were tiny. But at least they were clean and comfortable. Mom and I both had a room for ourselves; I love her a lot, but I don’t think this vacation would have been as successful as it was if we’d both stayed in the same room for 5 days. Lol.
After exploring Carentan a bit, we went back to the hotel because I was so tired. I showered and don’t even remember falling a sleep. Slept for 10 hours and felt fresh and excited the next day. We started at the Purple Heart Lane, the way from Carentan to Saint-Côme-du-Mont. It’s called that way because there were lots of casualties resulting from the bayonet charge of Colonel Cole and his troops (502nd PIR).
The Purple Heart Lane led us straight to the Dead Man’s Corner Museum. A lovely museum with some great diorama’s and lots of information of the bayonet attack and paratroopers in general. It also explained why the museum is called that way. An American tank was hit by German fire and the whole crew was dead, including the lieutenant who was still hanging out of the turret of the tank and stayed there for days. Whenever someone asked for directions to Carentan, Sainte-Mère-Église or Saint-Côme-du-Mont, it was answered with something like, ‘take the left at the dead man’s corner’. This happened nearby a house, which was – just before the Americans captured the place – at that time used as an aid station for the German para’s. That house is now a museum.
Plaque with the Screaming Eagle in the front: “In honor of the brave paratroopers of the 101st airborne division who fought and died for our freedom.”
Original picture in 1944 of the tank that was hit.
Major Winters donated a few original and personal items to the museum, including a jacket he wore during the Overlord campaign.
Colonel Sink’s letter to the now qualified paratroopers.
Toye: “As long as he’s a paratrooper”.
After an hour, we left the museum and went to Saint-Côme-du-Mont. It’s a very small village with only three streets or so. It was raining very hard, so we didn’t see much. We stopped at the church, though. Allegedly, General von der Heydte climbed into the bell tower of the church and looked through his binoculars. He saw the invasion happening on Utah Beach in this church. Shortly after he left, the top of the church was hit by artillery and completely destroyed.
The church then.
The church now.
Then we left for Angoville-au-Plain, which was even smaller and very lovely. Funny thing is that every village, however small, has a church. I swear, I think I’ve seen like a 100 churches in only 5 days in the area of Utah and Omaha beach.
Two 2nd Battallion/506th medics used this church as an first aid post. They welcomed everyone inside – even the enemy – as long as they kept their weapons outside. In this village, Colonel Sink also had his CP for a couple of days. The church square was renamed Place Toccoa a couple of years ago, in honor of Camp Toccoa where the unit trained.
Our next stop was in Sainte-Marie-Du-Mont. I didn’t take many pictures here, because the rain was so heavy. Boo! I now regret not having taken more pictures, though, as it was a lovely town with so much information and history! There were many plaques on houses and buildings to give the reader information about what happened at that exact place.
The church (yet another one) was the perfect place for snipers to hide in and shoot from.
After having lunch in Sainte-Marie-Du-Mont, we went to Brecourt Manor, which is not a village or town, but private property and the place (as seen in Band of Brothers) were Major Winters, Bill Guarnere, Lipton, Speirs and many others took out the German guns firing at Utah Beach. There’s a monument there, almost identical to the one in Bastogne, remembering the fallen brothers.
The names of the fallen.
The field behind the monument is the place where the battle took place.
It is requested by the veterans to respect that Brecourt Manor is a private property. That’s why I didn’t drive any further. I’d have loved to see the field – as there’s still evidence of the guns – but you just do not ignore a request of a veteran, you know. =)
Then it was time for Beuzeville-au-plain, I think the smallest village yet. Lt. Thomas Meehan’s plane crashed here on D-Day and of course there’s a monument for him and his crew.
"And remember our motto: Currahee!"
Next and last stop for today was Sainte-Mère-Église, with their remarkable church and Airborne museum. We first went to the museum, mainly to find some shelter for the goddamn rain.
The insignes of the 101st and the 82nd made with flowers. Pretty cool, huh?
After our visit to the museum, we went to the church. It’s the church made famous by the 1962 movie The Longest Day and private John Steele. Steele had the misfortune to land on the church, his parachute was caught on the church steeple and he hung there for hours, while watching the slaughter going on below. Later, he managed to escape but was captured by the Germans. He eventually returned to his unit. Nowadays, there’s an effigy with a parachute hanging from the steeple, to remember the events on that night.
Inside the church, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen; stained glass with paratroopers.
On day two, we went to Utah Beach. The plan was to visit the museum (our third), then the beach and then have lunch at Le Roosevelt. Although it was windy today, at least it wasn’t raining. :D
I think we stayed in the museum for almost 2 ½ hours – it was that interesting. Lots and lots of information about Operation Overlord, the generals, the units and also lots of authentic material. It also gave a lot of insight on the German side of the war. Which led me to have a new found respect for Field Marshall Erwin Rommel.
Obviously, Rommel fought on the wrong side for the wrong ideas, but he was a very admirable and capable general and was even admired by Churchill and other Allies. He was good to American and British prisoners of wars (part of his war without hate strategy), very careful not to lose too many men because he was aware of the pain and heartbreak it would cause the homefront, didn’t share Hitler’s nazi ideas and his hate towards Jews (he blatantly ignored orders to kill Jews), stood up against Hitler several times and allegedly was part in the conspiracy to kill Hitler in July 1944 and ultimately lost his life because of that. He was made the choice to either commit suicide or he could face the People’s Court which would bring his family in danger as well. He choose the former. Tragic. I’m not trying to make him a hero, but I do think Rommel was as decent a man he could be under the circumstances.
Anyway, back to the museum. Interesting fact about the museum is that it’s build by the mayor of Sainte-Marie-Du-Mont, Michel de Vallavieille. Also the man who lived as a boy at Brecourt Manor. He was shot by an American soldier, who had mistaken him for a German soldier, but he survived. There’s a small part of the museum dedicated to Easy Company and Major Richard Winters. A small tv screen shows an interview with Winters – older than he was in the BoB interviews – and a few pictures and a painting.
Gorgeous painting portraying the action at Brecourt Manor.
More info about Brecourt Manor and a picture of Winters during the war (above) and Meehan.
A poster of Band of Brothers with signatures of the veterans.
This picture made me giggle.
A glimpse of Utah Beach. One can only imagine the horrors that happened here in June, 1944.
After our visit to Utah Beach and having a delicious lunch, we went back to Carentan. We explored the city on our arrival day, but had not seen that much so far. Mom and I had lots of fun replaying some scenes of the Carentan episode of Band of Brothers (Welsh: ”Where the fuck is everybody?!” – Luz: “I have no idea!!”). We searched and searched (with no luck) for Café de Normandie. Anyone remember that? Let me refresh your memory with this screencap:
Turns out it didn’t ever exist. :( Well, it kind of did, as we later found out at the Office Tourisme, but not where BoB says it was and it didn’t even look like it. So we took a picture of a building that kind of looks like it.
Carentan is a mixture of old and authentic and very modern.
Our beloved hotel.
For those familiar with Band of Brothers, maybe you recognize this place? I firmly believe that this is the place where Malarkey said something about the Irish being crazy fools and Muck answering that with “You should know”. Also, the place where Winters and Nixon made
Or I could be just nuts, but they definitely were inspired by it when they rebuilt the city for series.
In Band of Brothers:
After our tour through Carentan, we had diner in our rooms (delicious French bread, yummy!) and then went to see the fire works as it was a National Holiday in France on July 14th. They always have fireworks the night before. Pretty cool.
On the next and last day we went to Omaha Beach. First stop was Pointe Du Hoc.
Lots of craters still can be seen here.
Picture taken from inside a bunker. Imagine the fear the Germans must have felt when they saw all those boats and airplanes coming their way.
Pointe Du Hoc was quite a bizarre place. Almost exactly how it was almost 70 years ago.
Then we went to the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, with over 9,000 graves. And just like the ones I visited in the USA (Arlington) and the Ardennes last year (Hamm), this one is breathtaking. Everywhere you look you see white crosses. It’s peaceful, quiet and the place is absolutely beautiful. America does a great job at honoring their fallen sons.
You can see the sea on the horizon.
We also went to some sort of movie. Arromanches 360 it is called. Very unusual movie, as the room around you is round and when the movie starts, you can see it all around. Every which way you turn, there’s something to see. Planes, marine ships, tanks, etc. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures.
Later, we went to the German Cemetery in La Cambe. There are over 21,000 graves there. Such a different atmosphere than the American one, but that is to be expected. Still, I’m glad I went. Like I said last year in my Bastogne recap, many of these boys didn’t have a choice and some of them were so young. The place did scare me a little, though, with that gigantic cross in the middle.
If you’re ever planning to go to France, be sure to have a dictionary with you. A lot of French people don’t speak English (or pretend not to) and we had to use the dictionary a lot to make clear what we wanted. That can be hilarious, though. :D
A round of applause if you’ve read this all. I’m sorry for that wall of text. D:
Well, that’s it, folks. I’m going to finish an icon and then go to bed.