Our first stop in France was Pointe du Hoc – a place which, amazingly I have never heard of (well, perhaps not amazingly as I’m rubbish at History). It is an incredible story of American bravery in WW2.
Pointe du Hoc itself is a headland sticking out into the English Channel, round the coast from Omaha beach. I can do Geography, but my knowledge of History mostly comprises a hazy memory of me dressing up as the Victorians aged 8. But I will attempt to do
an idiots guide a guide (written by an idiot) to what happened here and you can research it more if you’re interested to find out all the historical facts.
This was before the beach landings in Normandy. The Germans occupied Pointe du Hoc due to its strategic height, view etc, and had heavily armed the place with bunkers, artillery etc – which is still evident today.
The Germans were expecting beach landings, but had intercepted radio traffic that indicated it would be in Calais, not here. On 6 June 1944 they saw the Americans coming but thought it was just a distraction due to their intelligence about Calais and the fact that no-one would be mad enough to try to scale cliffs and take on their guns etc.
Long Story Short, the Americans fired at them from the ships and then climbed up the cliffs despite the obvious challenges (scaling a cliff while being shot at?!) and took Pointe du Hoc. Once the Americans took this territory, it made it safe for the Omaha beach landings to take place. And the rest is history. See my later blog when we visit Omaha beach.
Visiting the Pointe Du Hoc, which is still potted with bomb-craters, brings it home how completely awful this would have been for all these men, and the horrors of war.
There is a Visitor centre (with American security guards searching you as you go in), with a moving video about the soldiers who fought that day. One story explains how after landing, soldiers went searching for the German guns, and found a very large gun behind bushes. The guns were then destroyed.
Nearby, in the village of Grandcamp-Maisy, is an impressive worldwide statue to peace. Next to this is a graveyard containing commonwealth war graves. Memories of the war are everywhere here.
Memories of the war are everywhere here. And in that vein, we headed along the coast to Omaha Beach.
- At Pointe du Hoc, there is a circular path, but start at the East side by the Visitors centre, to benefit from the visitors centre and the information boards set up so you hear the story of what happened before you enter the site. There is also an additional thing to see as you leave, which is why you need to go this way round.
Next blog: Omaha Beach, France
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