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Arromanches-les-Bains

Gold at Arromanches

On June 6, 1944, several small, hitherto unknown towns on the coast of Normandy suddenly found themselves on the frontline of a world-wide conflict and their names became forever etched in history. Up and down the coast, names like Ouistreham, Colleville-sur-Mer, St-Mere-Eglise, Bayeux, Caen read like a roll-call from the history book. The coast from Arromanches-les-Bains in the west to Ouistreham in the east was the operational area for British, Canadian and Free French forces. The Allied landed here at 3 beaches: Gold, Juno and Sword. Arromanches-les-Bains marked the western end of Sword Beach. The attack in this sector went relatively well, with Allied forces here making the most territorial gain on D-Day. Thereafter it was decided that until Allied forces could liberate a deep-water harbor, an artificial harbor would be created here to supply desperately needed men and equipment for the push inland. The artificial harbor, with the comical name of Mulberry, is considered a remarkable feat of engineering and needless to say was indispensable to the Allied’s eventual triumph. Nowadays visitors can still inspect the massive remains of the Mulberries. A museum steps away from the famous seawall houses artifacts from the war as well as displays on the Mulberry Harbor.

An indication of the size of the massive concrete blocks comprising part of the Mulberry Harbor. In fact some unneeded ships were sunk to provide an artificial breakwater.

British veterans and tourists were here in force as Gold Beach belonged in the British sector. I saw and overheard some Canadians as well. As this was to be the 60th Anniversary of D-Day, military re-enactors in period uniforms and vintage vehicles (mostly American Jeeps) also poured into the area.

Onto the beach

The event brought together both the very young and the very old.

A seawall protects the town from the surf. Lacking the formidable cliffs at Omaha and Utah, the beaches here were stormed and enemy defenses subdued more easily.

Our transport (it’s not the Jeep :–))

A British military band.

American paratrooper in the Musée du Débarquement. These brave airborne troops were dropped behind enemy lines the night before D-Day to disrupt the enemies and secure vital positions.

The museum also displays various decorations awarded by different nations. Here are the French decorations. At the top left is the highest French honor, the Légion d’honneur.

USA Halftrack.

Pointe du Hoc

Pointe du Hoc is the site of a daring assault by the US Army Rangers, who landed on the beach and had to scale the 30 meters high cliffs. Remnants of massive concrete bunkers, trenches and artillery emplacements are left intact, as are innumerable shell holes from the off-shore bombardments that preceded the assault.

Looking down onto the beach.

Last visit: June 2004 Pros: History Cons: Crowds and slow vintage military trucks on the freeway In a nutshell: … but being here during the D-Day anniversary is unforgettable