There is an old saw about amateurs discuss tactics while professionals discuss logistics. Arromanches sur Mer is an example of why both are needed. From a tactical standpoint, the shallow-draft port town sits in a valley surrounded by steep bluffs and cliffs, which provided excellent fighting and defensive strong-points for the Germans. Up on top of the bluffs was also a radar station, which could warn of attack. Nearby were the large gun batteries at Longues sur Mer, which could attack and sink ships miles out to sea. More on them soon.
Yet, Arromanches was critical to a successful campaign. It was a given that the Germans would wreck any deep water ports before giving them up, and do a very good job of it. They had demonstrated before that they could and would do so. This meant that even if Cherbourg and Le Havre could be taken quickly, it was highly unlikely that they would be taken in a usable condition. There was no way to bring in all the supplies needed for a successful campaign by air, so how do you bring in the hundreds/thousands of shiploads of cargo needed?
The answer is simple, if very off-the-wall: you use a shallow-draft port to create an artificial deep-water harbor. You let the Mulberrys bloom.
the Arromanches D-Day Museum to learn about this amazing and critical bit of strategy and logistics. What they did was so far out of the box that in some cases the box wasn't in sight.
The key was to use concrete barges/cassions that would be towed/pushed into position and, along with old ships, sunk in place to create a breakwater and harbor well out from the port. Then, additional cassions/barges would be sunk as anchor points, and floating ports would be put in place.
These ports were connected to the shore by bridges. Not just any bridges, but special ones that not only could take the loads, but would rise and fall with the tides and waves so that things stayed as level as possible and could be used under almost any conditions.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that the floating ports were on "posts" so that they rose and fell as well?
Needless to say, there were a great many engineering challenges to overcome. A key one was an anchor that would reliably secure the ports and segments in place. It took a lot of work and experimentation, but that anchor design was found.
The very nice museum also has displays that show everything from a field command post to uniforms, gear, and even rations of the day. There are films/videos shown, and the staff was very friendly and helpful. This is the second museum I will recommend you visit on your trip to the D-Day beaches.
I also highly recommend walking up the steep road from town to where the old radar station (now supporting a visitor observation platform) is located. This gives you a much better view of the area and the situation.
Today, you can see the remains of the breakwater and cassions/barges, and you can almost walk out to the closest one at low tide.
Also at the top of the bluffs lies the Arromanches 360 theatre. In it, you can view a very intense 360 multi-media experience. Let me stress, it is intense and if you are a combat veteran, know that there are triggers. It pulls no punches, and not only shows combat footage, but footage that brings the civilian devastation of the day brutally home. So, while I recommend going you will need to think about it and be prepared to leave at need.
I want to thank the Arromanches D-Day Museum for their help and hospitality, and not just on my first visit. They were kind enough to help with something you hopefully will be seeing soon. It is well worth the entrance fee to learn about the harbor and the logistics, much less all else you can see while there.
This trip and other embeds sponsored by MilitaryLuggage.Com and B.N. Shape Clothing. Normandy coverage also made possible by Enterprise Rent A Car Caen Railway Office. My thanks to them and to everyone who has contributed to make this and other trips possible. Be sure to check out my Facebook Page and Laughing Wolf for other photos, stories, and more.
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