This is off topic, but then again it might be of interest to a few of us, so... When I thought I was on my way to Afghanistan last fall, I sold my car. Right now, I get around great locally on shanks mare, public transport, and occasional use of a friend's car. The problem is long distance.
I find that I really need to get back to Indiana from Atlanta by Friday afternoon if at all possible. So, anyone have any experience with ride-share services, Megabus, or other transportation options? Thoughts or suggestios that don't involve car rentals or buying a new car?
The situation is critical, and ships must come in. On the cliffs above and between two key beaches is a major enemy position, the heart of which are four 150mm naval guns that can sink any ship afloat. They are well protected by anti-aircraft guns, machine guns, and more. The forward observation bunker has two levels, so that if the top one goes, the bottom one can survive and continue.
In this case, it is not a movie and there is no plucky band that includes David Niven to attack from behind/inside. What you have are the guns at Longues, and they commanded the sea from the heights between Omaha and Gold. Attempts to silence the guns via bombing failed, with the bombing doing surprisingly little damage to the huge gun emplacements. Bombardment by ships including the American battleship Arkansas and the French cruiser Georges Leygues failed to silence the battery -- and shelling from the guns forced the flagship HMS Bulolo to retreat.
The observation and range-finding bunker, a few hundred meters forward of the guns
Finally, the British cruisers Ajax and Argonaut closed to point-blank range and engaged in a gun duel with the battery.
The remains of the one gun
As best anyone can reconstruct, a shell from one of the cruisers struck the one gun and penetrated its splinter shield just after it had fired and while it was being reloaded. The best guess is that the magazine door was open for that process, and the resultant explosion did what bombs had failed to do, and destroyed the bunker and the gun. If you walk behind,you will find a 20-plus-ton chunk of the bunker tossed several meters away.
All that remains of the gun
Eventually, three of the four guns were taken out by the cruisers.
Another gun, shield penetrated by fire from a cruiser
The remaining gun continued to fire on an intermittent basis until about 7 pm that evening.
After that, the battery fell silent and surrendered to the 231st Infantry Brigade the following day. Many visitors fail to appreciate the extent of the complex, as fields cover or mask many of the surviving bunkers. If you study the vegetation and the fields, you can still see where the trench network ran. I do have many more shots, and hope to do a photographic study over at Laughing Wolf soon. I also have a different shot from the day posted there as well.
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.
An overview of Arromanches
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?
Today we arrive at Courseulles-sur-Mer and Juno Beach, and what I regard as the single best museum on all the beaches -- the Juno Beach Centre.
A tank with a difference
Arriving under a grey sky (if you don't like the weather in Normandy, wait an hour), a tank caught my eye. Now, there are lots of tanks on display up and down the beaches, but this one is different.
Land or sea drive
This was one of the few surviving amphibious tanks from the landing. The idea was to add in a propeller propulsion system, an inflatable skirt, and have the tanks sail in to the landing on their own. Once they hit sand, the propellers could be disengaged, and the skirts cast off as they moved forward. It was a great idea -- on paper. In practice, the sad truth is that many (if not most) sank on the way in.
As you travel along the D-Day beaches, particularly along Sword, there really are monuments and memorials every few hundred meters, if not closer. Part of this has to do with the large number of small towns and villages that line what is now Sword Beach, and part to do with the intense fighting that took place that day.
Military and civilian casualties
The fighting took a toll on troops, buildings, and civilians in the area. Many of these memorials list all those killed in battle, which is a good thing in my book. Note the bunker just behind and to the right.
Even as I work on the video and some 2,500 photos from Normandy, I'm also preparing for a short embed to Central America. A very kind gentleman has gotten me my ticket down, is there anyone with some American Airlines miles who would be willing to get me a ticket back? Meantime, funds are needed to cover expenses. If you can help, please hit my GoFundMe page. Thanks!
At times it seemed you could not walk or drive 100 meters without coming across a monumnet of some sort. In some stretches, walking was the only way you didn't miss any. They are well worth seeking out, because each can unlock stories not well known.
Some really don't need much in the way of translation, or explanation. Walking down the beach one evening, a memorial caught my eye.
5th Battalion Remembered
I realized that there was a larger group there, and went to explore.
The entire group can be seen below
This was where a major push had come ashore, and the monuments tell the tale. Being that this was in the Sword/Gold area, it is no surprise that there were several memorials to British units.
And the centerpiece is fairly plain
But one part told a bit more, a different tale, and a bit of history that I would venture is not well known to many Americans.
An anchor lost, now found
I don't think many Americans understand just how large D-Day truly was, and how many nations took part. It wasn't just the Americans and British, Canadian and Free French. It was troops from Poland, Greece, and even Norway. The fight for the beaches took place not only on land, but at sea as well. The bombers may not have come, nor was there a major fleet action, but those at sea fought too and control of the sea area was not guaranteed.
A tribute to the sailors and ships of Norway
The Germans sent in torpedo boats, their equivalent of PT boats, and they did much more damage than most know. One bit of that damage was the Norwegian destroyer Svenner. It was sunk by torpedo attack that day. The anchor was found and recovered in 2003.
Just a bit of history to be found walking down the beach in Normandy
Okay, the Germans built a few thousand bunkers as part of the Atlantic Wall. Some were log and sandbag; some were reinforced concrete; some were rock and brick; and, a few others made good use of available resources. However, they lost and the French were left with thousands that were built such that taking them out could/would take out whole neighborhoods. So, what to do?
In this case, someone built a home/apartments into the bunker. A storm might flood them, but otherwise it is unlikely to take out the core. Just one of the imaginative uses to which I saw used bunkers put.
There is more to come, but I apparently shot some 2,500 photos that now need to be processed. I also shot video, and in addition to needing to upgrade software ($$) I need to learn new software to process it since a computer upgrade took out the easy options (no longer supported, of course). So, there is more to come, and I will be flooding here and over at LaughingWolf.net in the days ahead. In fact, if you would like to see some photos of Montmartre, Paris in the early morning, click here. Also, a tribute to a good man who left us about the time I returned, go here.
I can't wait to share more of Normandy with you, and hope you will enjoy it.
Despite the cold, damp, and high winds, I truly hate to be leaving Normandy. Only thing I won't miss is the crappy wifi at the camp. While I begin my travels back to the world, I thought I would leave you with a teaser of some of what is to come. This is someone you should, and will, know. He enlisted to fight three times -- at the age of 15. He then took part in one of the bloodiest fights of the Normandy campaign where he was wounded. Stand by,there is a LOT more to come.
Why did the destroyers have to close on the beach to take out guns? The anti-ship batteries (such as at Longes, photos to come, and at Pointe du Hoc) faced outward and could be engaged by ships in broadsides running parallel to the coast. The shore defense batteries, however, had thick walls facing the sea, and their openings were designed to point down the coast. You can see how thick some of those sea-walls were from the photo above.
Looking down the beach from inside a shore defense bunker
The idea was to protect the shore batteries from naval guns, while allowing them full range to fire up and down the beaches. Big gun bunkers, such as the 88s, were often placed facing each other so that they could concentrate fire and potentially even scratch each other's back at need (something actually done inland to stop a tank attack).
A bunker showing signs of engagement
To get at these bunkers, ships had to close in close to the beach, so that they could fire at an angle to hit the guns, as even direct hits by large guns from seaward often failed to take them out.
Another bunker engaged
The destroyers were often the only ships that could approach the beaches without going aground, so they pressed in and did what they could.
Damage, and note the "divot" in the iron
If you wander the bunkers along the Atlantic Wall where the Normandy landings took place, you can see where naval gunfire, tanks, and even some halftracks did a job on them. Precise fire was needed as the bunkers often shook off everything from big naval guns to direct hits by bombs.
Threading the needle
If you paid attention to the caption above, you noticed the divot. That divot was from a naval shell that appears to have barely grazed the sea wall, put the divot into the iron of the roof, and got past the armor/splinter shields of the beach gun, and hit the wall behind.
The view from inside
That wall was for the shell room, and the round pentrated inside.
The view inside the shell room of it's back wall
The historian I was fortunate enough to spend some time with and I both agree that this was probably the shot that put this bunker out of the fight.
While tanks could, would, and did engage these and other similar bunkers more inland, the bunkers could often see and range the tanks. Guns such as these, along with the superior panzers, were the reason the Germans took to calling British tanks "Tommy Cookers."
Former Paratrooper and Army Officer, "Blackfive" started this blog upon learning of the valorous sacrifice of a friend that was not reported by the journalist whose life he saved. Email: blackfive AT gmail DOT com
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Bill Paisley, otherwise known as Pinch, is a 22 year (ongoing) active and
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Mr. Wolf has over 26 years in the Army, Army NG, and USAR. He’s Airborne with 5 years as an NCO, before becoming an officer. Mr. Wolf has had 4 company commands. Signal Corp is his basic branch, and Public Affairs is his functional area. He recently served 22 straight months in Kuwait and Iraq, in Intel, PA, and senior staff of MNF-I. Mr. Wolf is now an IT executive. He is currently working on a book on media and the Iraq war. Functional gearhead.
In Iraq, he received the moniker of Mr. Wolf after the Harvey Kietel character in Pulp Fiction, when "challenges" arose, they called on Mr. Wolf...
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Deebow is a Staff Sergeant and a Military Police Squad Leader in the Army National Guard. In a previous life, he served in the US Navy. He has over 19 years of experience in both the Maritime and Land Warfare; including deployments to Southwest Asia, Thailand, the South Pacific, South America and Egypt. He has served as a Military Police Team Leader and Protective Services Team Leader and he has served on assignments with the US State Department, US Air Force Security Police, US Army Criminal Investigation Division, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. He recently spent time in Afghanistan working with, training and fighting alongside Afghan Soldiers and is now focused on putting his 4 year Political Science degree to work by writing about foreign policy, military security policy and politics.
McQ has 28 years active and reserve service. Retired. Infantry officer. Airborne and Ranger. Consider my 3 years with the 82nd as the most fun I ever had with my clothes on. Interests include military issues and policy and veteran's affairs.
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Tantor is a former USAF navigator/weapon system officer (WSO) in F-4E Phantoms who served in the US, Asia, and Europe. He is now a curmudgeonly computer geek in Washington, DC, picking the taxpayers pocket. His avocations are current events, aviation, history, and conservative politics.
Twenty-three years of Active and Reserve service in the US Army in SF (18B), Infantry and SOF Signal jobs with operational deployments to Bosnia and Africa. Since retiring he's worked as Senior Defense Analyst on SOF and Irregular Warfare projects and currently ensconced in the emerging world of Cyberspace.
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A Marine who began his blog in Iraq and reflects back on what he learned there and in Afghanistan. To the point opinions, ideas and thoughts on military, political and the media from One Marine’s View. Email: onemarinesview AT yahoo DOT com
Uber Pig was an Infantryman from late 1991 until early 1996, serving with Second Ranger Battalion, I Corps, and then 25th Infantry Division. At the time, the Army discriminated against enlisted soldiers who wanted use the "Green to Gold" program to become officers, so he left to attend Stanford University. There, he became expert in detecting, avoiding, and surviving L-shaped ambushes, before dropping out to be as entrepreneurial as he could be. He is now the founder of a software startup serving the insurance and construction industries, and splits time between Lake Tahoe, Boonville, and San Francisco, CA.
Uber Pig writes for Blackfive a) because he's the proud brother of an enlisted Civil Affairs Reservist who currently serves in Iraq, b) because he looks unkindly on people who make it harder for the military in general, and for his brother in particular, to succeed at their missions and come home in victory, and c) because the Blackfive readers and commenters help keep him sane.
COB6 spent 24 years in the active duty Army that included 5 combat tours with service in the 1st Ranger Battalion and 1st Special Forces Group . COB6 was enlisted (E-7) and took the OCS route to a commission. COB6 retired a few years back as a field grade Infantry officer.
Currently COB6 has a son in the 82nd Airborne that just returned from his third tour and has a newly commissioned daughter in the 4th Infantry Division.