Pointe du Hoc is the northernmost point of the Normandy coastline. From this point, you can see Omaha Beach to your right, Utah Beach and Cherbourg to your left. England is straight across the channel.
Pointe du Hoc was an important place during WW1. The Germans had huge weapons placed here that could take out the entire beaches surrounding them. Of course, in WW2 on D-Day, they were manning this spot again.
Dwight D. Eisenhower knew that we had to get Pointe du Hoc before the rangers arrived to Omaha Beach. So the allied troops trained for months and months at tall cliffs in England that were similar in scale and slope to these cliffs here in Normandy. They were the first to land on German territory. They scaled the cliffs early, early in the morning of June 6, and took over Pointe du Hoc with the assistance of the Coast Guard firing at the Germans. During the battle and the days following, they couldn't get reinforcement fast enough and over half the troop died in those first 3 days.
For tourists today, Pointe du Hoc is run by Americans. There is a wonderful welcome center and plaques all along the way, pointing out geography of where things happened on this location. There are deep, deep craters from the years of battles at Pointe du Hoc. Most of the barricades are still there as well. You can see me in a few of the shots to understand scale. The big circles mark where the big weaponry was placed. It was set on that circle so that it could be moved to aim.
It was very, very difficult to visit the barricades. For me, it felt a little too real. To think about the conversations that happened in these cement walls. To imagine the emotions or lack of emotion that was felt. To think about the maps, the ammo, the radios, the photographs of loved ones.
After we walked through and saw the monuments, the informational plaques, the craters, the flags, the barricades, Greg and I just walked along the mountain. We talked about war and how terrible it is. How unfair it is. How it has to be avoided at any cost. How it seems crazy that things can get so bad, that this is the way we can communicate with each other. How the power of one person with an evil plan can convince other good people to follow him. How fast these things happen, and how slow they take to heal.
I don't know why it happened and I don't know how I got to be so lucky that my family didn't have to lose anyone, or heaven forbid, that I didn't have to send my sweet husband out to help. But I'm so grateful we got to see a sliver of what it might have been like, so that we can know how lucky we are to live in peace now.
*I'm writing all this from memory, so it may not be exactly accurately correct.