The second leg of our trip took us to a country manor, about ten minutes west of Bayeux and five miles south of Omaha Beach. Since Lorette’s dad was part of the allied invasion on June 6, 1944, we wanted to focus on the history of the area and gain an appreciation of the sacrifices that were made by so many people 70 years ago. Our home for the next four nights was Manor du Quesnay, a fortified estate dating back to the fifteenth century, and its charming hosts, Jacques and Alix.
Manoir du Quesnay
During WW II the property was in disrepair so it was of little interest to the German officers and only a few German troops were billeted here. Because of this, the buildings weren’t bombed by the allies. Here are a few photos from around the grounds:
And the inside was just as lovely.
The fireplace in our room
The pastoral view from our window
A cozy place to knit
The manor is out in the country so there aren’t any restaurants within walking distance. Jacques, however, had some good suggestions and sent us off for our first night to a nice little seafood place down the road in Port-en-Bessin.
The nautical version of “lipstick on a pig”
OK, these oysters are every bit as good as we get in the Pacific Northwest
And scallops, oh my!
One of the best things we did was to hire a bilingual guide to take us around to the various sites and monuments. Here’s a map of the area.
Nichole is a local historian who really knew the area and was an expert on the events of World War II. Our first stop was the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach.
The cemetery covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations.
Three Medal of Honor recipients are buried here including General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
The Wall of the Missing has 1,557 names of soldiers whose remains were never recovered.
Here’s Nichole on the bluff above Omaha Beach at a plaque showing the landing beaches on D-Day.
Utah Beach where Lorette’s dad landed
Next stop was some of the German gun batteries that were positioned on the bluffs above the beaches.
A command and controll bunker that directed fire along the beaches and out to sea
Over 1,500 tons of bombs were dropped here as evidenced by the craters
Pointe du Hoc where US Army Rangers scaled these cliffs to disable a German gun battery.
Utah Beach. These markers are used to trace Allied progress during the invasion. This is Km 00 on the beach.
Lorette’s dad was in the 90th Infantry Division which landed at Utah Beach on June 6, 1944
Lorette’s dad was an MP (who was awarded a Silver Star) so we couldn’t resist this photo at a restaurant near Utah Beach.
Who knew that MPs were knitters?
Away from the actual landing beaches, the area is full of history and monuments to people and events of 1944. At this small church in Angoville-au-Plain, two Army medics set up an aid station to treat both American and German wounded while the battle raged around them.
Church at Angoville-au-Plain, a few miles inland from Utah Beach
Window honoring medics, Kenneth Moore and Robert Wright
Another window honoring American paratroops
Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles”, is one of the best-known companies in the United States Army. Their experiences in World War II are the subject of the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers based on the book of the same name by historian Stephen Ambrose.
Memorial marking the location where Easy Company disabled a battery of four German heavy guns on D-Day that threatened forces coming inland from Utah Beach
Here are a couple of other monuments we visited.
A memorial to crew members of the Ninth Air Force lost in combat operations
Photos make a lasting impression
In Gourbesville we found a memorial to Pvt James R Hattrick (who was from Charlotte, my home town). An older monument had existed since the war but no one could remember exactly why it was dedicated to Pvt Hattrick. Some research has revealed the most likely scenario. Hattrick parachuted into Gourbesville with other members of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment on June 6, 1944. There was a German garrison in Gourbesville and when Hattrick started shooting at the Germans, their commander assumed it was a local Frenchman. He summoned the mayor and told him that if the sniping didn’t stop, he would have the mayor executed. About that time Hattrick shot and killed the commander. Unfortunately, his position was identified by the German troops and Hattrick was killed. The mayor was off the hook, however, and it is surmised that he had the original plaque erected as a token of his gratitude.
The original plaque
Our guide reading about the Battle of Goubersville
A newer plaque commemorating the 82nd Airborne and the 90th Infantry Division
Ste-Mere Eglise was the first town to be liberated by the Americans although things did not begin well. Paratroopers from the 82nd were dropped accidentally when pilots mistakenly took a house fire near the town square as a signal for the drop zone. At the time, local citizens and the German garrison were engaged in putting out the fire so the descending paratroopers were easy targets for the Germans. Private John Steel’s parachute became entangled in the church steeple where he dangled for sever hours before being taken prisoner.
To commemorate the event, the town still keeps an effigy of John Steel on the steeple
And inside, a tribute to the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and the 82nd Airborne Division
Our last stop for the day was the German Military Cemetery, resting place for 21,000 German soldiers.
Two graves per marker and stark, basalt crosses in groups of five scattered about
The mound in the center covers the remains of 207 unknowns.
All in all, a very moving day….