Saturday, August 8, 2015

OT: Europe Trip--Day 9--Bayeux, Saint Mere-Eglise, Utah Beach.

     Woke up to a rainy day in Bayeux, the first of our trip. We couldn't complain as the previous day had been so glorius and our plans for the day were to visit all the Normandy Museums. We went downstairs and had breakfast at the Hotel and then headed past the Cathedral to our car. Fortunately, it didn't have a parking ticket. We hopped in, my able Navigator by my side and hopped on N13 to head west to Ste Mere-Eglise.

Ste Mere-Eglise is famous for being the first city to be liberated during D-Day and for Paratrooper John Steeles' parachute getting snagged in a church steeple. 

First we stopped at the "Dead Mans Corner" Museum, located just outside of Ste Mere-Eglise in Saint-Come-du-Mont. This Museum is properly called The Centre Historique des Parachutistes du Jour-J, which translates to the Historic Center of the Parachutists of D-Day. It honors the men of the 101st Airborne who jumped in the wee morning hours to capture the road to Carentan. The Americans goal was the city of Carentan, they could only get there on that road and they had to wait for Tanks coming from Utah Beach for support.

"The first tank arrives at the crossroads and attempts to continue towards Carentan. It comes to a brutal halt when it gets a direct shot that kills the tank commander, Lt. Walter T. Anderson from Minnesota. From this day on, and for several days, the wreck of the tank and the corpse of Lt. Anderson hanging from the gun turret will stay on the spot. For the Americans, this location will always remain the “DEAD MAN’S CORNER”." Centre Historique des Parachutistes du Jour-J.

We arrived at the Museum just as it opened. It's a small Museum, packed with relics, history, uniforms and the fuselage of a C-47.

Beginning of the Tour-You receive the same briefing the Paratroopers got that night.
The man is a hologram, projected into the dark room.

After we received the briefing, we were ushered into the fuselage of a C-47 painted in D-Day markings to make our "jump." As we took our seat, the engines fired up, the airplane shook, the smell of burnt oil permeating everything...I like this flight sim! We taxied out besides a couple other C-47's and took off for our drop zone. As we got closer, the antiaircraft fire increased great, rattling the fuselage like gravel. We could see the plane besides us take a direct hit and plunge into the ocean. As we got close to our drop zone, our plane took a couple hits, we were going down! The pilot managed to find an open farm field and bellied us in to it. Whew! We were alive for now. Time to get the enemy!

We then left the Museum and went down to the corner, Dead Mans' Corner. As it was still drizzling, we didn't stay outside long and went back to the car. We got back and N13 and headed into the village of Saint Mere-Eglise. It's a small town, reminds me of small-town Iowa with it having a Church instead of a Courthouse in the town square.

We parked in the square, paid our 2 Euros and went to look at the church that Paratrooper John Steele got hung up on his D-Day landing.

A mannequin of John hangs from the Church year round.

Then we spotted the Musee Airborne Museum across the street and decided to take refuge from the drizzle. The Museum is located on the very spot where a house that caught fire that night was located. This is a good museum, which has a Sherman Tank, A C-47 Dakota troop transport and a Waco Glider on display.

Sky in front of the Sherman. The Church is in the background.

The C-47 has mannequins representing General Eisenhower and Airborne troops.

We went through that, looked in the bookstore and walked outside hoping to go to lunch. It was still drizzling, so we walked a couple blocks down the street to a sidewalk cafe that had it menu posted and ordered. There weren't very many people out that day, only four of us were having lunch in the Cafe. 

Leaving Saint Mere-Eglise, we went over to Utah Beach. They had a Museum as well and we spent most of our time in it to avoid the rain.

Utah Beach

A closer view.

Statue of men coming off a landing craft ouside the Museum.

We went inside, paid our admission and started to look around. They had uniforms, weapons, maps on display, the ususal stuff. When I rounded the corner and this beautiful B-26 Marauder came into view. a big smile came across my face. "Sky, come here! You won't believe this!"

Wow. A Marauder. I'd only seen two before, the CAFs' before it crashed back in the late '80's and Kermit Weeks' one down at Fantasy of Flight. This one was in the best shape I'd seen. 

Sky in front of a B-26 Marauder.

Don in front of the same plane.

We finished up there and decided it was time to head back to the hotel. We hopped back on N13 heading East and rolled into Bayeux to discover many of the streets were blocked off for their Solstice Celebration. It took us an hour to find out how to get close and we ended up parking right across the street from the Cathedral and walking to our hotel. Then we had the pleasure of listening to live bands til midnight as part of the Celebration.

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