Tag Archives: military

Europe, the Wehrmacht and USSR

“The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness.”

– Adolf Hitler March, 1941

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen visiting Normandy it is important to pay your respects to the French, British, Polish, Canadian and American forces who were involved in the Battle of Normandy and the D-Day landings. However, it is also important to remember those who lost their lives elsewhere during the Second World War. Of course, this is all stuff you have learned at senior school or “high school” (for those of you who are joining us from across the pond!), but I was surprised at how much I didn’t know… or have forgotten since I dug out my History 101 textbook.

For example, the Wehrmacht attacked the USSR in the summer of 1941. By the time the leaves fell, the Germans and their allies (Finland, Hungary, Italy and Romania) were occupying territories just short of Leningrad and Moscow. For Nazi Germany, the invasion was a crucial conquest for vital space, in addition to being an ideological war and an annihilating racial war against the threat of “judeo-bolshevism”.

What really surprised me during my visit to Normandy this year was the number of soldiers and military personnel who came from all corners of the world to visit Normandy to pay their respects. I was touched by this act of affection and appreciation. I was also pleased to see so many young soldiers visiting and taking the time to visit the region. It’s sometimes easy to forget just how many families and individuals were affected by the war and continue to be affected today.

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Utah Beach: Summary

Utah Beach was the westernmost landing beach taken by the Allied troops during the invasion of Normandy on D-Day (also known as Operation Overlord).

The beach is about 3 miles long and is situated between the small French villages of Pouppeville and La Madeleine. It was the first of two American landing zones on the 6th June 1944. Utah Beach was only added to the invasion plan later on by General Bernard Montgomery when more landing craft – such as Higgins boats – became available. General Montgomery believed that by capturing the beach, this would give Allied troops a firmer foothold in the Cotentin region. Consequently, this in turn would enable a faster capture of Cherbourg.

At 6:30am, the first wave of amphibious tanks landed on Utah Beach and immediately after, so did the American troops. The 4th U.S Infantry Division, under direction of General Barton, climbed the dunes of La Madeleine, the beach of Sainte-Marie-du-Monte. They successfully attacked the German bunkers and blockhouses that littered Utah Beach.

Originally, the Americans were met with fierce machine gun fire but after a few minutes this stopped and long distance guns, situated a few kilometers inland, were mercilessly fired by the 709th German Infantry Division.

In stark contrast to Omaha Beach, German resistance was significantly reduced by the overnight air and naval bombardment. Nearly 200 American soldiers were killed and a further 60 went missing.

By the early afternoon, 1, 700 vehicles had landed in addition to 23,250 American soldiers. 28 of the 32 tanks successfully landed and the 4th U.S Infantry Division were joined by the 82nd and 101st American Airborne Divisions.

Follow me on Twitter @AnnieCDarling and use the hashtag #anniesddayblog to share your thoughts, images and videos with me!

The Bayeux War Cemetery

The land on which the Bayeux War Cemetery was founded was given to the UK by France in recognition of the sacrifices made in the defense and liberation of Europe. Last year I visited this Commonwealth war cemetery –  an incredibly moving experience. I was touched by how tranquil and beautiful the place was.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, today, a specially crafted ‘Bell of Peace’ will be blessed in an official ceremony at Bayeux Cathedral. Both civilian and inter-religious personalities will be attending along with the bell’s nine godmothers or godfathers of many different nationalities.

From 7pm there will be theatrical visits of the Bayeux hospital centre where young actors will perform regularly until the end of July. Bayeux was not bombed but the village’s schools were turned into makeshift hospitals.

As if there wasn’t already lots going on here, at 9pm, 45 choir singers from Arizona’s Sonoran Desert Chorale will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings in the ‘Gratitude and Peace Concert’. The choir is one of the best in the Southern Western United States and through their music, hope to express their hope for a more peaceful world.

Follow me on Twitter @AnnieCDarling and use the hashtag #anniesddayblog to share your thoughts, images and videos with me!

What I learned at Mémorial de Caen (And why you should visit!)

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On my second day in Normandy last year for the 69th anniversary of D-Day, I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting Mémorial de Caen.

I’ve always been interested in the events leading up to the Second World War and this museum was the best at explaining why the political and social atmosphere in Europe was ripe for the horrors that were to follow.

If you’re looking into visiting a museum during your visit to Normandy that will educate you and your family on the greater political and social context of the war in Europe, I would definitely recommend Mémorial de Caen.

I learned that determined to wipe out the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles and to conquer “living space” for the Aryan race in Germany, Hitler undertook a series of armed takeovers in breach of international law. He rearmed his country, re-militarised the Rhineland, annexed Austria with the Anschluss and invaded part of Czechoslovakia in the years prior to the Second World War and the D-Day landings. After the Munich Conference, he also formed ties with fascist Italy and militaristic Japan. Consequently he instigated an makeshift alliance of dictatorships. Still traumatised by the devastating losses during the First World War, France and Great Britain did nothing to counteract the growing dangers and aggressiveness these dictatorships. It was only on the 23rd August 1939, when a non-aggression pact was signed between Germany and the USSR that it make inevitable that war would break out. The pact stunned and confused Europe’s democracies because these two countries had seemed to be unwavering ideological adversaries. This, in addition to Germany’s invasion of Poland, led to Great Britain and France’s declaration of war on 3 September, 1939.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Mémorial de Caen last year, and hope to return again this year for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.