Sunday, January 31, 2010

D-Day Assault: Day Two

See that little stretch of stone in the water behind me? It's the remnant of the "mulberries," artificial harbors that were made secretly in England and put in place just after D-Day to allow easier access to troop and supply ships. I love this kind of stuff.

You get a good view of them standing on the boardwalk of the little beach town of Arromanches, and I remember seeing them when I was here in 1994. It was low tide, so they seemed closer--I guess because there were people in the water. It seemed weird to see them swimming, tossing beach balls with the mulberries as a backdrop.

I saw them from different perspectives all day. We went from Arromanches to Juno Beach, where the Canadians landed, and I could see them from there.

I saw them from way up on a cliff, outside the Arromanches 360, a nine-screen circular theater with a movie that "plunges you into the heart of the action, among the fighters on D-Day, and [you] will thus feel tall the intensity of the great moment of the Normandy Landings." (Mainly, this attraction made me dizzy.)

And there were the mulberries again, viewed from the battlements Longues-sur-Mer--a remarkable site, with its ominous gun emplacements that seemed to me like pre-historic monuments. The guns were still in place in several of them, and you could go inside and stand where the gunners stood, looking out over peaceful farmland.

A pretty gray cat crept out of the emplacement closest to the sea and tried hard to adopt me, rubbing her head on my legs, leaping into my lap when I sat down on the concrete and burying her head in my warm jacket.

What did the animals do on D-Day, I wonder? Where did they go?

The gulls, squawking, today. Did they fly inland to escape the smoke and fire, coming back later to feast on the remains of the dead?

And what about the people, waking to the sound of guns that morning?

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