Caen was probably the most confusing city we have ever tried to navigate, and I have asked for directions in many places, generally two or three times. I really don’t want to hear you can’t miss ever again. Of course, I can. In Caen, we found our hotel every night but it was always by accident. We never got there by purposefully following anyone’s directions. It only appeared when we were reduced to wandering randomly looking for something, anything that we recognized. Once we got there we didn’t leave; we had dinner both nights in the hotel restaurant, which was surprisingly good.
The point of being in Caen was to tour some World War II sites. Given the serene country and sea side it is today, it is hard to envision thousands of people whose only purpose being there was to kill each other.
We visited Utah Beach, which claimed it place in history more or less by accident. The troops that landed there weren’t supposed to be there but the winds and currents blew them off course. The commanding officer was one General Roosevelt, who was in his late 50s, had volunteered to lead a landing party, was turned down by the relevant Brass, which was over-ruled by even higher Brass, saying, “You can’t turn down the (former) President’s grandson.
Gathering his forces, recognizing they weren’t where they were supposed to be, General Roosevelt announced, “Let the war begin here.”
Roosevelt led a highly successful assault on the German stronghold (with a lot of help from over-shore artillery and the paratroopers who had been dropped behind the lines earlier). While it now is a wide empty beach between the ocean and the then heavily defended dune. Then it was a wide beach covered with razor wire and anti-tank barriers between the ocean and the heavily defended dune. Those over-grown ‘jacks’ in the picture at the top would have been part of the anti-tank defense. The empty beach would be bad enough.
The General made it through the landing and died of a heart attack a few weeks later.