Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Small Strokes of Luck

I was struck by how many events were impacted by small stokes of luck and chance. An example of good luck -the convergence of a low tide and a full moon dictated the invasion happen in June. The timing meant that the Allies attacked before the Germans had finished fortifying their newly built bunkers with cannon. Had the Allies waited until September (the next time a full moon and low tide occurred),it would have been a very different battle, because the bunkers would have had their full compliment of arms. More examples...a shell serendipitously hit a section of the cliffs at Omaha beach, causing a huge avalanche of stone. The avalanche essentially formed a stone ramp that made the cliffs at Omaha beach easier to scale-good luck. The weather was bad, so the Allied troops were held out at sea in the landing craft overnight, leaving the soldiers cold, hungry, and seasick- bad luck. A huge house fire broke ou the night before the invasion, when paratroopers were to land under the cover of darkness and set flares for the gliders that were supposed to deliver troops the next day. The fire lit up the night sky, ensuring all the German soldiers were outside trying to put out the fire and making the paratroopers easy targets- bad luck. It just goes on and on- even with all of the planning the US military put into the invasion, individual soldiers lived or died based on happenstance. I just kept thinking of all the mother and fathers, wives and children, whose lives were changed forever because of some small element of chance Stiking too, was seeing just how tiny a toehold the Allied forces began the liberation of Europe. Hitler held the territory all the way from Norway down to the south of France, and the Allies began the eventual undoing of the 3rd Reich with a swath of land that you could easily walk, end to end, in less than a day.
The first picture in this post is of a landscape scared with 70-year old bombing divots. 70 years ago, the coast would have been marred with much deeper holes from the Allied bombing. The second picture is of a German bunker which at the time had the large cannons, but did not have ventilation and sighting components completed at the time of the "embarqement". In the background you can see a field of canola flowers found all over Normandy and Britany (more pictures to come of these fields).
One of the German cemeteries in Normandy. Our guide Adrian pointed-out that most of the German soldiers that lost their lives in the war had no desire to fighting for Hitler, but they had no choice. It was said that it was better to be an German POW than a German soldier, as the Americans treated their POWs better than Hitler treated his army.

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