Pointe du Hoc

August 8, 2011

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We’ve had so many visitors this summer, we’ve had a chance to explore more of the D-Day sites. I think the one I find most compelling is Pointe du Hoc. 250 hand-picked Army Rangers were sent to this outcrop of land that juts into the ocean. Their assignment was to scale the cliffs and take out the big enemy guns that defended the Point. They achieved their goal, but at great cost. Only 90 survived.

The land at Pointe du Hoc is above the ocean, so it hasn’t been washed clean by the waves. It still has all the scars of a fierce battle. The landscape is riddled with giant craters made from heavy bombing, cement rubble is found throughout the area, and many of the original defensive structures are still standing.

For such a serious place, it’s surprisingly easy for children to visit. They can climb and explore and run as much as they like. They don’t even have to watch their volume, because the ocean wind tempers every noise.

But if you do bring your kids, leave the food behind. There are no picnics allowed at Pointe du Hoc — it’s considered a burial ground.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sonja August 8, 2011 at 8:58 am

Thank you so much for these posts – I was just telling my husband the other day that I would love to visit some of these sites. I live in Washington State where we have some great old Forts on the water which we love to visit. I love the chance to teach our kids the history of the site but also let them run around and explore. (Visiting these sites might be the only way I get my husband to France!!)

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2 Design Mom August 8, 2011 at 4:54 pm

So worth a trip!

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3 julia g blair August 8, 2011 at 8:58 am

Really an extraordinary and wonderfully heartbreaking place to visit.
Life goes on! Is “Guns of Navarone” related? Loved feeling life and joy and
adventure in your family as well as reverence!

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4 Erin August 8, 2011 at 9:09 am

Such poignant pictures this morning, especially in light of the great loss of life in Afghanistan. As I looked at these beautiful images, I couldn’t help but think of the soldiers who once fought so valiantly where your children are now free to play. I would like to imagine those soldiers are smiling down to see innocence and life thriving where once there was so much brutality and loss. There is hope.

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5 Bri (like the cheese) August 8, 2011 at 9:51 am

The juxtaposition of the bent rebar and Betty’s pink stripes is my favorite in the bunch. And I love your chic baby June in her french grey stripes and euro-scarf ;o)

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6 Design Mom August 8, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I think that’s my favorite image too!

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7 Barchbo August 8, 2011 at 10:15 am

These are some humbling photos, especially poignant after the loss of lives in Afghanistan this weekend. Feeling very fortunate and humble this morning.

Have you had a chance to visit the American cemetery in Luxembourg? Patton is buried there and the people of Luxembourg are still so thankful and appreciative.

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8 Design Mom August 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm

We haven’t been to Luxembourg, but would love to! Europe has so many tempting destinations. : )

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9 Jessica August 8, 2011 at 11:04 am

My husband’s Great Uncle was one of the Rangers who scaled the cliffs at Point-du-Hoc. He just passed away last year and is buried at Arlington now. He was a lovely man–very quiet and kind. We would love to visit there someday and get a better understanding of what he did.

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10 Design Mom August 8, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Wow! What a honor to know him.

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11 Carina August 8, 2011 at 11:09 am

In Australia, we grow up reciting the ‘Ode of Rememberence’:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

*******
Rest their precious souls. :(

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12 Rachael August 8, 2011 at 11:34 am

My dad served his mission in France, so when I was in high school we went back as a family and spent a month or so there. I remember the trenches in Flanders and the memorial at Verdun being a very sobering experience for us all.

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13 Jennifer Brailsford August 8, 2011 at 11:52 am

Such an extraordinary place, in many aspects that is. I envy you having the opportunity to visit all these memorable landmarks. Such a place definitely allows us to ponder about the blessings of those who sacrificed.

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14 Danielle August 8, 2011 at 11:54 am

Thank you for sharing this – as other people have mentioned, it’s truly extraordinary.

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15 Hilary August 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I visited Pointe du Hoc and Omaha Beach as a 21-year-old college kid studying abroad in France. I was with a group of my American classmates on a weekend jaunt to Normandy. I will never forget turning to look at one of my friends, a huge linebacker on our college football team, and realizing that his face was covered in tears. We were sobered and so, so proud to be Americans. It’s good to honor such a place and the people who served there. Thanks for the reminder!

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16 Design Mom August 8, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Such a sweet story, Hilary.

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17 Jennifer Day August 8, 2011 at 12:14 pm

My husband and I visited Pointe du Hoc and several other sites about 10 years ago. My parents came with us. It was all very sobering. It was before we had kids and I remember thinking that all of the kid’s running around and being loud was disrespectful to the men that lost their lives there. Now that I have children of my own, I realize that the kid’s running around were actually a triumph of life and all that the men fought and died for. It is a very powerful place.

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18 Vagabond Mother August 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Talking of how the children run around the ruins remind me of how my boys love to run and play when we visit my grandparents’ graves. What great imagery of life and change and sacrifice. Thank you for sharing your travels.

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19 Natalie August 8, 2011 at 4:01 pm

We went there last August and it was very serene. Very intense to think about what happened there, but the view is so breaktaking that you can’t help but feel peace.

I think the men who died there would be happy to see children playing there — as they fought so hard to keep it free land.

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20 Design Mom August 8, 2011 at 4:58 pm

So true — a surprisingly peaceful place.

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21 Dee August 8, 2011 at 6:57 pm

It’s hauntingly beautiful, Gabrielle.

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22 Lara August 8, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Pointe du Hoc was one of the places I most wanted to see when we went to the Normandy Beaches. My husband’s brother is a Ranger and so we have a special place in our hearts for the Rangers and read several first hand accounts of the courage all of them exhibited during the D-Day campaign. I cannot imagine what a difficult task lay ahead of them, but standing on those beaches made me incredibly proud.

I still consider these beaches as the highlight of our trip to Europe. Thank you for reminder. I cannot wait to take my kids and walk with them through those hallowed grounds.

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23 Jayne August 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Years ago (well, decades) as an LDS missionary in northern France, I lived in Calais and Dunquerque. Calais was mostly cleaned up and touristy, but even after many years, the Dunquerque beaches were dotted with cement gun turrets. I remember evenings cooking hot dogs and marshmallows over a fire built in one of the holes for those big guns. It was always sobering, yet they had become just part of the beach scene for the French of that province. Our church met in an old barracks for German officers. A lot of historical reality for young Americans whose parents were even young during WWII.

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