I am self proclaimed History Nerd. I love all things History but the era I am most passionate about is World War II. Having two grandfathers who served in the Pacific makes it close to my heart.
I am especially drawn to the paratroopers who dropped out of the sky on June 6, 1944 and their stories. Having discovered the mini series “Band of Brothers” on HBO years ago, I have since read and watched pretty much everything I could find on this group of men.
Heading out to find Easy Company
I had the opportunity to visit Normandy of two different occasions, specifically to tour the Normandy beaches and sites of June 6, 1944 the weeks that followed as the allies liberated France and began their trek to free Europe from the grasp of Nazi control. I did my research and settled on the tour company, Overlordtour. There are many to choose from so you can pick what you are interested in seeing. I couldn’t wait to visit the sites I was so familiar with from my study of Easy Company.
My tour met early in the morning right next to my hotel and we proceeded to drive about a half hour away from Bayuex towards Carentan. Our first stop was at one of the lockes the 101st was tasked to secure on June 6th. Napoleon built these lockes and Hitler had used them to flood the area in hopes of deterring a landing and ease of movement of troops should a landing occur.
We also saw landing point D, which was one of the three drop zones the paratroopers were supposed to land in. Unfortunately, due to weather and other problems, the 101st was strewn all over Normandy when they jumped, few hitting the zones they were supposed to. The paratroopers did succeed in securing the lockes over the course of June 6th. The drop zone was next to a farmhouse where a cat came scurrying out to greet us. Our tour guide warned us, saying that cat was mean and liked to use tourists’ legs as scratching posts. Needless to say, I steered clear!
Memorial to Lt. Meehan’s crashed C-47
After leaving landing zone D, we headed to the first memorial we would see, the memorial to the C-47 that crashed from Easy Company carrying their commander, Lt. Meehan. Everyone on this plane died and the memorial was right next to the crash site. It was sad. The memorial is also in the shape of the tail of a C-47.
Easy Company’s Rendezvous Point
The next stop was the rendezvous point for Easy. It was in what was a farmhouse and barn. The Germans had been occupying the location but were removed so the 101st could use the space. No one currently lives there and I immediately thought, “This is my chance to live Under the Tuscan Sun, but in France!” It was a beautiful property. Our guide had photos of the location when Easy was there so we could compare. SUPER cool!
We went in one of the barns where there were still piles of wood the Germans left. The window here housed a gun that had been shooting at Omaha Beach. We then went up behind the farm and she showed us a tiny spot where a bunker was. She said these are all over Normandy and she used to hide in them when she was a kid so her mom couldn’t find her to do chores! Can you imagine???
Next stop was Brecourt Manor. This is the place Dick Winters and others from Easy were tasked to take out four guns firing on Omaha. This was SO COOL! The owner of the property is the grandson of the owners then. We were allowed to go right up to where the trenches with the guns were and the field where Malarky ran out to try and get the Luger for his brother. The Germans were across the field firing at him.
Next stop: the Easy Company Monument/Memorial near Brecourt. It is a monument to the attack on Brecourt and a memorial to the men from Easy who were killed on DDay.
Dick Winters Leadership Memorial
After that, we went to the Monument to Dick Winters himself. Apparently, he didn’t want a memorial, but finally relented with the agreement this would be the ONLY one for him.
St. Marie du Mont
Next up: St. Marie du Mont. There was a church here that had bullet holes in the confessional and also in the memorial to St. Therese Of Lisieux. This was also the church that held the first mass for the troops following DDay.
When we left the church, there was a WWII era jeep parked outside. We asked if we could sit in it for a photo (No!) but then, our guide said she could go ask her friend about a different jeep. I followed along while she spoke to the guy in French and then she asked me if I’d like a ride? Well, YES! OF COURSE! So, this nice French guy drove me around the square in his jeep! COOL!
Dead Man’s Corner
Then we went to a museum called Dead Mans Corner. It was called this because apparently a German was killed on DDay, and then his body hung out the window for three days, dead. All the GIS called the place ‘The corner where the dead guy is”. Hence, the name stuck! Morbid, but comical at the same time. This museum had some of Dick Winters’ personal items. Again- cool!
One of out last big stops was in the town of Carentan. There is a whole episode of Band of Brothers devoted to this town. We saw the bridges that had to be secured going into the town and then the center where there was a celebration upon the towns’ liberation. Again, we were shown photos to compare 1944 to now.
This was easily one of the most fun adventures I have ever been on. A definite highlight I would recommend to any history lover!