Posted by: lifeonislandtime | July 22, 2015

Normandy

Normandy
To say I’m a history nerd, is a grand understatement. This is why we tend to vacation in places where there is some historical importance. Of course, as a history nerd, I can find historical significance anywhere. Take Belize, for instance: a tiny British territorial holding in Central America. Most people enjoy the beaches, diving, and ocean. I researched the role it played during the Golden Age of Pirates. 
Some places you have to dig to find the significance (I’m looking at you, Phoenix), while others it is right on the surface for the asking. Normandy is both.
Just about every American over the age of 30 can tell you the rudiments of the D-Day invasion. A goodly number can tell you more. Some of us can tell you numbers, code names, locations, commanders and so many other pieces of minutiae that you would wish us to leave you alone. Normandy is one of the places we can save you money: personal tour guides’ rates begin at €300 per half day. Your run of the mill history nerd can usually be had for a bottle of wine or dinner out. 
History is there for the taking in Normandy, both literally and figuratively. It is well sign-posted, there are good informational plaques and tables at every site, and just about everything you see is right out of a history book.
Except one…Maisy Battery.
One of the great mysteries of D-Day is this: on top of Pointe-du-Hoc, there are MASSIVE gun emplacements. They are dug in, well-defended, and on June 6th…devoid of guns. Where were they? The Nazis were most definitely shelling Utah and Omaha beaches with SOME guns, but when the Rangers scaled the cliff on Pointe-du-Hoc to take the guns out of commission, there were none to take out. Where were they?
Here’s where you get to dig for your history. In looking for the right order of sights to see, I stumbled on the site for “the Coverup at Maisy,” a book written in 2008. The author is an avid collector of army ranger memorabilia, and in a pair of D-Day vintage Ranger pants he bought, he found a map showing the Ranger’s targets on D-Day. Pointe du Hoc wasn’t on the map. Maisy Battery was. 
He had never heard of Maisy battery. Neither had I when I found the site. He took a trip to Normandy with a copy of his map in hand, and began walking the fields outside the town of Grandcamp-Maisy. In his explorations, he found a bunker, and another bunker, and a gun emplacement. A VERY large gun emplacement. At the time, he thought he may have found a rear position of the German army. This is pretty cool. 
As he started researching the German positions, however, he came to realize that what he’d found was a gun battery. Not just any battery, however, but one with the capacity to fire on Utah and Omaha beaches. This is VERY cool.
Many people would go about figuring out the battery by getting permission to explore, then permission to excavate, jumping through hoops, cutting through red tape. Not Steve. He did it the old-fashioned way: he bought it. 
Once he owned the site, he began excavations, as well as research. There were between 1 and 3 meters of dirt over, around, and in the site. All the trenches had been filled in. All the rooms had been filled in. There was full soil and crops over the site.
The main questions that plagued him were these: what was Maisy battery used for, and why was it covered up?
2 years ago, Steve opened his battery to the public. You can go in the rooms. You can touch the guns. You get a real feel for what living within the battery felt like. Because it’s privately owned, it’s supported by it’s visitors, book sales, and the sale of souvenirs that have been collected while excavating. It’s neither well-traveled, well-placarded, nor is it anything you’ll read in a history book. It’s awesome!
As to the two questions Steve had, there is no clear-cut answer. He’s been to Normandy, Berlin, America, etc looking for answers, but he has only educated guesses at this point. He believes that the guns from Pointe du Hoc were actually at Maisy Battery, and that Pointe du Hoc was an elaborate decoy to draw the Allied attention from Maisy, which is 10km inland from the coast. He believes this is where the large artillery was actually emplaced, and was firing from on D-Day. 
As to why the battery was covered up, there is quite a bit of conflict. Steve believes the U.S. Army corps of Engineers covered it over to prevent word from spreading that the loss of life while taking Pointe du Hoc was unnecessary. The official word is that everything beyond the beaches was covered over to make the land usable as soon as possible. 
I’m not sure which side I believe. But seeing Maisy Battery was a treat for this history nerd. One I’d recommend to everyone.

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