The key engineering feat for the Normany landings was the construction and relocation of artificial breakwaters for resupply of material and heavy equipment. An artificial harbor was built at Arromanches in the first days after the invasion. For this reason, the city was not bombed during the invasion. It now has a museum describing the role it played in the Normany invasion.
Winston Churchill had the foresight to recognize the need for the creation of an artificial harbor in Normandy. He knew that the thousands of troops landing on the beaches of France could only carry enough supplies (food, bullets, fuel, etc.) for a few days. Since the Allies were not planning to invade any of the major existing ports on the northern coast of France, the troops would suffer without reinforcement of supplies. Therefore, engineers took Churchill's concept and built huge concrete dock that were needed for the port. Because of the secrecy required, workers in England built the giant docks without even knowing what they were! The docks were towed across the channel and flooded in place. Pontoon ramps were then run to shore.
The museum sits right on the beach at Arromanches, and by looking out the windows that go all the way across the museum's beachside, you can still see the remains of part of the artificial harbor. Many of the huge concrete pieces were used elsewhere after the War, but enough are left to get a sense of how the harbor looked. The museum also has a short movie and several models and diagrams of the construction of the harbor.
More than just the floating docks were needed to create the artificial port and harbor. In the first days after the invasion, the Allies sunk several old ships to make a breakwater. Then the docks built in England were towed across the English Channel to Arromanches where they were assembled into the artificial harbor. The port was operational soon after the invasion.
Arromanches was not the only artificial harbor built by the Allies. Two harbors were originally constructed and were named Mulberry A and Mulberry B. The harbor at Arromanches was Mulberry B, while Mulberry A was near Omaha Beach where the American forces landed. Unfortunately, just a few days after the harbors were built, a major storm struck. The harbor at Mulberry A was completely destroyed, and Mulberry B was severely damaged. After the storm, all of the Allies had to use the harbor at Arromanches. The harbors were named "Mulberry" because the mulberry plant grows so fast!
The village itself is much like beach towns in the US -- full of shops and restaurants and tourists. There is a free toilet at the museum and a free tourist train to see the city.
The last word we expected to see in France was "FREE!"
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