Today is the 68th Anniversary of the massive and critical Operation Neptune, the Invasion of Normandy by American, British, Canadian, and French forces. As I have been preparing Fields of War – a Second World War battlefield travel guide, my thoughts have been focused on Lower Normandy, its terrain, cities, and highways – and its men.
The similarities with the Norman Invasion by the English Army of King Edward III 598 years earlier are striking. Much like Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, the French believed that the invasion was aimed at Calais and they had their fleet patrolling off the Pas-de-Calais coast. Edward III landed his army along the coast of the Cotentin Peninsula only 21 km north of Utah beach. Just like German 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment commander, Major Friedrich von der Heydte, the French commander of Carentan, Robert Bertrand, burned the four bridges north of the city to delay the English advance as reinforcements moved north. Just like US 29th Infantry Division’s commander, Major General Charles Gerhard, Edward III attacked St-Lô from its vulnerable eastern side. And, just as in 1944, the key to Normandy was the capture of Caen.
It was with these events in mind that a new Virtual Battlefield Tour was created which follows Edward III and his army from their landing at St-Vaast-la-Hougue to their seizing of the city of Caen. It can be found on my blog at Invasion of Normandy 12 July 1346