Juno Beach - The Storm Before the Calm
Trip Start May 30, 2012
83Trip End Nov 07, 2012
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Juno beach spans 8km of coastline, with the centre around the small town of Courseulles Sur Mer. The Canadian regiments were from all across Canada, from the Canadian Scottish Regiment based in Vancouver Island to the North Shore New Brunswick Regiment. Coincidentally the Regiments from west Canada to east Canada were also layed out on Juno beach from west to east. Jess and I spent some time looking through the museum at the Juno Beach Centre, and then took a guided tour of the beach and the Nazis defenses. All the people at the centre are students from Canada, and rotate on 4 month cycles. Our tour guide just happened to be a history major. We learned so much! It was amazing for me to see what the soldiers were up against on the beach. The Nazis thought of everything when putting up their defenses. The shooting range of the bunkers overlapped, and certain ports like Courseulles Sur Mer had extra bunkers. They had many concrete tetrahedrons (the frame of a pyramid), to stop any vehicles and boats from getting too far on the beach. The tetrahedrons had mines on the tops of them, to explode if a boat hit them in high tide, and on their bottoms, to explode if a vehicle hit them in low tide. They also had hedgehogs (metal bowties used for vehicle obsticles) and pillboxes (holes in the ground for a soldier to pop out of, shoot, and then take cover). The bunkers themselves had reinforced concrete walls that were thicker than 6 feet. No artillery that the Allies used could get through that
Unlike the Americans at Omaha beach, who were unfortunately pinned down for hours, we were told the Canadians took the beach in 3.5 hours. This was because a lot of the soldiers manning the guns in defense of Juno beach were not Nazis, but were foreign prisoners of war. Therefore they were a lot less determined to defend against the Allies who were coming to liberate the country. The big challenge for the Canadian troops came more inland when they had to battle new squadrons of 18-19 year old Nazi S.S. troops who were still brainwashed enough to fight to the death against Nazi opposition. It was quite humbling to stand on the same sand that our Canadian troops fought so bravely over 68 years ago. I tried to put myself in their shoes. I tried to think what I would be feeling riding in that landing craft toward the heavily defended Normandy beaches. If I had been born at a different time, that might have been me!
Once we were done at Juno beach, we headed back to our home base in Caen. There are Canadian flags everywhere in Caen because once the Canadian troops had secured Juno beach, they eventually made their way to Caen to liberate the people there. We had another amazing couch surf host in Caen! Stefan has been hosting couch surfers for a while now and everyone gives him positive reviews