Crumpled map solves mystery of German gun behind D-Day massacre

RackMaster

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Crumpled map solves mystery of German gun behind D-Day massacre


By JAMES TOZER - More by this author » Last updated at 22:54pm on 4th January 2008



As their landing craft touched down on the shoreline at 6.30am, they stumbled forward into Hell.
Some 1,500 soldiers died in the bloody battle by the Americans to take Omaha Beach on D-Day - under fire from a well-disguised German gun emplacement.
The onslaught memorably featured in the memorable opening scenes of the film Saving Private Ryan. But military experts remain divided over exactly where the battery that laid down such a murderous bombardment was sited.
But now, a chance discovery by an amateur historian appears to have finally revealed the answer more than 63 years after the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

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Bloody: Omaha Beach as seen in the BBC drama D-Day

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Gunning position: The location of the Nazi gun battery was long disputed

Collector Gary Sterne was browsing through memorabilia at a miltaria fair when a tattered, annotated map fell out of a pair of trousers which had belonged to a U.S. serviceman.
It featured a spot marked "area of high resistance," and Mr Sterne decided to visit Normandy and examine the point overlooking the beach.
"It sparked my curiosity, because that area was previously thought to be just fields," he said. "To my amazement, I found I was standing on concrete.
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Amateur historian Garry Sterne tracked down the 'lost' gun emplacements after finding a tattered map

"I followed the concrete to the edge of the treeline and discovered a bunker entrance, then a tunnel, an office, store rooms, headquarters buildings, radio rooms, bunkers."
After years of studying the battle and the remains of the gun emplacement, Mr Sterne believes it holds the key to the terrible barrage which - along with devastating machine gun fire - claimed so many lives on Omaha Beach.
He thinks the main German stronghold being targeted by gunners in Allied warships was in fact a decoy, constructed with telegraph poles for gun barrels.
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The headquarters of the 'lost' Nazi gun emplacements. Mr Sterne bought the site bit by bit from 32 different landowners



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Sterne spent two years excavating the trenches and bunkers at the site

American Ranger troops attacked the Pointe du Hoc battery with great bravery and suffered more than 100 casualties - only to find the guns they expected were not there.
The attack was dramatised in another classic film, The Longest Day, and a museum and memorial now stands at the site.
The secret "Maisy battery" was apparently the real thing, well-camouflaged and built the far side of the slope behind Omaha Beach.
"After studying the RAF reconnaissance photographs, it was clear that the site was of major importance," said Mr Sterne.
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Cont'd >>>>
 

RackMaster

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The radio room at the site, believed to be responsible for the brutal bombardment of Omaha on D-Day

"It was not just another little gun battery, but a major complex - a similar size to that at Pointe du Hoc, but virtually undamaged."
It was captured only after three days of furious Allied attacks, and American veterans have told Mr Sterne that they discovered more than $4million worth of French francs which they shared between themselves.
The radio room was destroyed in the Allied bombardment, but most of the buildings - including a field hospital - are almost intact, along with more than a mile of trenches.
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Thousands of American troops were gunned down as they landed at Omaha beach on D-Day

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How the carnage was captured in Saving Private Ryan

The battery would have been manned by around 180 soldiers, but the only signs they left behind were discarded water bottles, spectacles and boots.
After excavating the site, Mr Sterne, a 43-year-old father of two, from Cheadle Hulme, near Stockport, has spent thousands of pounds buying the 40 acres of land it covers from more than 30 different people, and plans to open it as a museum.
Omaha Beach was one of five beaches stormed by the Allies on DDay - and the one that suffered by far the highest number of casualties. It became known to American soldiers as "Bloody Omaha."
Today, the area near Colleville sur Mer is the site of the Normandy American Cemetery, containing the graves of more than 9,000 who died in the Battle of Normandy.
The story of the battery's rediscovery and its role in the battle for Omaha Beach features in a BBC Timewatch documentary, Bloody Omaha, presented by Richard Hammond on BBC2 tomorrow at 9pm.
 

pardus

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Great find!

Amazing that a complex such as this can go undiscovered for so long.

I read a book of half a dozen or so Frenchmen working with the Germans building the Atlantic wall that were entombed by bombs/arty in a German bunker on June 6th, they remained buried in the bunker for about 5 years, until there were unintentionally rescued by a construction crew!
Incredible story.
 

ROS

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After excavating the site, Mr Sterne, a 43-year-old father of two, from Cheadle Hulme, near Stockport, has spent thousands of pounds buying the 40 acres of land it covers from more than 30 different people, and plans to open it as a museum.
That'd make such an awesome vacation.
 

Typhoon

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That is an amazing story, gdamadg. Incredible how a coast artillery gun emplacement that large could have been basically undetected and unscathed by the massive preinvasion bombardment.

One of the things that this story illustrates so strongly is how the fog of war creates an absence of information that in turn has an impact on how the battle goes. It seems to me that in this day and age we see too much second guessing by critics who do not understand this basic fundamental principle of warfare...
 
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