Chronologically, there were three definable phases to the operation on June 6th 1944: the air landings (which were centred on Utah Beach in the west and Sword Beach in the east), the air and naval bombardments of the Atlantic Wall, and the seaborne landings on the six beaches (Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword) and at Pointe du Hoc.
The battle of Saint-Lô was one of the most significant episodes in the ‘battle of the hedgerows’, just before Operation Cobra. In the centre of the Cherbourg Peninsula, the war of the hedgerows turned into a real trench warfare. Operation Cobra was the codename given to the American offensive undertaken at the end of July 1944 in the Cherbourg Peninsula in order to open up the way to Brittany and to break through the lines of German defence.
Due to its strategic importance as a crossroads, a bombardment by the Americans, focusing on the railway station and the power plant, began on the night of June 6, and lasted into the morning of June 7. The objective was to cut off German reinforcements in Brittany from the front.
Warning leaflets were dropped the day before, but high winds dispersed them to neighboring communities, failing to alert local residents. Over two hundred prisoners were killed at the local prison, including seventy-six imprisoned French patriots (all that remains of the prison today is the gate). At least 400 local people lost their lives with St Lo with
Shell embedded into Notre Dame Church St Lo
95% of the buildings damaged or ruined.
Even though we have lived here in Normandy for the past 18 years we took time out today to take a look around Notre Dame Cathedral in St Lo today, terribly bombed by the allies on June 6th 1944 there is even a shell case still embedded in one of the walls.
Bullet holes everywhere in the old stone walls juxaposed with what I’m afraid I consider rather ugly immediate repairs in the late ’40’s early 60’s…maybe one day the stone masons will be challenged with the task of sympathetic restoration…maybe it’s a great nod to what did happen and serves of a reminder to keep the peace.