Point du Hoc – The Lost Battlefield
Is D-Day history being wound down at Pointe du Hoc?
We have all heard that changes were afoot at Pointe du Hoc, but after a recent visit I was astonished to see that the bunkers are now all locked and cannot be entered – and in particular I include the command bunker which houses a memorial with the names of those killed and wounded at Pointe du Hoc on June 6th-8th 1944.
It could be that continual erosion has finally taken its toll on the safety of the cliff top bunkers and that those bunkers may now be dangerous. But surely that should not stop access to the other bunkers further inland. But the worst change of all is the new fenced circuit which winds around the surface.
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3 metres wide it needlessly herds visitors around a predetermined narrow pathway like sheep. The main draw for Pointe du Hoc visitors has always been the history first, the cliff, the view, and then a visit to the bunkers and the shell holes where the action happened.
Is it that the authorities plan may be to let nature take its course outside of the new path and within a few years the only thing left to see will be the sea? It seems that the bunkers and craters are now being left to disappear in the expanding undergrowth.
Nature will slowly reclaim the site and there will be very little you will be able to see in the very near future. It will become a nature reserve and only the major casements will remind you of what was once there.
Pointe du Hoc is special
No longer will visitors (or family members) be able to take in the whole extent of Pointe du Hoc as a battlefield.
So where has it all gone wrong, if indeed it has?
Yes, you can get a view of the site from the “viewing platform” but if we collectively consider Pointe du Hoc to be so special, why did someone allow the building a viewing platform on top of a bunker, that was one of those that had to be preserved. Could the “scaffolding” not have been built 100 metres away to the rear to protect the building and not disturb the view? But is it too late to move it?
Inevitably the scaffolding now appears in most photographs of the site and in 20 years time people will ask “why did the Germans build scaffolding here?”. It is the equivalent of putting scaffolding on top of Stonehenge and justifying it because it allows people to see the surrounding area more easily? We would all object to that.
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But the reduction of the visitors experience at the Pointe does not stop there. Why is the site mysteriously now closed at 5pm (with no dogs allowed – except guide dogs) when only a few years ago anyone could walk around and enjoy every part of it day or evening ?
Are the deliberate and reductive nature of the alterations at Pointe du Hoc unnecessary or are they part of a plan to close the site to the public in the years to come?
Online reviews are starting to reflect the “changes” and they are not favourable.
People now recommend anyone visiting with a group during the summer to go early in the morning or late in the day. It is now near impossible for any group to stop and have a meaningful discussion about the battle with a tour guide. You are forced to keep moving because another 500 people are walking up the same path behind you or pushing past.
If I am not mistaken, Pointe du Hoc was preserved to remember what brave men did and to keep their sacrifices alive in the minds of future generations. Surely you can only do that by letting people see more of the place and discuss it in a sensible way?
Good men died at Pointe du Hoc and the remaining survivors from the battle are also now gone, so it is up to us that follow to remember why WE are now preserving and respecting the Pointe.
Is it the decent thing that the site is slowly being buried under bushes and closed just at the time their living memory fades? We must have a duty to remember what they did for us and that should have no boundaries or time limits.
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Is now is the time to collectively stand up and question this situation? At the very least, the memorial stones inside the Command bunker should be brought out and put on display for as many people to read as possible. Those men all deserve that continued level of respect.
We can only guess the pressures that the American Battlefield Monuments Commission are under. But, with a little thought and planning the rangers and others can continue to be individually recognised for their bravery on D-Day, and at the same time safety concerns could still be met.
If you would like to put your name onto a petition to have the memorial brought out from the Command bunker and put on display outside then please drop us a message via our Facebook inbox. The requests will be forwarded to the American Battlefield Monuments Commission each time they reach 10,000 names.
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