I had a dream a few nights ago that I was at the beach at Normandy in present day, and I was trying to find some WW2 spent bullets as souvenirs. What’s the beach like now? Do people use it like a regular recreational beach, laying out a blanket and and such? Can one still find WW2 spent shells and/or casings?
What was it like before WW2, was it a regular recreational beach?
Also remember that “Normandie” is one of the histori regions of France, with (on a guess) over 100 miles of coastline. The D-Day beaches were five short strips of shoreline on the north shore of the small Cotentin Peninsula and along the coast immediately northeast of it.
Pretty. The beaches are lovely and a good place to hang out on a sunny day. You can still see a lot of the fortifications, although with a few exceptions they’ve been left open to the elements. If you tour around the Contentin Penninsula, you can see all sorts of monuments and museums to the Airborne troops and along the D-day beaches there are museums and the hugely impressive Allied war graves cemetery. Brought tears to my eyes, that did - it’s that kind of place.
War memorials and tourism
I doubt you’d find much in the way of bullet casings and the like there, although I wouldn’t be too hugely surprised if you did. The battle there was really just one day, and a lot of it was cleaned up in the days following to support the logistics effort (i.e. using the beaches to move stuff ashore) until the artificial harbours were put in place. And lots of people have been through there in the years since D-day as well as the local people who live there.
As long as they’re duds, sure. In any case, you could still use the detector in the already trampled areas and find a lot of old shrapnel and fragments. I just doubt that you would be allowed to do so.
In the US, metal detectors are not permitted in protected battle fields simply to keep souvenier hunters from digging up historic places.
I wouldn’t be metal-detecting-and-digging for much of anything in France; you could turn up with lot more than old shrapnel and fragments. Even today there’s still a problem with unexploded ordinance from the two world wars turning up, to the tune of a few people being killed yearly from digging them up accidentally, unknowingly building a campfire over a bomb, etc. The Deparment du Deminage in France (candidates for scariest/worst job in the world) turns up about 900 tons of unexploded ordinance each year.
The thing that struck me the most about the beaches where the battles were fought is how wide they are. They have a very gentle slope to the water; the water is really shallow pretty far out. The German emplacements were (and many still are) up on a bluff above the beach.
Just looking at the battlegrounds, I’m amazed that the Allies won. It made me cry to see what an essentially hopeless task the Allied troops had. The Germans could see them for miles; the LSTs couldn’t get close to the beach so the troops had to slog through hundreds of yards of shallow water and artificial barriers and the Germans just picked them off like a game of Centipede.
But what I really came in here to say is that the beaches and Normandy as a whole is one of the most heart-stoppingly beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Absolutely lovely, everwhere I looked. While my husband and I were picnicing in a tiny town, I found myself doubting for a minute that it was the site of such monstrously evil events. I came right back to reality though, just by looking across the road to the town cemetery and its prominent monument honoring the civilians of the town who were killed in the invasion.
When we were there, in late May, the wildflowers were blooming, the birds were singing, and it was a peaceful, gorgeous place.
I know nothing about metal detectors - can they be used under water? Given the above comment would looking slightly off-shore be a valid strategy, where there is likely to have been less previous searching?
During the landings, Omaha Beach has a shelf of ‘shingle’ that provided cover for the attackers. It was washed away in a postwar storm (hell of a storm, I guess), changing the appearance of the place, and leaving m with an unclear understanding of what ‘shingle’ is.
Some of the areas were defended by troops of exceedingly poor morale and quality. Also, the German defensive plan, in most areas, didn’t really go any further back than those bluffs. Behind that there wasn’t any backup. They didn’t have enough resources for the sort of defense in depth you’d normally want; once Allies broke through anywhere, all hell would break loose and the line would fall apart at that point.
Where it was tougher - Omaha and Juno - the casualty rate was 50%, and in some spots they didn’t get off the beach until naval gunfire could be brought down on key positions.
Allied naval and air power was a lot of the reason it worked; the impact of the huge ship guns and aerial bombardment was devastating. It didn’t hit everything, but a lot of German artillery was blown to bits and the suppressive effect of incessant, crushing bombardment had a lot of effect on the German’s ability to resist a much larger force.
Depends on the model. Solenoid itself (that oval detecting piece) in most modern metal detectors is pretty waterproof and can be used in shallow water, but electronic box has to be above water. There are also fully waterproof metal detectors.
As well as the wide (at low tide) sandy beaches mentioned above, a large part of the Normandy coast is made up of cliffs. If you visit pointe du Hoc, the top of the cliffs is still a maze of craters and devastated underground defensive works, gun emplacements etc. At the bottom of the cliffs is a narrow strip of beach where US troops were pinned down after (I assume) drifting off course. The cliffs are basically vertical and maybe as tall as a ten storey building. It’s hard to imagine that anybody survived the engagement, on either side.
As to the specific question about casings etc - there are still plenty of these all around Europe, but as has already been mentioned, even the WWI stuff can still be dangerous.