The truth is in the details. This saying has been used since time began and it still stands true. Three days into the 2014 Tour our students walked through two major events linked to the D-Day invasion.
On the first day, they experienced Pointe Du Hoc, the cliff top where United States Army Rangers scaled the cliff top and with their first grasp of soil, started to take back Europe. On the morning of June 6th, 1944 special units rolled up to the beach beneath the cliff and fired grappling hooks from the landing craft. The Rangers then climbed up the rock face with ladders and other climbing equipment in tow. Their objective was to destroy the artillery that could fire on both Omaha and Utah Beach before the main amphibious assault began. From the moment they landed on the beach to the moment they grabbed that important piece of soil on the cliff, they were under constant fire. Once the secured the cliff face they found the guns had been moved, the Rangers tracked the current position of the guns, and destroyed them thereby accomplishing their objective and saving countless lives on the landing beaches. During our time there, a member of the 173rd Army Airborne gave us a lesson on just how difficult scaling those cliffs would be, even with today’s technology. In an assault, the little things mattered, from the ropes of the grappling hooks staying dry to the weapons staying out of the salt water. The Rangers that took the cliff that morning found that when the little things are taken away, the job becomes harder.
Our next stop was at Lounges Sur Mere, the German Battery overlooking the English Channel. There are four guns with additional lookout posts on edge of the cliff. The guns were positioned to fire upon the allied ships that would surely bring the troops over for the invasion and the lookout posts were positioned to do just that, look for the oncoming fleet. It was in one of these posts that a German soldier was waking up on June 6th 1944. After taking his dog for a walk, he went to the edge of the viewport within the bunker, poured a cup of coffee, and looked through a pair of binoculars toward the horizon and saw nothing. He took a drink of coffee, gave his dog a pat, and decided to look again. In the moment between that first look and the second, the entire Allied fleet broke the horizon. Through his binoculars he could see an unending line of warships just before they started firing on his position. He was the first to sound the alarm. The decision he made in that moment to look again was, in retrospect, considered minimal in his normal routine. However, in history, it was game changing. That small detail changed history, and because of that, the name Werner Pluskat is remembered forever.
Between the details of the assault on Pointe Du Hoc and the first look of the Allied fleet, the details that make up the D-Day assault are what boil the grand story down into foundational facts. From there, the learner can find the names associated with the events, read about what drove both sides and learn the story of each man as he fought his way through France. It’s the details that matter, and for our first day of touring, our students learned that it’s the details that tell the story. As the tour has progressed, the details behind each event have always made the difference between said event being just a history lesson and a life-changing experience that causes a lasting change in the students of AET.