Digging into D-Day
Josh Gates touches down in Normandy to investigate battles on land, air and sea. What he finds is a Nazi threat greater than ever imagined.
Jeep Willy, Normandy, France.
The next time you see a Jeep Wrangler on the road, remember that it got its start in the early 1940s as a military utility vehicle. It was the primary transportation of choice for the Allies, and Eisenhower once called it, “one of the decisive weapons the U.S. had during WW2.” As for me, it was the thrill of a lifetime and an honor to drive one of these legendary jeeps through the storied streets of Normandy.
Nazi bunker revealed. Maisy Battery, France.
When the day started, nothing was here but an empty field. Based on an aerial laser scan, property owner Gary Sterne believed there was something else here. A good lesson to always remember to look down. There could be a terrifying maze of structures just below your feet. As to what’s inside? Let’s just say, it’s terrifying.
Seeing the light. Maisy Battery, France.
The inside of a German bunker sees the light of day for the first time in 75 years. Along with wartime relics, the inside of the concrete maze is filled with mold and toxic water. Not exactly the most inviting place to explore…
The American Cemetery. Normandy, France.
I had seen this place in film and photos for years, which is why I was surprised at how emotional I felt here. But, the power of this place is just undeniable. 175 acres of beautifully tended land and a final resting place for nearly 10,000 brave Americans who gave everything in the D-Day invasion and ensuing operations. Walking the rows of crosses is an experience I’ll never forget. This is a place that defines sacrifice, and reminds us all of the true cost of war.
Tanks for Nothing. Normandy, France.
I traded in my car for a new set of wheels. Well, treads actually. For some reason, the people at the Normandy Victory Museum thought it would be a good idea to let me drive this 1963 FV432 British tank. Even though she wasn’t around on D-Day, she still packs a punch. She also gets about a mile to the gallon, so if you’ll excuse me, I need to find a gas station to run over.
Caen Archaeological Archives, Caen, France.
The French National Institute of Archaeology (INRAP) works tirelessly to excavate, catalogue, and preserve the many relics of the D-Day invasion in Normandy. Here, archaologists show me a British Sten submachine gun discovered in a nearby field. This weapons were a mainstay of British forces, and could fire 500 to 600 rounds per minute.
Remnants of War, Maisy Battery, France.
Our exploration of long-forgotten bunkers in Normandy leads to some spine-tingling finds. This is the remains of a filter for a German gas-mask. Though chemical weapons weren’t deployed here, these masks were at the ready in this Nazi compound in case of Allied attack. A haunting reminder of the war preserved for three quarters of a century.