The D-Day Battlefields
Dead Man`s Corner
Dead Man's Corner Museum at Saint-Côme-du-Mont is located between Utah Beach and the small rural town of Carentan. It shares a restored and converted 3-storey villa with `The Paratrooper` military emporium which is located on the ground floor at the rear of the property. In June 1944 the house was used as an advanced Headquarters by Major von der Heydte`s Fallschirmjäger. Entry is free and the route to the well-stocked shop passes several realistic dioramas and displays of weapons and equipment. Many of the life-sized figures were only created after studying photographs of soldiers who actually participated in the Battle of Normandy.
On D-Day, `D` Company of the 70th Tank Battalion, equipped with M5A1 Stuart light tanks, landed at UTAH Beach with the mission of linking up with the 101st Airborne.
On June 7, the tanks reached some of the Paratroopers but during the advance towards Carentan the lead Stuart, D-12, was destroyed in front of this house and some of the crew incinerated.
The tank remained untouched for days with the dead commander hanging from the turret and the US troops began referring to this junction as the `The corner with the dead man`, soon shortened to `Dead Man`s Corner`.
Four days they left him there
Hanging out of the gun turret
Blasted and burned to death
It wasn`t that they didn`t care
He was one of theirs after all
But they were hard pressed
The dead would have to wait
Right now they only had time
To shoot and stay alive
They used him as a landmark
As the battle came and went
Around "Dead Man`s Corner"
A strange kind of immortality
To be stripped of one`s name
And become a place instead
On the steps of the museum
That stands to mark the spot
I found a single black feather
"Tell them my name" it said
Feathers don`t usually talk
I made a point of finding out.
Of Stuart D12`s crew, Tank Commander Sergeant Anthony I. Tomasheski (above) and Driver Pvt. Aaron D. Curry were killed outright with Bow Gunner Pvt. Ray Bonzo and Gunner Hughes badly wounded. The text by Geoff Mead is displayed alongside Tomasheski`s photo on an information board beside the museum`s tank.
On June 8th, the German paratroopers defending this location retreated towards Carentan and the house was taken over by the Americans and utilised as a command post for the 502nd PIR of the 101st Airbrone. From here, the US paratroopers advanced down this road, the N13, and took Carentan after three days of heavy fighting.
Below: This fine memorial to Richard `Dick` Winters, who led `Easy` Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division on D-Day, stands just inland from UTAH Beach, alongside the main route taken by tens of thousands of Allied troops who landed there on and after 6 June 1944.
This painting, on display in the UTAH Beach Museum, depicts Easy Company`s attack on the German guns at Brécourt Manor manor on D-Day and is signed by Winters as well as veterans Bill Guarnere, Lynn `Buck` Compton and Donald Malarkey. The battery, located three miles inland, north of the village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, had initially been firing onto an exit leading off UTAH Beach and disrupting the forces landing there. Several other units had stumbled onto this strongly defended position earlier in the morning and had been repulsed.
Winters' team of 23 Paratroopers successfully attacked the four 105 mm howitzers which were linked by trenches and defended by a company of around 60 soldiers. Reinforcements led by 2nd Lt. Ronald C. Speirs, arrived to complete the assault on the fourth and last gun. Each one was destroyed by placing a block of TNT down its barrel and using German `potato masher` grenades to set off the charges. A map was also seized which recorded the locations of all German artillery and machine gun positions throughout the area. After the four guns were disabled, the Paratroopers came under heavy machine-gun fire from Brécourt Manor and withdrew.
Once Carentan had been captured by the Allies, this route saw a continual stream of armour, troops, vehicles and equipment as the push deep into the Normandy countryside continued. The shot on the right above looks back along the N13 in the direction of St Mere Eglise from the junction at Dead Man`s Corner. In the centre above is the 101st Airborne `Screaming Eagles` shoulder patch.
The first recreated scene in Dead Man`s Corner Museum shows how Heydte`s Headquarters would have looked at the time of the invasion.
Most of the exhibits are behind glass and even with a polarizing filter reducing unwanted reflections can prove a challenge.
Another diorama represents a room used as a dressing station during the fighting.
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The fearsome figure of a Fallschirmjäger equipped with a flamethrower, complete with protective face mask.
The D-Day Experience is another attraction here and is housed within a hangar behind the house. It contains a museum with an actual C-47 as the centrepiece. The aircraft has been converted to operate as a simulator and at various times throughout the day visitors, after receiving a `pre-jump` briefing, are given the opportunity to climb on board and fly across the Channel en route to France for a D-Day drop into Normandy.
There is an admission fee for this part and having assumed that it was another standard museum, I learnt that after purchasing a ticket for the `Experience` visitors were supposed to look round the Dead Man`s Corner Museum and shop then make their way to the hangar just before the next scheduled`flight`. I would have liked to check this out but with the next tour, which lasts around 45 minutes, not due to start for another half-hour I had to pass due to lack of time. Unfortunately the other hangar displays can only be viewed as part of the package. There are a few scathing reviews about the D-Day Experience online but the vast majority say that this is one of Normandy`s must-see Invasion-related attractions. Having seen the quality of the other areas, I`d be very surprised if the hangar section is not of the same high standard. More information can be found at: dday-experience.com.
The main counter in the Paratrooper Emporium. Stuart D-12`s mascot is pictured below.