The last gunshots and bomb blasts hit Omaha Beach in Normandy, France– 68 years ago.
Today, few living witnesses remain and the sand is long ago picked clean of any visible remnants of war. But, two geology professors recently discovered some tiny bits of shrapnel and other microscopic pieces of the D-Day invasion in samples collected from the beach there. The scientists, weren’t on a working trip, but instead vacation, and were surprised to find the treasures survived for decades, despite the scrubbing of sand and waves, and the rusting action of seawater.
In the early hours of June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops poured from planes and ships onto the heavily fortified shores of Normandy, France. Omaha Beach was one of five Allied landing points along a 50-mile (80-kilometer) stretch of coastline. The battles were bloody and brutal, but by day’s end, the Allies had established a beachhead. It proved to be the turning point of World War II.
Earle McBride, emeritus professor at The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences says 4 percent of the sand collected is made up of bits of shrapnel ranging in size from very fine to course (0.06 to 1 millimeter). He, along with Dane Picard, emeritus professor at the University of Utah, also found trace amounts of spherical iron and glass beads. Using a scanning electron microscope, they’ve been able to study the shape, texture, and size of all three explosively-produced structure types in greater detail.
It’s another example how soil can preserve history. Or in this case it’s sand, bearing witness to an epic battle.
Watch the June 13, 1944 Fox Moveitone Newsreel highlights,”Europe Invaded,” here: http://digital.tcl.sc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/mvtnwarfilms/id/3794/rec/3
Read more about the current research, here: http://www.jsg.utexas.edu/news/2012/03/geological-fingerprint-of-war/