Microscopic view of shrapnel grains from Omaha Beach. Reuters/Earle McBride/Dane Picard from this article.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Microscopic Cultural Heritage: D-Day
The physical footprint of historical conflicts often run deeper than we might think. The beaches of Normandy are vacant today, 68 years after D-Day. Landing obstructions, the wreckage of military vehicles, and the other detritus of war were cleared away soon after the invasion. And yet, as a pair of Texas geologists reported in The Sedimentary Record and Earth Magazine last year, the landings left a lasting mark on the invisible landscape. On Omaha Beach, site of some of the heaviest combat of June 6th, 1944, some four percent of the sand is today made up the residue of D-Day. Jagged metal shrapnel grains and spherical glass beads formed by shells exploding in the sand are all that is left of thousands of artillery rounds. These microscopic artifacts testify to the intensity of a conflict that took place a lifetime ago, and they remind us that such momentous events remain with us long after more impressive wreckage fades.