Pray for Le Havre

Think about communication and getting your hand on news in the World War 2 era. Cables. Wires. Telegrams. News reels. First word of events that changed the course of world history were first discovered by everybody in 72 point type in newspaper headlines. Seeing the devastation in these photographs of Le Havre 73 years later, the utter horror of World War 2 is shocking. To the people who lived here, they must have thought humanity was ending.

A view from Camp Home Run looking out to the ocean.

Bernard McKenzie, Le Havre, France, June 25, 1945

 

Le Havre & the Harbor.

Bernard McKenzie, June 25, 1945

 

A limited view of Le Havre from the distant point at Camp Home Run.

Bernard McKenzie, June 25, 1945

 

More ruins of Le Havre.

Bernard McKenzie, June 25, 1945

Remnants of a War, Le Havre

Le Havre was just coming back to life after being destroyed for its location as a gateway to the European theater in World War 2. Le Havre took a major hit when the Germans seized control, then suffered utter devastation when the Allies regained the stronghold.

Business “not as usual” in the heart of Le Havre proper.

Bernard McKenzie, June 26, 1945

 

German forts (pill boxes) at the harbor front. The Jerries at one time were very entrenched here.

Bernard McKenzie, Le Havre, France, June 26, 1945

 

Our bombers scored here.

Bernard McKenzie, Le Havre, France, June 26, 1945

 

Home was never like this. Thank God.

Bernard McKenzie, Le Havre, France, June 26, 1945

 

The “Ghost City” of Le Havre, France.

Bernard McKenzie, June 26, 1945

A Cigarette Camp in Le Havre

Le Havre offered a setting for the large-scale U.S. exodus from the War. Tens of thousands of GI’s gathered in the Cigarette Camps, including Camp Home Run where my dad Bernard McKenzie spent his final days in-continent.

A view of Camp Home Run. Notice the German fort surrounding the camp.

Bernard McKenzie, Camp Home Run, Sanvic, France, June 26, 1945

 

M. P.’s out on a little stroll in Le Havre, France. Many white and negro troops were stationed in Le Havre.

Bernard McKenzie, June 26, 1945

Strategic Location of Le Havre

Le Havre played an enormous role for both sides during World War 2. It was a highly strategic harbor for the Germans to protect during their occupation. And it was a critical re-entry point for the Allies, with the D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy approximately 50 miles to the southeast. Because of this its native French inhabitants took a horrendous beating at the start, middle, and end of the war.

Le Havre

US Army’s Advanced Rating Score

For US soldiers in mid 1945 the long journey to the French coast must have been fraught with a mixture of haunting memories, national pride, and both angst and excitement about returning home. To help organize the mass exodus from the European continent, the US Army created anĀ Advanced Rating Score to help make sense and order of the process needed to return nearly 2 millions GI’s home. When they finally arrived at their exodus point (in the case of my father Bernard McKenzie it was Camp Home Run just outside Le Havre, France) they were met everywhere by destruction and even more waiting, with some stuck for up to a year waiting for their name to be called to board a ship home.

On a high cliff overlooking the remains of Le Havre. The harbor and a lone ship in the distance.

Bernard McKenzie, June 26, 1945

 

From atop the high fort and looking out to the ocean. Le Havre.

Bernard McKenzie, June 26, 1945

 

This sector and this only received only a limited amount of bombs. The bombed area is in the background.

Bernard McKenzie, June 26, 1945

The Slow Road Home

I’ve seen this stack of photos stuffed inside a shoebox since I was a young boy. My dad would take the box out to show the photos to close friends in hushed tones. They’ve taken on a mythical quality to me, and I’m so thankful I’ve found this outlet to truly examine them closely for the first time myself, and to share them with anyone who’s interested.

Ruins of Le Havre. Enroute to our boat & then the U.S.A.

Bernard McKenzie, June 26, 1945

 

We had stayed at “Home Run” for 5 days. We were sweating out boarding our ship. Here we are leaving “Home Run”–boarding trucks & enroute to our boat.

Bernard McKenzie, June 26, 1945

 

Enroute to our ship. One small sector of Le Havre that had missed our bombs in the early days of the war.

Bernard McKenzie, June 26, 1945

 

Most of us are loaded on trucks. Approximately two hours later we got on the “Marine Dragon.”

Bernard McKenzie, June 26, 1945

Is it the beginning? Or is it the end?

An African-American Navy Band sent the troops off in style.

Negro musicians play as we leave Le Havre.

Bernard McKenzie, June 27, 1945

 

A group of negro musicians played as we left the European Theater.

Bernard McKenzie, Le Havre, France, June 27, 1945

 

Some French civilians and U.S. soldiers watch on as we leave Le Havre.

Bernard McKenzie, June 27, 1945

 

Our “Marine Dragon” that returned us safely to the U.S.A. The gang plank to the right. Boarded this the evening of the 26th–sailed June 27, 1945.

Bernard McKenzie, Le Havre, France, June 27, 1945

The War Machine Bringing GI’s Home

More than 2 million Americans fought in Europe in WW2. Bringing them home was just the next chapter. Learn more about the USS West Point, in the background of the first photo below, which was used to transport troops during World War 2.

Ships & tugs docked at Le Havre. The U.S. West Point in the background.

Bernard McKenzie, June 27, 1945

 

A sister ship of our Marine Dragon.

Bernard McKenzie, Le Havre, France, June 27, 1945

 

This tug is about to take us through the channel ahead. You can see the rope attached.

Bernard McKenzie, Le Havre, France, June 27, 1945

 

The tug at front is slowly pulling our ship out.

Bernard McKenzie, Le Havre, France, June 27, 1945

 

Harbor at Le Havre.

Bernard McKenzie, June 27, 1945

Remnants of Le Havre

In order to be repatriated, Le Havre was destroyed. See Before and After video of Le Havre.

In harbor at Le Havre, France.

Bernard McKenzie, June 27, 1945

 

A dock at Le Havre, France. Our Air Forces had visited here frequently.

Bernard McKenzie, June 27, 1945

 

The congested harbor at Le Havre.

Bernard McKenzie, June 27, 1945

 

Harbor. Le Havre, France

Bernard McKenzie, June 27, 1945

 

In the harbor at Le Havre, France.

Bernard McKenzie, June 27, 1945

Battlefront, Le Havre

The Germans dug in at Le Havre, determined to defend one of France’s largest ports at all costs–the port was very important for them to secure, and very important for the Allies to seize! This is the aftermath of “defending at all costs”. Read more about Operation Estonia.

Harbor view, Le Havre, France.

Bernard McKenzie, June 27, 1945

 

This ship, a victim of enemy shells, still lies submerged in the harbor at Le Havre, France.

Bernard McKenzie, June 27, 1945

 

A submerged ship, a victim of enemy shells. Le Havre, France.

Bernard McKenzie, June 27, 1945