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Apr15

Retracing Death Traps in Normandy 2018

Retracing Belton Y. Cooper’s Death Traps Tour

I recently completed a 3-Day Tour with the Cooper family originating from Birmingham, Alabama, USA. In 1998 Belton Y. Cooper (BYC) published ‘Death Traps” a fantastic and quite unique book drawn from his memoirs with the US 3rd Armored Division during WWII. Belton Y. Cooper served as a liaison officer operating between the front line armoured units – mainly Sherman Tanks – and the maintenance echelon. His unusual position of moving back and forth between the lines gave BYC a unique insight into how a US Armored Division operated during WWII. Eight members of his family wanted to visit the sites he wrote about in his book – where he first came under fire, where he first saw dead bodies and where he crossed rivers, bivouacked under enemy artillery fire and witnessed the carnage and debris of a savage war.

Belton Y. Cooper with his book ‘Death Traps’

Based at the Manoir du Quesnay between Bayeux and Trévieres we followed BYC’s route from Omaha Beach where he landed in July 1944 D+28, through the Normandy Bocage around St-Lô as far as the Falaise Pocket. We visited sites previously known so well to the group through reading Death Traps. To actually stand in those very positions was clearly a very moving experience, particularly for BYC’s three sons – Belton Jr, Lloyd and Spencer.

St Fromond Bridge July 1944

From L to R Gary Weight, Lloyd, Belton Jr and Spencer Cooper on St Fromond Bridge – taken from the approximate position of the above 1944 photographs

Whilst it took a fair amount of time to accurately piece the route together it was ultimately worth every minute and I also learned a great deal! Hampered sporadically by some inclement weather it was a wonderful tour with great people. If you haven’t already read the book then I recommend you do…

Gary Weight with annotated map following route of US 3rd Armored Division CCB – Combat Command B

Death Traps is available at Amazon UK

Death Traps is available at Amazon US

…and many other outlets!

 

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