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D-Day: The Legacy of the Longest Day

More than 75 years after D-Day, the Allied invasion’s impact on the French landscape is still not fully understood


Friday, June 05, 2020

Normandy Bay of SeineUnited States Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. William J. McGowan was 23 years old when he died near the village of Moon-sur-Elle in northern France. McGowan had grown up in the small town of Benson in western Minnesota, where he loved to ski. He attended Benson High School, St. Thomas Military Academy, and then the Missouri School of Journalism, where he received his degree in 1942. He worked as a journalist and editor, first for the United Press news service in Madison, Wisconsin, and then for his hometown paper, the Swift County Monitor-News, of which his father was the editor and publisher.


In 1943, McGowan was called to Eagle Pass Army Airfield in southern Texas for training. In December, he earned his pilot’s silver wings and his commission. A month later, he moved on to Harding Airfield in Baton Rouge for flight training on the P-47 Thunderbolt, the beloved workhorse of World War II American aviation. There he married Suzanne “Suki” Schaefer of Winona, Minnesota, and two months later was sent to England aboard Queen Mary. On May 15, he joined the 391st Fighter Squadron, 366th Fighter Group. Between May and June 5, McGowan made 10 sorties and flew four combat missions.


Normandy Map 2At 3:15 p.m. on June 6, 1944, D-Day, McGowan set out from Royal Air Force Thruxton in Hampshire in southern England on a mission to target the Lison train station and enemy convoys moving northeast toward Bayeux. According to the Missing Air Crew Report given by his wingman, Flight Officer Paul E. Stryker, the next day, after they seized “a target of opportunity” and dropped their fragmentation bombs on a passing German train, McGowan’s Thunderbolt was hit by antiaircraft fire at 500 feet, too low for him to safely parachute from his plane. “I was taking evasive action and about 1000', I noticed his plane was in flames and was going into a spin,” relayed Stryker. “He spun it to the ground and the whole ship burst in to flame.”

Maya Stelas in 3-D

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

A full view 3-D model of Stela 1 from Wiztna created by University of Alabama archaeologist Alexandre Tokovinine:


A 3-D model of Stela 2:

Neolithic Enigmas in 3-D

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

National Museums Scotland used a technique called photogrammetry, which combines hundreds of still images, to produce this interactive 3-D model of several examples of 5,000-year-old stone spheres that have been found mostly in Scotland. To read more about researchers' study of the spheres, click here

Girsu’s Enigmatic Construction


Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Girsu Iraq Bridge FoundationsGirsu Iraq Bridge BricksIn the 1920s and early 1930s, French archaeologists at Girsu excavated a monumental brick structure measuring up to 130 feet long by 33 feet wide, with 11-foot-high walls, that resembled a pair of parentheses. Unsure of its purpose, they termed it the “enigmatic construction.” Based on satellite imagery and excavation of the landscape surrounding the structure, British Museum archaeologist Sebastien Rey identified traces of an ancient canal that had once passed directly through the structure. The canal was some 100 feet wide, and Rey concluded that the structure had served as a bottleneck to reduce its width to around 12 feet, narrow enough to be spanned with the planks of a bridge.


The bridge’s foundation was built of fired bricks coated with bitumen to make it sturdy and watertight. On 15 of these bricks, Rey’s team has identified inscriptions dedicating the structure to the god Ningirsu and naming Ur-Ningirsu (r. ca. 2110 B.C.), the king Gudea’s son and successor as ruler of Girsu. All of these inscriptions faced down lest the god’s name be trod upon.


Standing about a third of a mile to the east of Gudea’s great temple, the bridge would have been the main entrance to Girsu’s sacred precinct, crossed by pilgrims who traveled to the city for religious festivals held several times each year. “That’s why the bridge was so monumental,” says Rey. “It had the same significance as the temple or a city gate or a city wall. It was built by a king and was meant to be visible in the landscape.”

3-D Walkthrough of Vemork Plant

Monday, December 11, 2017

This 3-D walkthrough of the heavy water facilities at Norway’s Vemork Plant was created by Telemark County Council archaeologist Sindre Arnkværn. The plant was demolished in 1977 and little documentation or study of the site had been conducted since Operation Gunnerside in 1943. Although researchers had to make their way through demolition rubble, they still were able to understand Gunnerside’s events in the location and context in which they occurred. To read a full article on the archaeology of the site, go to “The Secrets of Sabotage.” (Courtesy Sindre Arnkværn/Telemark County Council)





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Operation Gunnerside
Trenches Norway Vemork
The Secrets of Sabotage





From the Trenches