CSU, Chico News

Concrete Industry Management Students Will Participate in Historic Concrete Investigations at D-Day Site

Date: 02-21-2008

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Tanya Wattenburg Komas
Concrete Industry Management

Five Concrete Industry Management (CIM) students from California State University, Chico have the rare opportunity of traveling to France to assist in the evaluation of concrete bunkers on Pointe du Hoc, Normandy. Pointe du Hoc was the site of the historic World War II D-day landing in June 1944.

Tanya Wattenburg Komas, professor of a class in Concrete Repair and Preservation, part of the CIM program, holds a PhD in architecture and a certificate in historic preservation from Texas A&M University. Her colleagues at Texas A&M are part of an effort to evaluate the entire site of the historic landing for the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). Texas A&M will survey the site and evaluate the cliffs on which the concrete structures rest. Komas and the CIM students are evaluating the concrete used in bunkers and other structures. They have already completed laboratory tests on concrete samples from the site.

In March, the team will travel to Normandy and conduct on-site testing of the structures. “We will be using state-of-the-art ultra-sonic pulse testing equipment loaned to us by companies that use this same equipment to evaluate new bridges, dams and other structures,” said Komas. The students will produce an “existing conditions” report that will combine the previous laboratory testing results and the upcoming fieldwork results. It will serve as the basis for proposing the next phase of the work at the site for which federal funding is being sought.

According to Richard, Burt, Ph.D., Texas A&M, and a colleague of Komas’s, Pointe du Hoc is the most culturally important site of the 1944 World War II Normandy invasion.

This was where Lt. Col. James Earl Rudder led elements of the 2nd Ranger Battalion in a mission to destroy 155 mm cannon capable of firing on troops and ships landing on Utah and Omaha beaches (Ambrose 1989, Historical Division, U.S. War Department 1946, Lane 1994, McDonald 2000). An American military cemetery is located above the cliffs.

Pointe du Hoc is a medium coastal battery consisting of a variety of structures such as gun emplacements, casemates, and personnel and ammunition bunkers. Constructed as part of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall campaign, it was strategically placed between the Utah and Omaha invasion beaches. Komas quoted Burt as saying that the site was designated a class A Historic Site by the French Government on Feb. 28, 1955. It was formally transferred to the ABMC, a small, independent agency of the Executive Branch of the federal government, on Jan. 11, 1979.

“What the students and I will be doing is part of the documentation phase of this project,” said Komas. “The work the students do will be used in developing a proposal for the next stages. There are many important historical questions that will be posed during the next phase regarding the events of D-Day and the construction of the bunkers as well as technological questions focusing on what the most appropriate structural stabilization approaches should be. That the students will be participating in research of this magnitude is very exciting for them and for me,” said Komas.

Komas can still take more students if additional travel sponsorship funds become available. If you would like to learn more about the research trip to Normandy or sponsor a student to go on the trip and participate in the research, you can contact Komas at 530-514-4341 or e-mail her at tkomas@csuchico.edu.