D-Day Beaches










Normandy D-Day Beaches

The D-Day beaches of  Normandy are a visible reminder of the great courage and sacrifice made by Americans during WWII.   

 American Cemetery

The American Cemetery is located just above Omaha Beach.  This large park like cemetery was donated to the Americans by the French, and contains over 9000 white marble crosses and Star of David grave markers with the name and home state of each soldier who died on the beaches below while fighting the Germans.  A centerpiece of the cemetery is a memorial to those who lost there lives, and to the 1577 missing or unidentified soldiers.  On a past visit I copied this quote from a posted sign near the entrance:


"Visitor, Look how many of them there were.  Look how young they were.  They died for your freedom.  Hold back your tears and keep silent."



The western flank of the invasion was secured by paratroops.  The town of Ste-Mère-Église gained fame from the movie ‘The Longest Day’ which shows scenes of paratrooper John Steele hanging by his parachute from a 13th Century church.   Today the church still has a model of a paratrooper hanging there and the town has one of the best museums dedicated to the airborne infantries.  The Musée Airborne has an original Douglas C47 and the glider it towed across the English Channel filled with troops.  The museum is filled with memorabilia and trivia from the war - bank notes, first aid kits and moving letters from home.  The museum also shows short films in English about the events that took place on that day.


The German General Erwin Rommel coined the phrase ‘The Longest Day’ on April 22, 1944.  He was quoted as saying.  “Believe me, the first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive.  The fate of Germany will depend on it.  For the Allies, as well as for us, this will be the longest day.”


The town of Arromanches was chosen by Winston Churchill as the location of a harbor to be built for the invasion.  To build it, 300 foot long cement blocks were floated across the English Channel and sunk in place.  Named Port Winston, this harbor and breakwater was over 7 miles long, and allowed the arrival of over 50,000 vehicles and 500,000 troops in just 6 days time.  Today you can see the remains of the harbor from the beach, or get a better view from the bluffs above.  The Musée du Débarquement shows models of the harbor and short films about the D-day landings.  It is open in the summer months from 9:00 AM until 7:00 PM, (shorter hours in off season, closed in January). 


The Beaches

Located near the town of Bayeux is the entire 75 mile stretch of beaches where the allies landed on D-Day, June 6, 1944.  The beaches were given code names by the allies in preparation for the attack.   On June 6 between 6:30 and 7:30 AM some 135,000 troops and 20,000 vehicles landed here.  From west to east are Utah and Omaha (where the Americans landed), Juno (where the Canadians landed), Gold and Sword (where the British landed).  The beaches can be viewed from the bluffs above, or in some locations you can walk the sands themselves.  (One foot path leads down from the American Cemetery to Omaha Beach.)  Pocking the hillsides are remnants of concrete German gun bunkers.


Pegasus Bridge

The eastern flank of the invasion was at the Orne River.  The Allies realized that bridges would be vital to moving troops and machinery inland, so saving bridges from destruction was a priority.  In the early hours of June 6th the British Parachute Brigade reached this bridge.  It is considered the first bridge and (a café next to it) the first building to be liberated.  The old iron bridge was moved in 1993 to a nearby park, which includes a small D-Day museum.  The café is still in operation, and a popular stop.

Caen D-Day Museum and Memorial

In the town of Caen you will find Le Memorial.  This peace memorial is considered one of the best World War II museums in Europe.  The museum exhibits are divided into four sections; The time leading up to the war, the Battle of Normandy, Videos about the war, and ongoing peace efforts.  You should plan to dedicate about 3 hours at the museum if you wish to see everything including the three films.   The museum is open in the summer from 9:00 AM until 7:00 PM, shorter in off season. 


Pointe du Hoc

Pointe du Hoc is an area that sits about 200 feet above the sea on high cliffs.  The Germans posted long range guns on this naturally protected site to knock out approaching ships. The Allies knew they must overtake and secure the area so that the other landings could be successful.  Well before dawn on June 6th 1944 about 200 U.S. rangers scaled the cliffs as German forces fired down upon them.   After great losses suffered reaching the top and securing the area, it was discovered that the large guns once here had been moved to the north near Calais.  Today it is a great place to start a tour of D-Day sights since it has been left in its condition from that day.  You can walk amid bob craters pocking the white cliffs, go through semi-ruined German bunkers and twisted barbwire fences.  Most of us cannot fully imagine the events of that day, but this sight can give you a glimpse into the massive destruction of the war.


Day Trip from Paris- Join an organized day trip from Paris to visit Normandy and the D-day beaches.  More


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