D-Day Beaches of World War II
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On June 6 1944, the invasion of Europe by the Americans, British and Canadians was initiated. It started on the D-Day beaches in Normandy. This remarkably large invasion of France would ultimately end World War II. In this region, you can still see countless remnants of this turning point in history. Nowadays, beaches, cemeteries, bunkers, numerous museums, and surrounding villages are popular. These are the highlights of the D-Day beaches and the surrounding area. In this article, you will also find some unique excursions to do.
The Battle of Normandy is also known as D-Day. It was the most important military operation during World War II. The invasion of occupied Europe began on June 6, 1944. This happened in various ways, including the largest amphibious landing in our history. Involving about 185,000 soldiers and thousands of vehicles. However, the success of the amphibious landing relied in large part on paratroopers. A total of about 20,000 paratroopers were dropped to capture some important points behind the coastal defence, primarily bridges and roads. This prevented the Germans from launching a large-scale counterattack.
The main goal of Operation Overlord on D-Day was to capture a seaport. In this case the port of the city of Cherbourg. This city is located at the end of the Cotentin Peninsula. The harbour could then be used to bring in troops and supplies. Despite the heavy losses suffered by the Allied forces, they managed to establish a foothold on the land. The success of the operation ultimately led to the defeat of Nazi Germany. Bringing an end to the war in Europe.
There are remarkably many memories visible of this past. I have been to this part of Normandy twice and have not been able to visit everything. There were five important landing beaches on which the Allied troops focused on D-Day. You will find most attractions on and near these beaches. I have made a selection because otherwise, it is too much to mention.
This is personally one of my favourite ways to explore this area. In an authentic Willys jeep with a guide. You can discover the D-Day beaches and the countryside. There are specific tours at various locations where you will be driven around by a local guide. He (or she) will tell you about the rich history of this part of France. Giving you a good understanding of the invasion that changed the Second World War. I have done it and found it fascinating.
Read my article about D-Day Beach Jeep Tour
Omaha Beach was the most western of the five landing beaches and was assigned to the American army. The beach and the dunes behind it were heavily fortified and defended by German troops. As a result, it was one of the most difficult objectives of the operation. American troops faced intense rifle fire and suffered significant losses. They persevered and ultimately succeeded in securing the beachhead. There are still numerous remains that you can visit.
Read my article about Omaha Beach
Gold Beach was one of the five key D-Day beaches during World War II. A complete harbour was built in the sea just off the landing beach. In just 100 days, 220,000 soldiers, 530,000 tons of supplies, and 39,000 vehicles were brought ashore. At this beach, you can still see numerous remains of the harbour. A large part of it is still there and can be visited.
Read my article about Gold Beach
Utah Beach was one of the five landing zones for the Allied forces during World War II. It was a relatively less defended area and the American troops were able to quickly gain a foothold. Due to this breach in the German defence, the troops were able to advance towards the strategic town of Sainte-Mère-Église. You can still see various points of interest when visiting Utah Beach.
Read my article about Utah Beach
There are two towns heavily linked to D-Day: Arromanches and Sainte-Mère-Église. Arromanches is known for its role during the Allied invasion on D-Day in 1944. It is beautifully situated on Gold Beach, so you can easily go for a walk from the town centre. This town is a delightful place to spend the night. You will also find various restaurants and bars and a supermarket.
Juno Beach, which is lesser known to us, was one of the beaches where the Canadians landed. That's why you'll also find the Juno Beach Centre. This is a museum and memorial site that tells the story of Canadian soldiers and their role during the Second World War. The Canadian cemetery in Bény-sur-Mer is located near Juno Beach. More than 2,000 Canadian soldiers are buried at this cemetary.
Juno Beach Park is a public park along the coastline of Juno Beach. It offers a beautiful view of the beach. You can also find various monuments there in honour of the Canadian soldiers. While walking along the beach, you will still see some German artillery bunkers. You can find Juno Beach near the village of Courseulles-sur-Mer.
This was the most easterly invasion beach used by the Allies. It was successfully besieged by the British. At the Musée du Mur de l'Atlantique, you can see how the Atlantic Wall defence line functioned and was eventually destroyed. The Mémorial Pegasus is a museum about the famous Pegasus Bridge, which was taken by the British after heavy fighting. This hindered the supply of German reinforcements. The nearby Batterie de Merville was attacked by British paratroopers. The museum shows how this happened. Sword Beach is located near Ouistreham and Caen.
When you enter the town of Sainte-Mère-Église, you will see a paratrooper hanging from the church tower. It is a reminder of the many paratroopers who landed in the area. One of them actually got stuck on the tower but was quickly rescued. The town is a base for many people visiting the beaches, various museums, and beautiful chalk cliffs.
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