D-Day beaches

The D-Day Beaches are in the Calvados department of Normandy, France. They were the landing places for the Allied invasion of western Europe during World War II.

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Site de Bernières-sur-Mer

This pretty seaside village is distinguished by its church with a 13th century bell tower and 67 m (220 ft) spire. La Maison Queen's Own Rifles of Canada commemorates the men of this regiment. The house is one the famous houses on the beach as it appeared in many newsreels and official photos. Memorials to the Queen's Own Rifles, Le Regiment de la Chaudière, and Fort Garry Horse are by a German bunker at La Place du Canada. There is an excellent view of the beach from the bunker position and you can imagine what it must have been like when 800 men of the Queens's Own Rifles stormed ashore here as the lead wave of the dramatic D-Day assault. There are also the North Nova Scotia Highlanders plaque and Journalists HQ plaque. There is a walkway on the seawall that makes for a pleasant stroll along the ocean. If you walk east along the seawall about ½ km, you can see the house that appears in the background on the famous film footage showing the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada storming the beach on D-Day.

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Site de Courseulles-sur-Mer

In the Courseulles-sur-Mer town centre, on the sea front there is a Sherman Duplex Drive (DD) tank on display. These tanks were partly amphibious, capable of swimming ashore from their landing craft; the soldiers interpreted "DD" as "Donald Duck". These were one of several types of unusual armour developed specifically for the Normandy landings, used by all the Allies, and known as "Hobart's funnies" after the British general in charge of their design. This particular tank was recovered in 1970 from the sea and restored. Badges of regimental units who fought in the area are welded to it. Monuments in the area include the Royal Winnipeg Rifles monument, Regina Rifles Regiment stele, Canadian Scottish Regiment stele, Royal Engineers plaque, and the Liberation and De Gaulle monument. The Croix de Lorraine monument commemorates the return of General de Gaulle to France.

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La Pointe du Hoc

A rocky headland towering over the beaches, La Pointe du Hoc has become a symbol of the courage of American troops. Here, Germans had placed bunkers and artillery. The positions were bombed, shelled and then attacked by 225 US Rangers, who scaled the 35 m rock wall, besieged the bunkers, and finally took them, only to find there were no guns at all. The guns had been dismantled and hidden in an orchard inland. Only 90 rangers were still standing at the summit. Today, bomb and shell craters remain. There is a monument in memory of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, who assaulted and captured La Pointe du Hoc battery. The memorial is built on a control firing casemate where bodies of the soldiers still lie under the ruins.

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Centre Juno Beach

The Juno Beach Centre presents Canada's role in military operations and the war effort on the home front in World War II. Film, audio and displays bring pre-war and wartime Canada alive, as well as covering the fighting experiences. Juno Park at the front of the centre has walkways with interpretation panels, a preserved German bunker, and a path leading to the beach. There is little development here, so nothing interrupts your contemplation of beach and ocean. You can imagine the sands littered with mines-on-sticks, spiky metal “hedgehogs”, barbed wire and other barbarisms intended to rip the heart out of landing craft and the 14,000 Canadians that landed in this area.

Site de Vierville-sur-Mer

Monuments here include the 29th US Infantry Division stele, National Guard monument, 6th Engineer Special Brigade stele, 29th DI Engineer plate, 81st CM battalion, and 110th FA bat. Plates, 5th Rangers Battalion plate, 58th Armored Field Battalion stele, boundary marker in memory of the 58th Artillery Battalion. Along the coastal road, 500 m from Les Moulins, is a monument on the site of the first American cemetery in Normandy on Omaha Beach. The soldiers interred there were later moved to the military cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. The beach's desolation makes it a powerful site to imagine soldiers battling on the sand, completely vulnerable to German artillery.

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Musée Memorial de la Bataille de Normandie

This museum offers a chronological presentation of the events of the Battle of Normandy along with an exhibition of equipment, small arms, weapons and uniforms, films, mementos and slides. English and French. Outside: German "Marder" anti-tank vehicle, Sherman Tank, American tank destroyer, and a British "crocodile" flame-throwing tank. Inside: American self-propelled 105 mm howitzer, Radio truck, armored bulldozer, American quad-50 caliber anti-aircraft gun (aka "meat chopper"), and several other large weapons. One of the best D-Day museums to offer a balance of artifacts on the one hand together with explanations and historical context on the other.

Musée des Batteries de Maisy

This outdoor German group of artillery batteries and HQ has been preserved and is camouflaged in over 14 hectares of land close to Grandcamp Maisy. The site covered the Omaha Sector and opened fire at Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc on the morning of D-day. The US 5th and 2nd Rangers attacked the site on 9 June 1944 and after heavy fighting they captured the position. It is the largest German position in the invasion area and has original field guns, Landing craft and other D-day objects on display. American Rangers monument is on the site.

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Ste Mère-Eglise

Sainte-Mère-Église is perhaps the most famous "D-day village" of all. Street panels around Ste Mère-Eglise explain the operations of the US paratroopers. In the square, a parachute effigy still dangles from the church, commemorating what happened to John Steele when his parachute snagged on the spire. Inside the church is a stained glass window featuring the Virgin and child, surrounded by paratroopers. Monuments in the area include the 82nd Airborne plate, 505th Parachute regiment stele, and Sainte-Mère-Église liberators stele.

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Site D’Ouistreham

This beautiful seaside resort town has a legacy of fortifications, memorials, museums and military cemeteries, that stand at ease between beach hotels, fine stretches of sand, breezy cliffs and postcard-picturesque fishing harbours. There are several monuments in the town including the Free French monument, Royal Navy and Royal Marines monument, 13th/18th Royal Hussars monument, and N°4 Commando plaques. The Kieffer monument stands atop a German bunker and is named for the Commando Lieutenant who led the attack that took it.

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Normandy American Cemetery

Overlooking Omaha Beach, this 172.5 acre (70 hectare) cemetery contains the graves of 9,387 American soldiers. The rows of perfectly aligned headstones against the immaculate, emerald green lawn convey an unforgettable feeling of peace and tranquility. The beaches can be viewed from the bluffs above, and there is a path down to the beach. On the Walls of the Missing in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.

SEE   —  +33 2 31 51 62 00 —  Map

Musée du Débarquement

In front of the actual vestiges of the Mulberries, this museum is devoted to the incredible feat of technology achieved by the British in building and setting up the artificial harbour. Period newsreel movies in English and French. Impressive dynamic scale-models showing how the floating docks rolled with the waves and tides. A 75-foot section of Mulberry floating bridge on display outside. Military equipment is on display outside, including an American half-track and a Higgins boat.

Musée Airborne

The story of D-Day is told in pictures and mementos of the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. On display is a Douglas C-47, a Waco glider, a Sherman tank, several artillery pieces, vehicles, equipment, many small arms, uniforms and historic objects. Film. One of the best D-Day museums to strike a balance between an extensive collection of artifacts together with explanations and context.

Batterie d’Azeville

Near Ste Mère-Eglise, the Azeville Battery consisted of a dozen casemates, including four blockhouses with 105mm heavy guns, 350 m of underground tunnels, underground rooms and ammunition storage. The position was held by 170 German gunners. Guided tours of the Azeville battery offers insight into the German coastal defenses and the battle that took place here.

Bayeux War Cemetery

The largest British cemetery of the Second World War in France, containing the graves of over 4,400 Commonwealth soldiers, mostly British, and 500 others, mostly German. The Bayeux Memorial stands opposite the cemetery and bears the names of 1,808 Commonwealth soldiers who have no known grave. The cemetery is about a 15-minute walk from Bayeux train station.

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Mulberry harbour

At Arromanches, you’re looking down a stretch of Gold Beach and site of the Mulberry harbour. The invasion needed a port to bring in supplies on a huge scale. So the allies built concrete pontoons that were towed across the channel and sunk to form the port’s outer perimeter. Twenty of the original 115 pontoons still defy the waves.

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1st Infantry Division Monument

A monument dedicated to the “Big Red One”, the US 1st Infantry Division, is on the sea front, within walking distance from the American cemetery. Other monuments in the area include the 5th Engineer Special Brigade Memorial, and plaques commemorating the American armoured vehicles that passed through here.

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Musée Memorial d’Omaha Beach

This museum has a fine collection of uniforms, weapons, personal objects and vehicles. Dioramas, photos, and maps together with a film featuring veterans’ testimonies explain the landings at Omaha Beach and at Pointe du Hoc. A landing ship, Sherman tank and "Long Tom" 155 mm gun are on display outside.

Mémorial Pégasus

The capture of Pegasus Bridge was a remarkable achievement of the Glider Pilot regiment and the Sixth British Airborne. The story is well covered in the museum where exhibits include the original Pégasus Bridge and a Horsa Glider. Several monuments to the Sixth British Airborne are beside the bridge.

Site D’Hermanville

Monuments in the area include 3rd Infantry Division and South Lancashire monument, Royal Artillery monument, Allied headquarters and Field hospital plaques, and Allied Navy sailors monument. The British Cemetery Hermanville-sur-Mer, where 1,003 soldiers rest is close to Hermanville-sur-Mer.

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Batterie de Longues

The Longues-sur-Mer battery housed four 150mm guns with a range of 20 km and gave the Allied ships a pounding on the morning of 6 June. It is the only coastal battery to have kept its guns, giving an impressive picture of what an Atlantic Wall gun emplacement was really like.

Musée Memorial du General de Gaulle

In the former Governor's House, this museum is dedicated to the numerous visits made by the general to Bayeux and in particular, the two important speeches delivered on 14 June 1944 and 16 June 1946. Film archives, photos, manuscripts, documents and memorabilia.

Site de Langrune-sur-Mer

In the town center, on the sea front is the 48th Royal Marine Commando monument. In the entrance hall of the city hall there is a plaque in memory of the friendship between the 48th Royal Marines Commando veterans and the citizens of Langrune-sur-Mer.

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Ranville War Cemetery

This cemetery has mainly men of the British 6th Airborne Division who made parachute and glider landings in the area on D-Day. There are 2,235 Commonwealth graves (the division had a Canadian battalion), plus 330 German and a few others.

Site de Colleville-Montgomery

A plaque is located on the Hillman Battery main blockhouse in memory of the 1st Battalion the Suffolk Regiment soldiers. There is also a General Montgomery statue and the Provisional Cemetery, Kieffer and Montgomery monument.

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Musée de la Batterie de Crisbeq

The Crisbeq Gun Battery was one of the largest German coastal artillery batteries located on Utah Beach. There are 21 blockhouses linked by more than 1 km of trenches and restored recreation rooms, hospital, and kitchens.

La Cambe German War Cemetery

This site has the graves of 23,400 German soldiers, most of whom fell in the Normandy campaign. See also the [http://www.volksbund.de/kriegsgraeberstaette/la-cambe.html German government site] if you read German.

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Grainville-Langannerie Polish Cemetery

This is the only Polish war cemetery in France. It has the graves of 696 soldiers from the Polish armoured division who fought alongside the Canadians in Normandy; most fell in the fight around the Falaise Gap.

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Orglandes German War Cemetery

This cemetery has just over 10,000 German graves, including many who fell in the defense of the Cotentin Peninsula. [http://www.volksbund.de/kriegsgraeberstaette/orglandesmanche.html German government site]

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Dead Man's Corner Museum

At the point where the 101st Airborne Division encountered the Green Devils (the German paratroopers) you can get an insight into the battle for Carentan on the site which has remained largely intact.

Site de Graye-sur-Mer

Monuments include the Liberation monument , Churchill "One Charlie" tank, breakthrough plaque, Royal Winnipeg Rifles, and 1st Canadian Scottish plaque, Canadian plaque, and Inns of Court monument.

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Site de Port-en-Bessin

A monument in memory of the 47th Royal Marine Commando soldiers who were killed during the liberation of Port-en-Bessin and Asnelles is on top of the cliff, on the west side of the harbor.

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Site de Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer

A 50-mm gun casement has been preserved at Place du Canada. There are stone memorials to the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment, Fort Garry Horse, and 48th Royal Marine Commando here.

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Musée du Mur de L’Atlantique

In a former artillery range-finding post on the Atlantic Wall, this 17 m high concrete tower is the only one of its kind and has been restored and re-equipped to its original state.

Beny-sur-mer Canadian War Cemetery

Just over 2,000 Canadians are buried here; nearly all of them fell during the landings or shortly after. The cemetery is near the village of Reviers, about 18 km east of Bayeux.

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Musée des Rangers – Batterie de Maisy

This museum recalls the history of the American Ranger unit that assaulted Pointe du Hoc on D-Day. Uniforms and equipment displays relive the actions of the American Rangers.

SEE   —  +33 2 31 92 33 51 —  Map

Musée des épaves sous-marines

This museum presents recovered wrecks and artifacts from more than twenty-five years of under-water exploration, in the coastal landing area. Debris includes a Sherman tank.

Monuments located by the Utah Beach Museum

American Soldier's Monument, 4th Infantry Division Monument, 90th Infantry Division Monument, VIIth Corps headquarters plaque, Coast Guard plaque, and US Navy plaque.

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Musée du Débarquement

This museum uses film, documents and models to recall D-Day in a unique and innovative manner. Several armored vehicles, equipment and a landing ship are on display.

Musée America Gold Beach

This museum recounts the 1st airmail flight between the USA and France, together with a retrospective of the D-Day Landing and the British beachhead on Gold Beach.

Arromanches 360

The film ''The Price Of Freedom'' impressively mixes archived film from June 1944 with present day pictures and is presented on 9 screens in a circular theater.

Saint Manvieu War Cemetery

This cemetery has 1,627 Commonwealth graves and 555 German. It is near the airport at Carpiquet and has mainly men who fell in the fierce battles over that.

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Musée Du Radar

On the site of a German fortified radar base, the museum explains the evolution and operation of radar. Outside one can observe a German radar Würzburg.

Musée Nr 4 Commando

In this museum one can see scale models, weapons, and uniforms to retrace the story of the Franco-British Commandos who landed on Sword Beach.

Musée D-Day Omaha

Devoted to the landing on Omaha Beach. Various equipment is displayed including: vehicles, weapons, radios, and engineer equipment.

Site de Lion-sur-Mer

Monuments include the Liberation monument, Royal Engineers Corps monument, and 41st Royal Marine Commando stele.

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Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery

This cemetery is near Falaise and has 2871 Canadians, most of whom fell in the fight to close the Falaise Gap.

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Banneviile-la-Campagne War Cemetery

This cemetery has 2,170 Commonwealth dead and five Poles. Most fell after the capture of Caen in mid-July.

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Hermanville War Cemetery

This cemetery has 1,003 graves, mainly of British troops who fell in the first few days of the invasion.

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Memorial de la Liberté Retrouvée

This museum recalls the French peoples daily life during the German occupation until the liberation.

Musée de la Batterie de Merville

The museum retraces the operations of the British Sixth Airborne.

Utah Beach

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Gold Beach

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Sword Beach

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Juno Beach

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Omaha Beach

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About D-Day beaches

See World War II in Europe for context.
On 6 June 1944 (D-Day), the long-awaited invasion of Northwest Europe (Operation Overlord) began with Allied landings on the coast of Normandy (Operation Neptune).
American troops going in<br/>The high ground visible here made the landing on Omaha Beach especially difficult
American troops going in<br/>The high ground visible here made the landing on Omaha Beach especially difficult
The task was formidable, for the Germans had turned the coastline into an interlinked series of strongpoints with artillery, machine guns, pillboxes, barbed wire, land mines, and beach obstacles. Germany had 50 divisions in northern France and the low countries, including at least a dozen in position to immediately be used against this invasion.

Following an extensive air and sea bombardment of the assault areas, the Allies launched a simultaneous landing of U.S., British and Canadian forces. About 160,000 ground troops landed that day, roughly half American and half Commonwealth. About 4,000 ships, almost 200,000 sailors, 11,000 planes and many airmen also took part in the operation.

Overall commander of Allied forces in Europe was the American General Eisenhower while the British General Montgomery was in charge of the ground forces once they landed. On the German side, Rommel was in charge of coastal defenses while von Rundstedt had overall command in the region.

This was the largest seaborne invasion in history and an important Allied victory, though the costs in both lives and material were enormous.

Source: wikivoyage