The longest Day
6 June 1944 entered history under the now legendary name of D-Day, the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy. It was the most dramatic part of Operation Overlord, that marked the beginning of the liberation of German-occupied Western Europe.
Four years after the crushing defeat of France, Belgium and the Netherlands in the spring of 1940, the Anglo-American Allies launched Operation Overlord. The aim was to gain a foothold in Western Europe in order to defeat Nazi Germany, along with the Soviet Army on the Eastern front.
Normandy was chosen because of its close proximity to the British coast, thus allowing Allied aircraft to effectively support troops landing during the initial phase of the assault (Operation Neptune).
Above all, the German defences along this stretch of the coastline were less formidable than in the north. The German Command expected the Allies to land where the Channel was at its narrowest. A fleet of over 6.900 vessels was required to land the assault forces of more than 156.000 men on five beaches, that received code names (from west to east) Utah and Omaha (U.S.), Gold (British), Juno (Canadian) and Sword (British). About 24.000 airborne troops were also deployed in order to take control of strategic points and to prevent German attacks on the flanks of the assault forces ashore.
Despite poor weather conditions and fierce resistance from German units the operations were successful. On the evening of 6 June 1944, the Allies had gained a foothold on all five beaches. The German defenders were uncertain how to respond.
D-Day was mostly an Anglo-American effort: British, American and Canadian troops made up most of the numbers, but no less than 17 Allied countries participated on the ground, the sea and in the air. The landings of 6 June 1944 entered history under the now legendary name of D-Day.
The British Airlandings
In the early hours of D-Day, the British 6th Airborne Division was dropped behind the German coastal defences. Its mission was to gain control of the area between the Orne and Dives rivers and to prevent German counter attacks against the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy. Despite difficult conditions, its objectives were already achieved at dawn.
The U.S. Airlandings in Normandy
Shortly after midnight on 6 June 1944, D-Day began with the landing of American and British airborne troops on French soil. Two U.S. Airborne Divisions were tasked to establish a bridgehead in the sector of Sainte-Mère-Église, to back up the landing of the U.S. infantry on Utah Beach.
The D-Day Story
Re-opened in April 2018, the D-Day Story takes the visitors through the build up to the event, D-Day itself and the Battle of Normandy. The story is told through the perspectives of the people involved using objects, interactives and video. The impressive 83-metre long Overlord Embroidery offers a fantastic finale to the visit.
Juno Beach Centre
More than a museum dedicated to the landings on D-Day, the Juno Beach Centre is a place of memory representing a whole nation. It recalls the participation of Canada in the Second World War and its important contribution to the liberation of Western Europe. Canada itself emerged transformed from the conflict.
The Utah Beach D-Day Museum
The Utah Beach Landings Museum is situated on the site of a former German strongpoint that was crushed by the U.S. assault force on Utah Beach in the morning of D-Day, 6 June 1944. Among a lot of war related items, this museum features a rare Martin B 26 ‘Marauder’, an American medium-size bomber.
D-Day Museum Arromanches
The Landing Museum (D-Day Museum) of Arromanches, Normandy explains the technical prowess used in the (pre)fabrication – in Britain – of the artificial port of Arromanches. A model and a film complement the educational presentation, allowing a better understanding of the visible remains that can be seen through a large window overlooking the bay.
Bayeux British Military Cemetery
With nearly 4.000 British soldiers buried here, the Bayeux War Cemetery is the largest British military cemetery of the Second World War in France. The adjacent memorial commemorates the unidentified Commonwealth soldiers who fell during the Battle of Normandy and recalls the close links between Normandy and Britain.
The Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy
The Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy in Bayeux relates how the Allies fought the Germans during the first ten weeks after D-Day. A wide range of vehicles, uniforms and military equipment gives visitors an impression of the everyday life of soldiers and civilians during that crucial period.
Normandy American Cemetery
The impressive American Military Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer contains the remains of 9.387 American soldiers who fell during the Battle of Normandy. The cemetery reflects and honors the sacrifices that the USA made for the liberation of Europe. From this point one can overlook Omaha Beach, the deadliest landing beach of Operation Overlord.
Dutch troops in Normandy
The Royal Netherlands Princess Irene Brigade landed in Arromanches on 8 August 1944. Attached to the 6th British Airborne Division, the Brigade took part in Operation Paddle for the liberation of the Pays d’Auge area starting on 17 August. The Princess Irene Brigade was thus the first Allied unit to liberate Pont-Audemer on 26 August 1944.
Cherbourg and Liberation Museum
During the summer of 1944 Cherbourg was the most important harbour in the world. For the Allies it was the vital gateway to Europe, indispensable for supplying their campaign in Western Europe. Despite fierce German resistance, U.S. troops seized the city on 26 June 1944. The Liberation Museum reminds us of this dramatic episode.
La Cambe German military cemetery
The cemetery of La Cambe is located near Omaha Beach. With around 21.200 graves it is the largest and best known German military cemetery in Normandy. In contrast to the Allied cemeteries, the setting is simple and sober, creating a serenity that urges the living to live in peace.
Mémorial de Caen Museum
One of its kind in France, the Mémorial de Caen Museum gives the public the keys to understanding the Second World War, from its origins after the First World War to its latest consequences in 1989. It prompts the visitor to ask himself questions about this rapidly fading episode that changed the face of Europe and the world.
Two important bridges across the Canal de Caen and the Orne river were the first objectives taken by airborne troops in the Normandy campaign. Just after midnight on 6 June 1944 a small detachment of the 6th British Airborne Division surprised the German garrison guarding the bridges. The Pegasus Memorial recalls their bold action and the commitment of the Division in Normandy.
Merville Battery Museum
Just after midnight on 6 June 1944 a battalion of the 6th British Airborne Division was deployed to destroy the cannon of the German battery in Merville before they could harm the Allied forces landing on Sword Beach. The Franco-British museum located inside the battery highlights the merciless battle fought by the paratroopers.
‘The Grand Bunker’– Atlantikwall Museum
The Atlantic Wall Museum is located inside the former German headquarters acting as fire control for the batteries covering the entrance of the Orne river and the canal connecting Caen to the sea. The 17-meter-high concrete tower has been fully restored to make it look like it was on 6 June 1944. The six floors have been recreated down to the last detail.
Omaha Beach Memorial Museum
The Omaha Beach Memorial Museum was built on the grounds of the American naval landing of June 6, 1944, 200 metres from Obama beach. The museum covers a surface area of 1,200 m² and presents a large collection of uniforms, personal items, weapons and military vehicles. All the exhibits displayed belonged to soldiers of WWII.
D-Day Experience / Dead Man’s Corner Museum
Two museums can be found in Saint-Côme-du-Mont: the D-Day Experience exhibits the American side and Dead Man’s Corner Museum, the German perspective. The museum tells the story of the liberators of Europe through an interactive route with the possibility to take part in virtual experiences and simulations.
Les Braves Omaha Beach Memorial
Les Braves Memorial Monument can be found on the centre of Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. The monument consists of three elements: ‘The of Hope’, ‘Rise, Freedom!’ and ‘The Wings of Fraternity’. An explanation of the monument stands wings on the boulevard of Omaha Beach.
The Allied invasion of Europe started in Normandy on June 6, 1944 with the iconic D-Day invasion. The Battle of Normandy ensued and lasted for almost three months, leaving the countryside completely devastated. Nowadays, you will find in the region
The 1st Polish Armoured Division
The Polish First Armoured Division under command of general Maczek played an important role in the liberation of France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The ‘black division’ was feared by its enemies and brought swift liberation to the occupied nations.
Operation Fortitude South
As D-Day approached, Kent became the stage for one of the War’s greatest deception plans, Operation Fortitude South. In order to mislead the German army and conceal the real location of the Allied invasion of Western Europe, extensive military preparations were made around Dover. But it was all fake.
82nd Airborne Division
From 1943 to 1945, the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division was deployed in all of the important operations in western Europe. It took part in military operations in Italy, France, the Netherlands and Belgium as well as on the territory of the German Reich. After the war it was stationed in Berlin as part of the occupying forces.
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The Red Ball Express
The Red Ball Express was a truck convoy which supplied US forces between August 25th and November 16th 1944, and which contributed enormously to the success of the armies. The convoy was staffed largely by African-American soldiers, who worked tirelessly to supply the front line.
During the Allied invasion of Normandy Arlette Varin, ten years old, lived in the city of Lisieux. On 6 June 1944 she lost a part of her family. During the rest of her life she never blamed the Allied soldiers. She only suffered from guilt that she was the one who survived.
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Atlantic wall in Normandy
Following the invasion of the U.S.S.R. and the entry into the war of the U.S.A. on the British side, German strategy in the West changed from the offensive to the defensive. Hitler agreed to the construction of a fortified line along the western coastline, capable of repulsing any Allied attempt of invasion. Construction work of the Atlantic Wall began in early 1942.