D-Day Landing Beaches *

D-Day Landing Beaches

Introduction

D-Day took place on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 and was the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II. Today, the sites are a key visitor attraction for those wanting to pay their respects.

The events began the liberation of German-occupied France from Nazi control and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front. D-Day was a pivotal point during Operation Overlord (the codename for the Battle of Normandy) and changed the history of Europe.

Five strategic beachheads were established in Normandy across an 50 mile (80km) stretch of coastline. The five sectors were codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Utah and Omaha were under American leadership, Canadian forces tacked Juno while British troops landed at Gold and Sword. There’s more information here.

D-Day Landing Beaches

1. Utah Beach and Sainte-Mère-Église

Utah Beach
One of the memorials at Utah Beach

American troops landed at Utah Beach; the most westerly of the five beaches. The beach stretches from Sainte-Marie-du Mont in the south to Quinéville further north. The seaborne troops landed south of their intended target and met with very little resistance. There are various sculptures and memorials together with the D-Day Landing Museum (Musée du Débarquement Utah Beach) in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. Other museums in the area include the D-Day Experience, Dead Man’s Corner Museum, the Normandy Victory Museum and the WW2 Museum at Quinéville. There are also two museums in Sainte-Mère-Église – the Airborne Museum and the Open Air Museum which is a self guided tour. The church at Sainte-Mère-Église and an effigy of John Steele dangling perilously from the steeple honour the airborne troops. Don’t miss the stained glass windows in the church. German batteries in the area include the Azeville Gun Battery, Marcouf 44 Command Post and Crisbecq Gun Battery Museum.

Other sites include the US Assualt Landing Craft (Higgins boat) at Carentan, 1944 Historic Tour of Carentan, Écausseville Airship Hanger, the Fort of Tatihou and the German military cemetery at Orglandes. More information is available on the Utah Beach page.


D-Day Landing Beaches

2. Omaha Beach

Les Braves on Omaha Beach
Les Braves sculpture on the beach at St-Laurent-sur-Mer

The villages of Colleville-sur-Mer, Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer and Vierville-sur-Mer are the locations for the majority of the Omaha Beach sites. The Omaha D-Day Museum (Musée D-Day Omaha) is at Vierville-sur-Mer. There are more museums in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer; Liberation House and Omaha Beach Memorial Museum (Musée Memorial d’Omaha Beach). Les Braves sculpture and memorial can be found on the beach. In Colleville-sur-Mer are the Overlord Museum Omaha Beach and the Big Red One Assault Museum. The most poignant site is the Normandy American Cemetery and Visitor Centre where over 10,000 soldiers are honoured.

Further along the coast at Grandcamp-Maisy you will find the Peace Statue and the Maisy Gun Battery. La Pointe du Hoc is to the west of Omaha and a strategic point between Omaha and Utah Beaches. You can visit La Pointe du Hoc site and the Visitor Centre that tells the stories of the heroes who fought here. Inland is La Cambe German military cemetery. The Omaha Beach page is here.


D-Day Landing Beaches

3. Gold Beach

Gold Beach

The Gold Beach sector stretches east of the port of Arromanches and includes the villages of Asnelles and Ver-sur-Mer. Action was deliberately avoided in Arromanches on D-Day so it could be kept clear for the floating pre-fabricated Mulberry Harbour that was put in place after the invasion. There are three key sites in Arromanches; the 360 circular cinema, the Landings Museum (Musée du Débarquement) and the D-Day Garden. At Longues-sur-Mer is a wonderful example of a battery. The America Gold Beach Museum (Musée America-Gold Beach) is in Ver-sur-Mer. Over 600 commonwealth graves are in the Ryes Cemetery in Bazenville. There’s more information on the Gold Beach page.


D-Day Landing Beaches

4. Juno Beach

Juno Beach

The beach covered the area from Courseulles, Bernières and Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer. Juno is located between the British beaches of Gold and Sword.The landings at Juno Beach were under Canadian leadership. One of the key sites is the Juno Beach Centre at Courseulles-sur-Mer.  The contemporary museum pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during WW2. Over 2000 Canadian troops are buried at the Bény-sur-Mer cemetery. Here is the Juno Beach page.


D-Day Landing Beaches

5. Sword Beach

Sword Beach

Sword Beach is the most easterly of the D-Day beaches stretching west from Caen’s ferry port of Ouistreham. The original D-Day plan was not intended to extend this far east and was due to end at Courseulles-sur-Mer. However, the British and American military commanders, Montgomery and Eisenhower, insisted on the front going east as far as the Orne Estuary.

Caen Ouistreham is home to the No. 4 Commando Museum and the
Atlantic Wall Museum. There are also a number of memorials to British troops along the coast west of Ouistreham. Further inland is Hillman Strongpoint at Colleville-Montgomery. The Merville Gun Battery Museum is in Merville-Franceville while the 1944 Radar Museum is in Douvres-La-Déliverande. In Ranville you can visit Pegasus Bridge and Memorial Museum. There are also Commonwealth war cemeteries at Douvres-La-Déliverande, Hermanville and Ranville. Here is the Sword Beach page.


If you have any questions feel free to get in touch