Between Ouistreham and Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, a few hundred kilometers of coastline, now magnificently blue and calm, where hiking, kitesurfing, fishing and sand yachting are practiced, recall the Second World War, and more specifically on the morning of June 6, 1944, when the Allied Landing gathered nearly 150,000 soldiers, most of whom lost their lives, in a furious battle for Freedom…
Five Beaches in homage to Peace…
Located in the departments of Calvados and Manche, in Normandy, the Landing Beaches, now peaceful but on which several thousand men have unfortunately lost their lives, conceal memories of war…
Utah Beach, from Sainte-Marie-du-Mont to Quinéville.
At the first light of day on June 6, 1944, American paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division seized Sainte-Mère-Eglise, the first liberated French town, and secured the Utah Beach bridgehead. Moreover, from the mouth of the Seine to the Cotentin, thousands of ships and tanks rushed towards the Normandy coast, while Allied planes bombed the German fortified shelters: from then on, the fire was really open!
To see absolutely in the vicinity: the bell tower of Sainte-Mère-Eglise, the batteries of Crisbecq and Azeville, the Airborne Museum, the Landing Museum (witness accounts, vehicles including the B26 Marauder bomber, etc.), The D-Day Experience (flight simulator aboard a C47), the Cotentin farm museum (4 centuries dedicated to rural and agricultural existence in Normandy), as well as the island and the fort of Tatihou.
Omaha Beach, from Vierville to Colleville-sur-Mer.
On this other beach of the American army, this same morning, the situation turns out to be arduous: the first wave of assault is quickly eliminated: the beach is strewn with corpses, blood mixing with the foam and equipment damaged. However, a final troop of brave men will succeed in crossing the dunes…
Around noon, the Germans were taken from behind and the battle finally turned in favor of the Allies. A little further west, at the same time, the 2nd Ranger Battalion climbed the cliffs of the famous Pointe du Hoc and destroyed the enemy cannons (a salutary intervention celebrated by the moving film The Longest Day).
To visit in the surroundings: the American cemetery (9,385 graves gathered in a beautiful green setting), the German cemetery, the Overlord Museum (objects and depictions of the main lines of the battle), the Maison de la Liberation and the imposing natural site of Pointe du Hoc.
Gold Beach, from Asnelles to Ver-sur-Mer.
It was the 50th British division which recaptured the town of Bayeux from the Germans on the morning of June 7. In the process, it is also a question of reclaiming Arromanches, in order to build a floating supply port for vehicles, weapons and food, and to link up with the Canadian troops on Juno Beach: in just over three months, nearly 400,000 soldiers and 4 million tons of equipment landed via “Port Winston”.
On site, visit the D-Day Museum, the 360° cinema in Arromanches (20 unseen minutes from the archives), the German battery in Longues-sur-Mer (the only one that has kept its guns), the museum of underwater wrecks, in the historic center of Bayeux and at the Battle of Normandy Memorial.
Juno Beach, from Bernières to Courseulles-sur-Mer.
The 3rd Canadian Division (including 1/5th of Acadians, that is to say of French descendants), which arrives from Graye-sur-Mer, having suffered 50% losses after only an hour of assault, must nevertheless succeed in joining the coastal defense already in place before sinking into the Normandy hinterland to establish a junction with the military troops of the beaches of Gold and Sword.
By dint of courage, she manages to surround the radar camp of Douvres-la-Délivrande and to seize the interior villages of Reviers, Saint-Croix and Bény. After a month, the Canadians will have taken back the RN 13, Carpiquet and Caen from the Germans. It is advisable to stop at the Juno Beach Centre, Juno Park, the Maison des Canadiens and take a look at the permanent exhibition Remem’Bernières.
Sword Beach, from Hermanville-sur-Mer to Colleville-sur-Orne.
On June 5, 1944 around 11 p.m., British gliders set off in the direction of the Bénouville and Ranville bridges. At the same time, the 6th Airborne captured the Merville battery.
For its part, the commando of the French Green Berets advanced towards Ouistreham. To do in the surroundings: the large bunker (a 5-storey blockhouse facing the Atlantic), the “Pegasus Bridge” (the tilting bridge), the Merville educational trail, the British military cemetery and radar station 44.
Stay in Normandy from €80 per night.
Tour from €800 per person.
Departing from Caen station, tours focusing on history and heritage, by mini-bus or by bike, are regularly organized for the day by the Normandy tourist office. In addition, the SNCF offers partner rates for visits to museums… Find out now!
To plan your vacation and find out more about the destination, visit the following sites in particular: