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D-Day Beaches in Normandy France

Updated on July 8, 2015

D-Day Beaches of Normandy

On June 6, 1944, the allied invasion to liberate Europe from the grip of the Nazis was begun on the beaches in Normandy. Military leaders chose this area because it was within air strike distance of Britain and was less heavily defended than other areas of the European coastline.

Recently, I visited the D-day beaches and although I'm not a WWII buff, I found it to be a truly moving experience. I hope this lens will inspire you to visit Normandy's beaches and honor the men that so valiantly fought for our freedom.

A Purple Star Shines on this Lens

Woohoo! This lens was awarded a purple star on November 10, 2009. The giant squid organizers here at Squidoo award purple stars each week to their favorite lenses created by all-star Giant Squids. And to whoever nominated this lens....thank you! To learn more about the Purple Star Program, click here.

D-Day Invasion Map & Plan

Simultaneous allied invasion

To this day, the invasion at Normandy was the single largest amphibious invasion in history with more than 130,000 allied troops landing at the 5 different beach heads (Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword) along the coast.

The allied invasion was a collection of smaller operations involving numerous allied countries. Gold, Sword and Juno beaches were invaded by primarily British and Canadian combat units with some French and Australian men as well. A total of around 83,000 troops were sent to these areas of Normandy.

The U.S. First Army contingent totaled around 73,000 men which included just over 15,000 airborne division personnel. About 34,000 were sent to Omaha beach and 23,000 to Utah beach while Ranger battalions attacked/scaled Pointe du Hoc and parachuters were dropped inland at places like Sainte-Mère-Ãglise.

For more details regarding the invasion plan, please read and visit the Wikipedia article shown below. This map photo was taken at the American cemetery which overlooks Omaha beach.

Utah Beach

Utah Beach Museum and grounds

As you can see from the above map, Utah Beach was the westernmost beach in the allied attack plan. Although strong currents had pushed the 4th infantry division of the U.S. out of their intended landing position, the group had the least number of casualties out of all the beach invasions along the Normandy coast with 197 deaths out of the 23,000 troops that landed. There was little German resistance at the location where they invaded so they were able to quickly move inland unlike Omaha beach.

The museum and visitor center at Utah beach holds many artifacts from WWII and is well worth a visit if time permits.

Pointe Du Hoc

Impossible mission - accomplished with great sacrifice

Although Pointe Du Hoc is shown in the 'Saving Private Ryan' movie, it wasn't until I visited the area that I truly understood the challenges that the U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion faced. German forces had massive concrete guns that were able to fire to both Utah and Omaha beaches from their cliff-top locations. This made it a primary target in the U.S. battle plan. The 2nd Ranger Battalion scaled the 100 foot cliffs using rope ladders while under heavy fire from the enemy and although they accomplished their goal capturing the area for the allieds in a 2 day battle, they paid a heavy price losing nearly 60% of their men.

Today, you can still see the huge bomb craters left behind by allied airplanes dropping so many bombs on the area. In addition, many of the concrete fortifications still remain.

Normandy Beach Poll

Have You Visited The D-Day Beaches in Normandy?

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Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach Museums and Monuments

Visiting Omaha Beach gave me a much clearer understanding of just why so many American lives were lost during the battle for that particular beach. Flanked on both ends by rocky outcrops, the Omaha's white sand beach is gently sloping well out into the water leaving areas quite exposed during low tide. German forces would have had an excellent view from the higher sand dunes and hilltop bunkers above the beach from which to pick off allied forces.

German forces were well-trained and the beach was well defended with not only the Panzer IV turrets, but also by mines and obstacles strategically placed throughout the ocean, beach and sand. Very little went according to plan which led to heavy allied casualties. Ten of the landing craft were swamped with water due to rough seas before even reaching the beach and many of the soldiers suffered from violent fits of seasickness. Of the 16 tanks that landed, only two survived on the beach. Most of the infantry landings were well east of their planned targets complicating matters further. Within the first few hours of the operation, nearly 5,000 American soldiers died. Due to the heroic efforts of small infantry groups, the Allies were able to penetrate German defenses and take the beach on day three of the battle. For more a more detailed description of the invasion, visit the Wikipedia page outlined below.

When visiting Omaha Beach, be sure to stop by one of the two museums that houses artifacts and gives detailed histories of the events on D-Day. We stopped at the one that is about 1 mile inland from the beach and it was quite interesting.

The BEST D-Day Movie Collection

Watch these movies to get some perspective on what the young American and allied men faced when they landed in Normandy France.

American WWII Cemetery in Normandy

Fallen heroes buried where they fought

The U.S. managed cemetery covers 172 acres in a serene setting overlooking Omaha beach and the sea. Over 9,000 American soldiers are marked with white marble crosses and Jewish Star of David pieces placed against the backdrop of immaculately maintained green lawns. Near the entrance to the cemetery, a semi-circular wall displays the names of over 1500 Americans that lost their lives in WWII who could not be identified or located.

It was a truly moving experience that should not be missed during any visit to Normandy. The sheer magnitude of grave markers brought tears to my eyes and sadness to my heart. This is the cemetery featured at the end of the movie 'Saving Private Ryan'. The grounds also include a reflecting pool, memorial candle chapel and bronze statues.

According to the American Battle Monuments Commission, the cemetery is open to the public daily except on December 25 and January 1. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from April 15 to September 15, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year. It is open on host country holidays. When the cemetery is open to the public, staff members are on duty in the Visitor Center to answer questions and escort relatives to grave and memorial sites.

Heroes of Omaha Beach

"I have returned many times to honour the valiant men who died.....every man who set foot on Omaha Beach was a hero."

Quote from General Omar Bradley - US Ground Force Commander in Normandy

Please share your comments about my D-Day lens! Your feedback and ratings are very much appreciated.

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    • SquidooMBA profile image

      SquidooMBA 5 years ago

      Great job on this lens!

    • JK Sterling profile image

      Jim Sterling 6 years ago from Franklin, Tennessee

      Wow, no of course this lens got a purple star. Well done, thank you.

    • squid-pinkchic18 profile image

      squid-pinkchic18 6 years ago

      Great photos! This looks like a great trip. Thanks for sharing this lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Big thumbs up. Great lens. I lens rolled this to my Top Ten Most Epic Movie Ever lens.

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 7 years ago

      D-Day was 66 years ago today. Just seeing it on video is very moving, i can imagine the feeling if you actually are there. So many brave and heroic men that day.

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 8 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Congrats on your Purple Star. :)

    • AlisonMeacham profile image

      AlisonMeacham 8 years ago

      Excellent content and pictures. Squid Angel Blessings to you

    • raegal75 profile image

      raegal75 8 years ago

      Wonderful lens! So much information and amazing pictures. I learned many things I never knew.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 8 years ago

      Beautiful job... this is worthy of LOTD, and I hope it will be one day. I'm bookmarking this to come back to again and again. Thanks for honoring our WWII heroes, and especially for sharing this with All Things Travel.