Normandy Landings, D-Day: June 6, 1944
The Normandy landings (code name Operation Neptune) occurred on Tuesday June 6, 1944. It was on this day that the landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II took place. The landings commenced beginning at 6:30 am British Double Summer Time (GMT+2). In planning, as for most Allied operations, the term D-Day was used for the day of the actual landing, which was dependent on final approval.
There were two phases of the Normandy landings that took place, the first was an airborne assault landing of 24,000 British, American and Canadian airborne troops shortly after midnight, and the second was an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the coast of France starting at 6:30 am. The Normandy landings took place across a 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast and were divided into five separate sectors of beachfront: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. The total number of Allied deaths was said to total around 10,000 soldiers, many are now buried in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France is located to the Northwest of Bayeux on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery. The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial was established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 and served as the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. The cemetery site covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations.
The memorial consists of a semicircular colonnade with a loggia at each end that depict large maps and narratives of the military operations carried out on D-Day. At the center of the Memorial is the bronze statue, “Spirit of American Youth.” An orientation table overlooking the beach depicts the landings in Normandy. Facing west at the memorial, one sees in the foreground the reflecting pool; beyond is the burial area with a circular chapel and, at the far end, granite statues representing the United States and France. Among the dead buried at the Cemetery are Preston Niland and Robert Niland, the brothers depicted in the movie Saving Private Ryan and Theodore Roosevelt Jr, son of President Theodore Roosevelt.
Things to do in Normandy
If you visit Paris and are looking for things to do outside of the city, Normandy offers plenty to see and visit. During our visit we chose to tour Normandy on our own and rented a car. We rented the car from Gare du Nord and then drove along the A13 to Caen. If you do decide on renting a car to visit Normandy we highly recommend you start in Caen. You can quickly visit the Office of Tourism or proceed directly to the World War II museum once you arrive. This is one of the best D-Day and WWII museums in the world and puts you within 15-20 minutes of the five D-Day beach landing sectors. Due to the convenient location of Caen to the D-Day beaches, the Museum provides tours as part of a combined tour package of the museum and a tour of the beaches.
Once you have finished the tour of the WWII Museum, you can continue driving along the N13 and continue past Bayeux to Saint Laurent sur Mer. This small village is only minutes from the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. This site will around half a day to visit walk through. There are steps that will take you to the Omaha Beach where you can spend some time if the weather permits strolling along the coast.
After visiting the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial you can continue along the coast and drive towards Caen. The D514 will bring you through many picturesque towns until you reach Arromanches les Bains. This was the final stop of our journey as it provided us the opportunity to see the Mulberry harbors, setup shortly after D-Day to hasten the deployment of troops into France. This town is also a great place to stop for dinner after a long day of touring.
Planning a visit to Normandy during your stay in Paris? Here’s the info you’ll need:
THE MÉMORIAL DE CAEN MUSEUM
Esplanade Général Eisenhower
BP 55026 – 14050 Caen cedex 4
Phone : +33 (0)2 31 06 06 45
Fax : +33 (0)2 31 06 01 66
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
14710 Colleville-sur-Mer, France
Phone: +33 2 31 51 62 00