Normany Beaches - D-Day - Changed the Course of History
"June 6, 1944 at 0016 Hours (12:16 AM) the Horsa British glider carrying 25 paratroopers, crash-landed near the
Caen Canal in Northern France."
By: Tom Ellerbe
June 6, 1944 at 0016 Hours (12:16 AM) the Horsa British glider carrying 25 paratroopers, crash-landed near the Caen
Canal in Northern France. During early morning hours, three Allied airborne divisions-U.S. 82nd and 101st along
with the British 6th landed behind targeted French beaches. This was the beginning of D-Day...a day that would
change the course of history forever.
The landing areas extended from the small villages of Quinneville to Ouistreham (over 50 miles). The Americans were
at (Code names for the landing beaches) "Utah and Omaha" and the British landed at "Gold and Sword". The Canadian
troops landed at "Juno" beach. The operation was planned in 1943 and code named "Overlord". The Germans expected
the landing to be further north, but Allies chose to come ashore in the Bay of Seine. The area was less fortified
than the shores of Pas-de-Calais and gave Allies the element of surprise.
Between 0630 and 0730 hours, 135,000 men and 20,000 vehicles landed into cold, rough waters along the five beaches.
The difficult objectives for the D-Day operation were not achieved but the overall mission was a success. The
American forces displayed magnificent courage fighting impossible odds on "Omaha Beach". The pre-dawn bombing of
German emplacements was a failure as the Nazi machine guns pinned the Americans against the sea. This was the most
difficult and costly landing of all the beaches. Casualties and sacrifices were extremely high and for a time the
mission hung in the balance until they were able to link up and face German counter attacks. It was on these harsh,
windy beaches, at the start of dawn, June 6, 1944, when Allied forces finally secured a scrape of land in France
which led to the defeat of German forces in Nazi Europe in 1945.
The Atlantic coast expands over 75 miles from Ste Marie-du-Mont to Ouistreham. The historic D-Day invasion sites
are covered with WWII monuments, museums, cemeteries and battle remnants left by the brave and gallant armies of
the American, British and Canadians.
Many original German fortified bunkers remain intact along these famous beach landing sites. The design and
fortification of these emplacements took place over a three year span prior to the actual invasion. The most
elaborate (5 level) bunker is located near the village of Ouistreham which is just outside of Caen.
Memorials pay tribute and honor to Allied forces as they brought freedom to Europe. One of the best and most
significant is the "Le Memorial de Caen". Caen dedicated a large piece of land and very impressive architectural
structure to house these special artifacts of World War II history.
A British Fighter Bomber "Typhoon" mounted above the entrance greets visitors as they enter "Le Memorial". The
museum is brilliant, well displayed and a real tribute to the sacrifices by so many. Two powerful movies are shown
and most of the footage is of actual battle scenes. The French company that produced these films did a fabulous
The displays bring the memories of this important place in history to you in a very compelling way. A wedding dress
mounted on a manikin with the inscription: "This dress was made from a parachute used during the landing, by a
The finale is a walk through the US Armed Forces Memorial Garden. Written on the pavement: "From the heart of our
land flows the blood of our youth, given to you in the name of freedom."
The American Cemetery and Memorial located at Vierville-sur-Mer, overlooking "Omaha Beach", the site of the
over-whelming challenge the American forces faced. Many young US soldiers were shoulder to shoulder in these
flat-bottom boats, weighed down with wet, heavy packs and guns. The doors opened and they ran for their lives under
extremely heavy machine gun and artillery fire. From high above the beaches. Twelve hundred brave and dedicated
American soldiers died on this beach the first day alone.
There are 10 sections of grave sites divided alphabetically as one can search on a computer and find their loved
one and know exactly which area to search as our men and women lie beneath precisely aligned headstones of white
lasa marble, Latin crosses and Stars of David. Trees, shrubs and roses highlight the grave plots. Beds of
polyanthus roses trim the garden of the missing, while a variety of trees grace the lawn areas.
Cemetery data and information
Dimensions--172.5 acres... Headstones--9,387
Latin Crosses--9,238... Stars of David--149
Missing in Action--1,557...Medal of Honor Recipients: 3
Sets of brothers--38...Dedicated--July 18, 1956
Note: The Normandy American Cemetery is one of the 14 permanent American World War II military cemeteries on
foreign soil. The government of France granted use of this land, as a permanent burial ground without charge or
In view of all the problems in our world today, the lead up to and outcome of World War II can certainly leave
questions in one's mind. "Can history ever repeat itself?"
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