Travel Europe

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 job.

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 French citizen."

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 taxation.

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?"

Article Source:


Travel France

For more information, visit