A look back at the Normandy landings

When I was a child, my grandparents and I took trips every summer based on the theme of the Second World War. I learned a lot and have very good memories from our historical visits.

The Normandy landings are among the important events that marked the Second World War. In this article, I explain what it is and how to discover its history. 

The Normandy landings

The Normandy landings mark a turning point in the history of the Second World War, with the Allies opposing the Nazi Germany. 

From the night of June 5th to June 6th, 1944, the Americans, Canadians, the British and some French troops landed in Normandy by sea and air in order to liberate German-occupied France. 

During this military operation, 132,000 Allied soldiers landed in Normandy. The majority arrived on five French beaches located between Saint-Martin-de-Varengeville and the north of Caen. These now famous beaches are named: Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach. 

The losses on the Allied side were enormous, but the Normandy landings weakened the German army and precipitated the defeat of Nazi Germany, subsequently helping to liberate France. 

The beaches of the Normandy landings

The Normandy landings are nowadays a reason for people who are curious and passionate about history to visit these beaches and monuments. I recommend that you take two days to visit these beaches as well as the monuments dedicated to the landings. 

Utah Beach

Utah Beach is the only D-Day beach located in the Manche département. It is on this beach that the American troops landed. It is also near this beach that the D-Day Museum is located, which recounts the history of this military operation. 

Omaha Beach

Nicknamed “Bloody Omaha”, this beach is one of the most famous of the D-Day landings, but also one of the bloodiest. It is on this beach that the Americans lost about 4700 soldiers on D-Day (June 6th 1944).

Juno Beach

The Canadians landed on this 8 kilometre long beach in Normandy. They suffered heavy losses on Juno Beach. Today, there are few remnants of this event, like bunkers. I also recommend you to visit the Juno Beach Centre, which was built to honour the help of the Canadian troops during the D-Day invasion, the Battle of Normandy (which followed the D-Day invasion) and during the entire Second World War. 

Sword Beach

This is the only beach where French soldiers landed. There are many important historical sites in the vicinity, such as the Pegasus Bridge, the first bridge liberated after D-Day, and the No. 4 Commando Museum, which is one of the only museums that pays tribute to the French soldiers who took part in the Normandy invasion. 

Gold Beach 

From Arromanches, the city of the D-Day landings, it is possible to visit Gold Beach. Today, this D-Day beach looks like any other beach, except for the presence of commemorative plaques and some monuments. 

The artificial harbour of Arromanches

This is certainly one of the places of the landings that impressed me the most. Arromanches is a key city of the Normandy landings. When the Allies arrived, they took control of the town to set up an artificial harbour which helped transport equipment and supplies to the soldiers. This harbour contributed greatly to the victory of the allies. But above all, the floating port was an amazing technical feat! 

Today, it is possible to see some of the remains of this harbour, some of it was also used to build bridges or roads in the area. Arromanches is also home to a D-Day Museum and Gold Beach. 

Longues-sur-Mer battery, Normandy

The military cemeteries

You can’t go on a vacation to Normandy and leave without visiting the D-Day cemeteries. I find them absolutely magnificent, and full of very strong emotions that impose respect and contemplation. 

The American cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer

This military cemetery in honour of the American soldiers is located next to Omaha Beach. You can admire the large bronze statue of seven metres in the centre of the memorial. 

Bayeux Commonwealth War Cemetery

This is the largest British military cemetery in France. Dedicated to the Second World War, it is located in Bayeux, in the Calvados region, near the Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum. 

The German Military Cemetery

This military cemetery dedicated to the soldiers of the Second World War is over 7 hectares and has 21,222 graves of German soldiers who died during the Battle of Normandy. This cemetery is located in Cambe, in the northwestern part of Calvados. 

The Canadian Military Cemetery

In this cemetery lie the Canadian soldiers who landed on June 6, 1944 in the Juno Beach area and during the Battle of Normandy. This Canadian military cemetery is located in Reviers, Calvados. 

The Caen Memorial

You can’t make a trip on the theme of the Normandy landings without going to Caen. If we do not count Paris, the Caen Memorial is one of the most visited museums in France. It is dedicated to the history of the twentieth century and its wars, with an emphasis on the Second World War and the Cold War. 

Within the museum, some sections are dedicated to the Normandy landings and the Battle of Normandy. The Caen memorial is vast, and allows you to go in depth on the subjects which shaped the history of the XXth century. With videos, explanatory panels, archives and documents and beautiful collections : the visitor leaves with all the answers to his questions. Frankly, I love this museum but every time I visit , I cry because it is very hard to see the horrors of these wars. 

The Normandy landings are a key event in the history of France and the Second World War. This event rocked my Norman childhood and brings back beautiful memories with my grandparents. I invite you to take a few days to visit the many D-Day beaches and  museums and monuments dedicated to this event. 

Thank you for reading this article! I hope that this article on the Normandy landings was useful to you. 

You can read this article in French: Sur les traces du débarquement de Normandie.

Do you have a question? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment on Your Online French Teacher’s blog! 

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To learn more about the French language and improve your French in an atypical setting, I invite you to book your French language stay program in Limousin. Across five days, visits and activities will be on the program to boost your level in French.

Sincerely yours,

Élodie – Your Online French Teacher

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