Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Visiting Normandy Part I: Utah Beach

We're going to start the Normandy posts with the American sector of Utah Beach . It was a very important part of the Operation Overlord because if the landings failed they were going to focus on this sector. The mission of the 7th Army Corps was to take the coast while the 4th Infantry Division would be established on the road to bring the 82nd and 101st Airborne parachuted in Sainte-Mere-Eglise.

Utah was the least deadly of the five landing beaches, with 200 deaths.


Utah Beach is quite long and you can reach its main entrance through the village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. We can find  many memorials and German bunkers around. There are many remnants of the war.

We can also see the remains of the old barbed wire, as shown in the following photos.

In these pictures we can compare the walk to the beach, then and now. As you can see, it has not changed that much.

In front of the beach there are several memorials chaired by the French and American flags as well as the Landing Museum.

Utah Beach Landing Museum

Location: here 
January, March, November 10:00 to 17:30 
April, May, October 10:00 to 18:00 
From June to September 9:30 to 19:00  
Admission: 7.50 euros (6.50 with Normandie Pass) 

It's located in front of the beach and it shows the history of the war divided into ten stages from the German occupation until the d-day. It has been recently renovated and it welcomes an authentic B26 bomber.


These are some of the plaques and memorials that can be found along the beach:

 Memorial to the 90th American Division

 Memorial to the 1st Engineers Special Brigade
Memorial to the American Marines who participated in D-Day

On the road between Utah Beach to Sainte-Marie-du-Mont we stumbled upon these two memorials: the first one dedicated to the Danish seamen who participated in the d-day and the second one, opened in 2012 and dedicated to the Major Dick Winters of the 10st Airbone1 Division , well known for the TV series Band of Brothers.
Signal indicating the road
Memorial to Danish Marines

Memorial to Dick Winters, Easy Company


The route taken by the U.S. Army in the liberation of Europe is symbolically marked through these pivots coming from Utah Beach to Bastogne (Belgium). The 0 km is located in Sainte-Mère-Église , in front of the city hall.


This village was one of the first ones occupied by the paratroopers of the 101st. Curiously we can find here various war militaria shops, some of them located in old garages. It's worth the visit.


The 101st Airborne Division and the 82nd jumped over Sainte-Mére-Eglise, although many of them fell far away and got lost. In the steeple of the church we can see a paratrooper hanging remembering John Steele whose parachute got hooked there. This feat is also reflected in the film The Longest Day .

A few steps from the churh we can find the  Musée Airborne , dedicated to the paratroopers of the 101st and the 82nd.
Location: here
January to March 10:00 to 17:00
9:00 to 18:45 April to September
10:00 to 17:00 October to December
Admission:  7euros (6 with normandie pass)

On the outskirts of town (indicated by various signs) we can visit the memorial to the paratroopers of these companies:


Another village freed by the 101, famous for appearing in the series Band of Brothers . They couldn't get the town until June 12. A great battle was fought.


Batterie d'Azeville
Location: here .
May and September 11:00 to 18:00
June, July and August 10:00 to 19:00
Rest of the year 14:00 to 18:00
Admission: 5 euros(4 with normandie pass)
Built by the Todt organization between 1941 and 1944. The battery belonged to the Atlantic Wall and bombed Utah Beach sector. It was taken on June 9 after an intense battle.

Musée de la Batterie de Crisbecq
Location: here
April, October, November 11:00-18 :: 00
May, June, September 10:00 to 18:00
July, August 10:00 to 19:00
Rest of the year closed.
Admission: 6.50 euros (5.50 with normandie pass)

It was also built by the Todt organization in 1942. The men of this battery opposed great resistance to the American soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division landed on Utah.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Operation Market Garden Battlefield Tour, The Netherlands

Operation Market Garden was the largest airbone offensive conducted by the allies and its biggest military defeat. Tha plan, devised by Montgomery, was to take the main bridges in the Netherlands (under German occupation) in order to cross the Rhine and reach Germany.

It was carried out from 17 to 25 September 1944. Despite that  the first bridges were succesfully captured they couldn't take the last one in Arnhem. On the map of the operation we can see the progress of Allied troops and the German defensive positions.


The operation was located in the Netherlands , near the German border. To visit the battlefields you can start from Arnhem . It is best to fly to any of the nearest airports and once there, rent a car or take a train.

View of the River Rhine at Arnhem.

The airports with the best access to the battlefields are the Amsterdam's and the Düsseldorf's .

  • From the airport of Amsterdam to Arnhem. There are direct trains for about 15 euros. The trip takes 1h15min.
  • From Düsseldorf Airport you can take a train changing at the Central Station in the city for about 30 euros. Travel time is approximately 1h20min.

Once in Arnhem you can rent a car or follow the route by train. To check the ticket prices and the train times:

Railway Network Netherlands:  
German Red train to get from Düsseldorf: http :/ /  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Relics of the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands

The so-called Battle of Guadacanal or Operation Watchtower was the first offensive launched by the Allies against the Empire of Japan on August 7, 1942 and lasted until February 9, 1943. It was one of the longest battles of the Pacific. 30,000 people died. U.S. forces landed on the islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi and Florida with the main objective of taking the airport to break the Empire base of the islands. There were several attacks that culminated with the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal when the Japanese were forced to withdraw its troops after a failed landing.


Solomon Islands tourism is quite expensive if we start from Europe (about 1300 euros the entire trip by plane). There are direct flights from Brisbane (Australia) , where the plane transfer should be done to reach the airport from Honiara, the capital of the island of Guadalcanal. The Solomon Islands are tropical and full of wild vegetation. The islands keep a lot of war relics from the battle.

There are  companies that offer battlefield tours around the islands. Please note that the currency is the SBD (Solomon Islands Dollar) and 1 SBD = 0.10 euros.

Moving around Guadalcanal: accessibility to certain areas of the island is not good, if we want to do it by public transport. Honiara has a network of taxis and  buses but only goes through the main roads. Renting a car is almost essential if you want to explore the area. There are car rentals at the airport or at the city center.

More information about the islands:

Image: Vvulto


These are some things you can find on the island.

Museum of World War II (Vilu War Museum): 
Location here .  
Normal ticket: 25 SBD (2.5 euros) 
It has not official website. 
This museum has many relics, such as vehicles, aircraft and weapons both Japanese and American, extending the land occupied by the museum.

Photo Gallery competence:

American Memorial in Honiara:

Location here .

Erected by the American Battle Monuments Commission to commemorate the Americans killed in the battle.

The remains of the Kinugawa Maru

Location here .

The Kinugawa Maru ship belonging to the Japanese Imperial Navy's mission was to land on the island of Guadalcanal in November 1942. It was discovered and sunk by American artillery fire. Today is only partially visible but can be seen in full scuba diving.

The Kinugawa Maru partially sunk.
It's remains today ( photo: )

Friday, April 12, 2013

Visiting Mauthausen Gusen, the Spanish camp

The camps of Mauthausen and Gusen belonged to a network of concentration camps expanded throughout Austria and southern Germany. It is believed that the number of victims of these camps could reach 300,000. The camp work was based on a granite quarry where prisoners came to die working. Besides the camp had numerous methods of extermination, as gas chambers or cold showers.

 The camp network that  belonged to Mauthausen .

Mauthausen is known as the Spanish camp due to the large number of Republican exiles who were deported there. They came mostly from Vichy France and many of them were captured when they joined the French Resistance. Franco's government disowned them as Spanish and they were transferred to Mauthausen wearing the blue triangle of stateless people.

 Liberation of the camp in 1945.

The Mauthausen and Gusen camps are son close so you can visit both of them in the same day.


Location: here.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:30 (last admission 16:45)
Closed 24 to 26 December, 31 December, 1 January
Normal ticket: € 2
Audioguides German / English: 40 euro deposit
Tours German / English: Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 14:00 (1 euro / person)

Getting to Mauthausen?
  • The field is located in Austria, between Vienna and Salzburg and it's 20 km away from Linz. If we go by car from Vienna or Salzburg we will have to take the A1 and exit at Enns. Always follow the signs for KZ-Gedenkstätte .
  • To arrive by public transport is not very well connected. You have to take a train to the town of Mauthausen. Once at the station Mauthasen can either take a taxi to the field (4 km separate it from the station) or take the bus 360 (departs from the station every hour) stop at Linzer Straße / Wasserwerk and then walk 2 km to the entrance. You can click here to see what the whole journey on foot from the station to the field.
Check train times and routes:
Consult bus timetables:

Entrance ( photo: Lucignolobrescia )
Because of its structure, the field has remained quite well since its release in 1945. It has been changed due to its conversion into a memorial. In the 60's a cemetery was buit inside where the remains of the victims were buried. The visit provides access to all its facilities, including the old quarry, the gas chambers and crematoria. The website offers a small virtual tour explaining every point in the plane.

From March 12 to May 5, 2013 both the gas chambers and the crematoria will be closed due to reforms. On May 6, 2013 they will open two new historical exhibits and a new memorial, " The Hall of Names ".

Gas chamber ( photo: Lucignolobrescia )

The stairs of death at Mauthausen. Prisioners had to go up this staircase of 186 more than ten times a day loaded with stone blocks. Many died exhausted.

right photo: Lucignolobrescia


Location: here
Official website:  
Opening hours:
From 1 April to 30 September: Tuesday to Friday from 9:00 to 17:30, Saturday and Sunday from 9: 30 to 17:30
From 1 October to 31 March: Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 9:30 to 17:30
Closed: December 24 and January 6.  
Free admission .  
How to get Gusen? Indications are the same as those listed for Mauthausen but when yo take the bus 360 from the train station you will have to get off at b.Mauthausen Bachstraße Gusen stop, three stops more that the other one.

Photo: Rudolf A. Haunschmied

This camp is much less traveled by tourists than Mauthausen. In 2004 they opened an exhibition about the life in the camp, from 1939 to 1945.

In the map you can see the structure of the camp. The official website shows in detail what is in each point.