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.