Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Read the full disclosure policy here.
How to visit the D-Day Beaches in Normandy France is a question asked by many. Which landing beach should I go to first? How will I get the full experience and understanding of what transpired during the Allied invasion here during World War II on June 6, 1944?
A Few Facts About The Invasion Of Normandy
Operation Overlord was the name given to the overall plan for the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II. It included both land and air components. Its primary objective was to establish a foothold on the continent and begin the liberation of Western Europe from German occupation.
Operation Neptune was specifically the naval component of the invasion. It involved the transportation of troops and supplies across the English Channel to the beaches of Normandy. The success of Operation Neptune was critical to the success of Operation Overlord, as it was the means by which the Allied forces were able to land on the beaches and establish a beachhead.
On June 6, 1944, the Allied Expeditionary Force, led by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, landed along the French coastline of Normandy in what was and still remains the largest seaborne invasion in history.
Critical Invasion Before The D Day Landings
The 82nd Airborne Division was a key unit in the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II. On the night of June 5, 1944, more than 13,000 paratroopers from the division were dropped behind enemy lines in Normandy, with the objective of securing key bridges and disrupting German defences.
The mission was highly dangerous, as the paratroopers faced intense anti-aircraft fire, and many were dropped far from their intended landing zones. Despite these challenges, the 82nd Airborne Division was able to successfully complete their mission, with some units even capturing key targets such as the town of Sainte-Mère Eglise and La Fière bridge.
The Normandy Landing Beaches
The Allied troops landed at five different beaches along a 50-mile stretch on the Normandy shores. The beaches were all given a code name for the invasion and those names are still used today. The Americans landed at Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. The British landed at Gold Beach and Sword Beach and the Canadians landed at Juno Beach. The Normandy invasion beaches from west to east are Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.
Pointe du Hoc, Normandy France
The first stop on our tour of D-Day beaches in Normandy was Pointe du Hoc. The deep craters in the landscape where bombs fell and the remaining German concrete bunkers make an immediate impression.
Here, on this bluff jutting into the sea between the D-Day beaches of Utah and Omaha, the 2nd Ranger Battalion soldiers carried out a plan that resulted in a terribly high cost of lives.
Over the course of three days, June 6, 7, and 8 1944, the Commandoes scaled the 100-foot cliffs with a mission to disable the German guns atop that could easily fire on Utah and Omaha Beaches. The Germans had already moved the guns further inland. The Rangers eventually found and destroyed the artillery.
The casualties were high. And after starting with 225 soldiers, only 90 remained standing.
The Memorial at Pointe du Hoc: To the Heroic Rangers Commandoes D2RN E2Rn F2RN of the 46th INF who under the Command of Colonel James E. Rudder of the First American Division attacked and took possession of the Pointe du Hoc.
The United States: Utah Beach And Omaha Beach
The 4th Infantry Division played a crucial role in the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II. On June 6, 1944, the division was tasked with landing on Utah Beach. Despite facing heavy resistance from German troops, the 4th Infantry Division was able to secure the beachhead and begin their advance inland. The 4th Infantry Division’s actions at Utah Beach were a significant turning point in the war.
Of the five D-Day Beaches in Normandy, Omaha Beach was the bloodiest of all the landings. Standing on the beach under the bluffs it is hard to fully imagine what went on that Tuesday morning so many years ago.
I try to feel what it would be like to land in the water with my gun and hear German guns shooting down all around. I try to understand the sensation of my fellow soldiers dropping beside me, in the water, on the shore.
Looking up at the cliffs, I imagine a hail of German bullets, bombs and artillery raining down on the young American soldiers.
I know what I sense is a mere fraction of the reality.
But it isn’t hard to be in awe of the courage and dedication that each young soldier brought to the battlefield. It isn’t hard to imagine the fear and bravado all entangled. It isn’t hard to imagine the sea turning bright red. My heart stands still.
Visiting D-Day Beaches In Normandy: Les Braves
Our van was scooting past this memorial which is a little further down Omaha beach than where we had initially stopped. I had to ask the guide to stop.
As this monument, Les Braves rises from the sea, its impact is powerful. Standing on the shore where thousands of soldiers arrived to meet their death and the seas were cherry red with their blood, this monument demands something of the visitor. It is not a drive-by, nor a five-minute stop to check off the list. It requires one to stand in silence against the crashing waves and imagine what transpired here. It’s a time to let gratitude flow through you.
This Omaha Beach Memorial, created by Anilore Banon is called Les Braves. He is quoted as saying “I created this sculpture to honour the courage of these men: Sons, husbands, and fathers who endangered and often sacrificed their lives in the hope of freeing the French people.”
The sculpture is in three elements: The Wings of Hope to remind us that together it is always possible to change the future.
Rise, Freedom! Honouring those who rose against barbarity to help us remain standing strong against all forms of inhumanity.
The Wings of Fraternity to remember this surge of brotherhood reminding us of our responsibility towards others as well as ourselves. On June 6, 1944, these men were more than soldiers, they were our brothers.
The Normandy American Cemetery And Memorial
I had no idea what to expect.
The glorious statue, Spirit of American Youth, invites you to enter. And there, 1557 engraved names of soldiers missing in action encircle you. Those that have a rosette beside their name have since been found.
Ahead there are 9387 white headstones that stretch as far as the eye can see between the forest and the English Channel, perched over Omaha Beach.
As a mother, as a sister, as a human being, it is impossible not to be impacted as standing amidst the rows of crosses.
The Artificial Harbour Near Arromanches-les-Bains
From a distance, our group viewed and listened to the ingenious plan of Sir Winston Churchill to create two fake harbours that also acted as a breakwater so that Allied troops could bring reinforcements and equipment to France.
On the morning of June 6, 1944, huge concrete chambers were towed towards the Normandy coast and then sunk into place creating Mulberry Harbour. German pilots saw the concrete chambers heading to France but could not figure out what they were seeing.
The concrete blocks still remain today and can be seen off the shores of Arromanches-les-Bains. The D-Day Museum here goes into detail about creating the Harbour, also known as Port Winston.
I went to the D-Day Beaches in Normandy to pay my respects, to stand and feel where recent history took place and to appreciate the liberties and freedom that I have today. I hope you enjoy visiting the D-Day Beaches in France as much as I did.
Until next time,
Liberté – Liberty: A Poem By Eluard
“Liberté” written in 1942 during the German occupation by French poet Paul Eluard:
On my crumbled hiding places On my sunken lighthouses On my walls and my ennui I write your name. On abstraction without desire On naked solitude On the marches of death I write your name. And for the want of a word I renew my life For I was born to know you To name you Liberty.
See the full poem here.
Lest We Forget…
More Travel Info
Movies About The D-Day Beaches in Normandy France were :
The Longest Day (1962)
Our guide recommended this movie as the most realistic account of the landing at Omaha Beach. I watched it recently and would say that for those of you who haven’t seen it, it is a must. Watch it before your visit, or after as I did or simply to get a glimpse into June 6, 1944.