D-Day Normandy:
The US Sector

This section describes the US Sector of the Normandy D-Day battlefield.

 

 

Inside the Omaha Beach Museum

 

The memorial on the forward observation post at Pont du Hoc is shaped like a Rangers knife

A dummy of a paratrooper hangs from the church at St Mare Eglise

The Americans landed along the west coast of Normandy from the Cotentin Peninsula to just west of Port-en-Bessin; the beaches being code-named Utah and Omaha.

Prior to the amphibious landings, on the night of the 5th June 1944 troops of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions flew from bases in South West England to jump into Normandy, tasked with securing the west flank of the landing beaches and cutting off the main road to Cherbourg.

They were also tasked with clearing the route inland from Utah beach, but heavy flak and high winds led to many troops missing their drop zones (DZ) and the airborne assault became scattered over a large area, with some troops even landing in the German garrisoned town of St Mare Eglise.

Having trained in cliff climbing, US Rangers were amongst the first to land on the Normandy beaches. They were tasked with scaling the steep cliffs at Pont Du Hoc and capturing the German artillery there. Under heavy fire the Rangers landed and secured the gun emplacements - only to discover that the artillery had been moved inland.

Amongst the first wave troops landing at Omaha Beach were the 29th Infantry Division which had sailed from ports across the south coast of England and Wales.

After the battle had ended there were hundreds of burial sites across Normandy. The American Battle Monuments Commission (AMBC) repatriated over half of the fallen back to the USA and created two US Cemeteries, one at Colleville sur Mer, and the other in Brittany.

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What to see

Visitors are advised to make the Tourist Information Centre their first stop. Here you can pick up free guides to the region and buy your discounted ‘Normandy Carte’, which gets discounts at many museums.

No matter how many times you visit the region, there will always be something new for you to see. However; for people on a tight schedule, the places below will provide a feel of the area:

Utah Beach: A short drive from St Mare Eglise is Utah Beach. See here the Utah Beach Museum at La Madeleine, and make a point of using the toilets, which are an old German bunker. The cafe opposite the museum is well worth a vist, itself being built in a bunker.

St Mare Eglise: This town comes alive in the summer and is a focal point for US airborne enthusiasts. See the Airborne Museum and church.

Pont du Hoc: No visit to the US sector would be complete without a visit to Pont du Hoc. There is a visitor centre and ample free parking.

Omaha Beach: ‘Bloody Omaha’ as it came to be known still has the remains of landing craft. See also the US Cemetery.

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Recommended campsite

I can recommend the Omaha Beach Campsite at Vierville-sur-Mer.

It has a panoramic view of the western end of the beach, with pitches lying around the German bunkers, and is itself only 2 mins from a museum.