History Podcasts

Map showing the D-Day Beaches

Map showing the D-Day Beaches

The D-Day Companion, ed. Jane Penrose. A selection of thirteen separate essays on different aspects of the D-Day lands, from the initial planning to post-war memorials; this is an excellent piece of work that sets the D-Day landings firmly in context. An excellent starting point for anyone who wants to learn more about Operation Overlord, but its wide range of topics means it is likely to be of value to anyone with an interest in the subject. [see more]


Top Normandy D-Day Landing Beaches and World War II Sites

Normandy is a pilgrimage site for travelers who want to tour the landscape of D-Day, one of the most momentous events in modern history. 2019 marks a major landmark: the 75th anniversary of the invasion that led to the liberation of Western Europe from the clutches of the Axis Powers.

Upon arriving in northwest France along the English Channel, visitors will find 10 important destinations to take in, from the comprehensive Mémorial de Caen and the aviation-oriented Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Église to the solemn American Military Cemetery at Colleville-​sur-Mer. And, of course, visiting the famed sands of Utah Beach and other Allied landing spots is an essential part of exploring this important landscape.

Along the way, visitors will even learn about soldiers like Private John Steele and Lieutenant Norman Poole, individuals who made the invasion a success, as well as world leaders like Prime Minister Winston Churchill.​


Start by traveling from Paris to the gateway city of Caen

For those keen to get straight to the D-Day sites, the route that’s most hassle-free is simply to hop on a BlaBlaBus vehicle direct from Paris’ Charles de Gaulles Airport. With a journey time of less than three hours and prices starting from merely 2.99 euros each way ($3.40), it’s the most budget-friendly way to arrive in the gateway city of Caen. The service also picks up passengers in Paris’ city center along the way, with stops including Gare Montparnasse.

Naturally, it’s also possible to hire a car, or — for the quickest route of all — trains leave both Gare Montparnasse and Gare Saint-Lazare several times a day and arrive in Caen in as little as two hours.

This “town of a hundred bell-towers,” founded in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, is a perfect place for a stroll and a bite to eat before embarking on the final leg of the journey to the D-Day sites.

To taste food the way the locals like it, sample the traditional Vallee d’Auge chicken dish — cooked in the famous apple cider for which the region is renowned, flambéed with locally produced Calvados, and topped with slices of buttery apple. Few dishes are more authentically Norman and you’re unlikely to find this delicacy on the average menu in Paris. Just look out for the phrase “Poulet Vallée d’Auge.” Chicken aside, Le Bouchon Du Vaugueux is also worth a visit for its beautifully presented and typically French dishes, and its rich berry-focused desserts. Alternatively, for a quicker snack on the move, choosing one of the creperies the city streets are lined with is your best bet.

Once you are satiated, it’s almost time to get back on the road for a slice of war history. However you shouldn’t leave this city without a visit to a site often skipped by D-Day tourists in their hurry to get nearer to the famous beaches — the Memorial de Caen. This museum covers everything from the origins of WWII to the tragic genocides and the determination of the Resistance movement, all the way up to the end of the battles. One section is located underground, in a former quarry once used by a German commander as his headquarters, which adds to the atmosphere. A network of secret buried phone cables allowed for discreet communication. There are also American, Canadian, and British-themed gardens all in honor of the Allied troops who fought in Normandy. Finally, visitors can watch an immersive film about the war effort, Europe, Our History.

If overnighting in Caen, Les Chambres de l’Abbaye is an unparalleled choice. This beautiful historic building, preserved since the 18th century, comes with a view over the jaw-dropping Abbaye Aux Hommes, founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Those wishing to see his tomb are able to visit the interior too. If hoping to catch a glimpse of Normandy as it originally looked before the war wreaked destruction, this is the location. The hotel is an authentic and very refreshing alternative to the string of generic chain hotels that proliferate in the city — and it should be considered as a base for the entirety of your Normandy trip.

Before bidding Caen a temporary farewell the following morning, check out the Pegasus Bridge across the city’s canal, the first to be liberated from oppressive Nazi rule. Although it has been reconstructed since its WWII days, the original bridge can still be seen in the nearby Pegasus Memorial Museum, alongside a reproduction of a wartime glider. Guided tours of the museum last an hour and a half and it can easily be reached by bus.


On 6th June 1944, Allied forces launched an attack on Nazi-occupied France by sea, air and land. It was D-Day - the beginning of a huge military operation code-named Operation Overlord that had been in planning for two years.

The Background:

By 1944, much of Europe was occupied by German troops or under the control of Germany and its allies. Hitler expected a cross-Channel invasion and had built a line of defences right down the coast of France to Norway, known as the Atlantic Wall. 58 German divisions, out of nearly 300, guarded the coast. Millions of mines were dug into beaches, which were also covered in barbed wire and wooden spikes, and solid concrete gun emplacements threatened soldiers who dared to land there.

Despite the German defences, the Allies had to pick a landing area to use as a bridgehead into continental Europe. They chose a 50 mile stretch of the Normandy coast, and identified 5 key beaches. The beaches were given the code-names Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

Preparations:

The Allies began planning Operation Overlord in July 1943. After a failed attack against the Atlantic Wall at Dieppe in 1942, they knew that they had to attack with overwhelming numbers and force. Factories worked double-time to create the vehicles, weapons and supplies needed, and 9 million tonnes of supplies were shipped across the Atlantic from North America. Many thousands of parachutes were sewn. A special kind of temporary harbour called the Mulberry was invented, as was a flexible pipeline (PLUTO) to take fuel under the water across the channel to supply aircraft and vehicles. Ships were gathered and landing craft built in huge numbers. The American general Dwight Eisenhower was appointed commander of Operation Overlord.

By D-Day, there were almost 2 million troops in Britain, from 12 countries, preparing for the invasion. The Allied forces landing on D-Day were mainly American, British and Canadian troops, but there were also Australian, Belgian, Czech, Dutch, French, Greek, New Zealand, Norwegian, Rhodesian and Polish troops involved.

It is hard to believe how much work was done and how many people contributed towards the preparations for the D-Day attack. For the attack to be successful, the tides, moon and weather had to be right. Back then, people didn't have access to satellite weather prediction methods! But a British mathematician invented a special calculator to predict tidal patterns and 5th June was chosen as D-Day.

Deception:

While preparations continued, Operation Bodyguard was put into action - a plan to fool the Germans that the Allies would attack in Norway or Pas-de-Calais. Inflatable tanks were built and used to make the Germans think the Allies had more tanks than they did! But the deception didn't stop with tanks. A whole imaginary force of American soldiers was even created in south-east England to make the Nazis think the Allied forces were larger!

Spies and double agents were put to work to spread false information. The French Resistance (people in France who were fighting secretly against the Nazi occupation) and the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) carried out acts of sabotage on German defences, and sent intelligence to help the preparations. Carrier pigeons were used to send messages!

In the months before D-Day, Allied planes dropped bombs on road and rail networks around Normandy - but also in other areas of France, to divert attention away from the area. The night before and into the morning of D-Day, thousands of dummies on parachutes were dropped over France, to scare the Germans and draw the forces away from the landing beaches!

We know that at least some of these deceptions were successful. As late as July 1944, a month after D-Day, the Germans were still expecting the Allies to invade at Calais.

D-Day Landings:

Not everything goes according to plan! The weather on 5th June was terrible and D-Day had to be postponed - luckily by only 1 day. The invasion began just after midnight on the morning of 6th June.

&ldquoYou are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.&rdquo
General Dwight Eisenhower

  • 18,000 paratroopers (and many thousand more dummies) were dropped behind the beaches, to destroy bridges, capture or destroy gun batteries, and push through to meet the landing forces.
  • 6,000 ships - the largest seaborne force ever - crossed the channel, protected by barrage balloons and laden with troops. Warships bombarded the German defences before and during the landings. The naval attack was called Operation Neptune.
  • Over 156,000 soldiers landed on the D-Day beaches by the end of the day.
  • 11,000 Allied aircraft flew over 14,000 sorties (trips) overhead to provide air cover and support.

Success?

Resistance at Gold, Juno, Sword and Utah beaches was lighter than expected, but US forces faced heavy resistance at Omaha Beach and suffered over 2,000 casualties. It is thought that some 4,000 Allied troops were killed on 6th June, with thousands more wounded or missing.

The D-Day landings were the beginning of a long and hard campaign to drive the German army out of France. By 11th June the beaches were secured. Over 325,000 troops, 50,000 vehicles and over 100,000 tonnes of equipment had landed at Normandy for the attack on France, and by the end of June 875,000 had men crossed the Channel.

The German forces were initially confused. Hitler thought that the attack was a trick intended to distract him from the real invasion in the pas-de-Calais area, so was slow to send help. The German troops, however, put up strong resistance, and British troops were hardest hit. It was a long, hard fight, but by the end of August, the Allies had liberated Paris and the Germans had retreated out of northwestern France. The tide had turned.


Do [ edit ] [ add listing ]

Tour the beaches and battlefields, see the various museums throughout the area, and visit the seaside villages and towns.

Independent travel to D-Day Landing Beaches. No doubt taking a tour is the most comprehensive way to see the D-Day sites, however, some people will want to try to see these using public transport. From Bayeux train station, you can catch a bus to some of the D-Day beaches. On the bus website [5] there is a map of the bus route to the D-Day beaches. Bus No. 70 takes you to Omaha beach, the American cemetery, and to Pointe Du Hoc. Bus No. 74 takes you to Arromanches beach - the location of the Mulberry harbors. According to Wikipedia: "Omaha beach is 5 miles (8 km) long, from east of Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to west of Vierville-sur-Mer" and these villages are accessible via the No. 70 bus. Note very carefully from the bus timetable that buses are few and far between, so take the few number of buses into account. Also, buses do not run when there is heavy snow, so check the bus website beforehand during snow season.


Normandy's Top Cities and Towns

Inland from the coast, Normandy opens up to rolling hills dotted with quaint villages and bustling cities. Whether you choose an artsy and scenic town like Bayeux or you'd rather take a stroll through history in cities Caen or Lisieux, Normandy has something to offer travelers of every type:

  • Rouen: An artists' city along the River Seine where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake during the Hundred Years' War it is also home to a museum dedicated to famous French writer Gustave Flaubert
  • Caen: Home to a William the Conqueror castle and two abbeys, but many come for the Peace Museum, Le Mémorial de Caen, which offers tours of some of the D-Day Beaches, and fewer come for les tripes à la mode de Caen, a beef stew made famous here
  • Bayeux: The birthplace and home of the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts over 50 scenes that took place in the year 1066, and many visitors enjoy the city's museums that are dedicated to the war and the artisan crafts made in the region throughout history
  • Giverny: French painter Claude Monet's home for many years and the closest Normandy town to Paris
  • Domfront: A compelling medieval town that features an evocative 11th century ruined castle on a hill and lots of half-timbered houses it's a good place to stay if you like very small towns as there are fewer than 4000 inhabitants here
  • Bagnoles: Famous for its hydrotherapeutic baths that date back to the medieval times as well as some fine Art Deco architecture from the roaring 20s, when Bagnoles came into its own as a tourist spa town
  • Camembert: A small village famous for Camembert cheese dotted with half-timbered houses this is a great destination for a picnic by the Sienne River Gawk at the half-timbered houses and picnic by the river with your Camembert and bread
  • Evreux: Known for its massive Cathedral of Our Lady of Évreux found in the center of town
  • Lisieux: Dates back over two thousand years and is known for its numerous religious buildings, especially those dedicated to Therese Martin as well as Le Domaine St-Hippolyte, where you can taste Normandy specialty dishes
  • Le Havre: The largest city in the Haute-Normandie region and the second busiest port after Marseilles it's also home to the Abbey of Graville, Musée des Beaux-Arts André Malraux, Musée du Vieux Havre, the Shipowner Home, and the Japanese Gardens

Inside the secret Nazi WWII bunkers found near D-Day beaches in Normandy

SECRET Nazi bunkers have been uncovered near beaches stormed by Allied troops during the D-Day landings in June 1944.

The bunkers were part of the Maisy Battery, a batch of German artillery guns used to defend the Normandy beaches during the invasion.

The complex was discovered in 2006 and excavations continue to turf up new finds.

The bunker discovery will be featured in the season premiere of “Expedition Unknown,” which airs on Discovery Channel today (February 5) at 8pm ET.

"We discovered huge Nazi bunkers that haven't seen the light of day in 75 years," Josh Gates of Expedition Unknown told Fox News.

"We were able to dig down and reveal the doors and go inside them – they are frozen in time, there are artefacts inside there."

The Maisy battery was built two miles from the Omaha and Utah beaches, which were attacked by American troops on D-Day.

It was one of Germany's largest defensive positions, boasting a total of 14 huge guns, including 150 mm Howitzers.

Smaller 88 mm anti-aitcraft guns and machine gun nests littered the compound, as well as two Renault tanks.

Following the Allied victory, the site was abandoned and its complex of bunkers, trenches and living quarters was gradually overtaken by nature.

It lay untouched for decades until British history expert Gary Sterne unearthed it in 2006 using extensive research of European archives and contemporary maps.

Ongoing excavations have since found a dozen buildings including a radio room, sick bay and kitchens linked by nearly 5,000 feet of tunnels.

For the new study, experts scanned the Maisy Battery with LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology, which uses a laser to measure distances deep beneath the ground.

LiDAR allows experts to search for structures buried below thick layers of dirt or brush.

D-Day — How the historic battle was fought

June 6, 2019 marked the 75 th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy when more than 160,000 servicemen began the push to liberate France.

Ships gathered in the middle of the English Channel at point called Piccadilly Circus before making their way to the Normandy beaches.

Paratroopers land behind enemy lines before the main assault begins with British soldiers tasked with securing the Benouville bridge on the Caen canal with Lieutenant Den Brotheridge leading the charge.

He becomes the first Allied soldier to die in the assault when he is hit in the neck by machine gun fire.

US paratroopers land with the aim of securing the town of Sainte Mere-Eglise, which is on the main road to Cherbourg which is the first French town to be liberated after hours of fighting.

Allied warships start to open fire on the German sea defences with HMS Warspite firing off a broadside which marks the British and Canadian assault on Juno, Sword and Gold Beaches.

US forces land on Utah and Omaha Beeches and come under fire from Nazi troops.

By around midday commandos and troops finally reach the key bridges after heavy fighting to meet up with the paratroopers.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill addresses the House of Commons.

He tells MPs: “During the night and the early hours of this morning the first of the series of landings in force upon the European continent has taken place.”

In total, two large bunkers, each containing three or four rooms linked by hallways and staircases, were discovered.

Researchers found burn marks on the ceiling of the bunkers, suggesting there may have been a firefight involved in the capture of the complex.

"It’s an overwhelming place to visit – this was part of one of the darkest chapters in modern history," said Gates.

"There’s all sorts of things inside the bunker, we discovered the remains of gas masks, ammunition, Nazi helmets.

"What is unique is that a lot of the military installations around Normandy have been cleaned up," he continued.

"Maisy is one of the few places where you can explore trenches and beaches and get a sense of what it was like on D-Day."

The complex was part of Hitler's famous "Atlantic wall", a massive chain of defences built across the northern coast of France in anticipation of an Allied invasion.

Using forced labour brought in from the Soviet Union, the Nazis were able to keep the locations of many defensive positions secret from locals, who they feared would reveal them to French resistance or Allied troops.


What to take to Normandy

France is a really easy country to navigate especially by car but I’d definitely recommend taking a really good road map with you just in case mobile or sat nav signals go down. This is like the one that we used.

As for a sat nav system I suggest that you make sure you either have some capability on your phone like we did or get a dedicated system with European maps like this one. If you’re coming from out of the country and renting a car then make sure to add in a sat nav system to your hire car. If sticking with a phone system then it’s really important to have a car charging kit so it doesn’t die while driving!

If you’re coming from the UK by car you’ll also need to have a European driving kit – this has the required items that you need by law over in France (each country has different rules and they do change but if I’m honest, having some hi vis vests and warning triangles in the car is not going to hurt – get them!). You definitely need to have the GB sticker and some headlight deflectors as well as soon as you arrive – you can normally get them on the ferries but at a much higher price so worth getting in advance

Recommended books that might help plan

I highly recommend the Liberation Route Europe book by Rough Guide that has recently come out. It tells a lot about the background of what was going on in the war prior to DDay and the eventual liberation. Will also inspire you to go to many more sites around Europe – just warning you!

A guide book to Normandy like this Rough Guide is also a good idea for the planning phases so you can see what else is around the area – vital if you want to enjoy more than just the WW2 history.

Finally a map is essential for your self drive tour – there are many available like this one – we ended up getting a ring bound France map since we were doing lots of driving in the country.


Map showing the D-Day Beaches - History

Hitler's troops along the coast of France were aware of the huge buildup of Allied troops, ships and equipment in southern England. They knew an invasion was coming at some point – the only question was where and when. As a defensive measure, they had begun building the Atlantic Wall, an elaborate system of heavy cement fortifications that would span the entire coastline opposite England. But as the spring of 1944 approached and the invasion appeared imminent, it was only about half finished. To make up for the shortfall, the Germans planted a million mines, laid mile upon mile of barbed-wire, and installed thousands of jagged underwater obstructions designed to rip holes in the hulls of landing craft.

To stave off the invasion, Hitler chose Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the brazen veteran of the North Africa campaign. Rommel's plan was to have German infantrymen and tanks confront the Allies on the beaches and kick them back into the sea, to prevent the landing troops from gaining even a toehold in the sand.

Rommel and members of the High Command, including his superior, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, Commander of Army West, thought the Allies would probably land at Calais, the narrowest distance between southern England and the coast of France. Their assumption was confirmed by the heavy buildup of Allied troops in the seaports directly opposite Calais. In truth, these were phony maneuvers cleverly combined with false intelligence leaked by the Allies to convince the Germans they had guessed correctly. Rommel and Rundstedt therefore positioned the bulk of their troops, fifteen infantry divisions, around Calais, while a smaller number was stationed about 200 miles to the west near the Normandy beaches, considered a less likely landing spot.

The Germans had also determined the invasion would likely come during May amid the favorable spring tides. And so they stood by on high alert. But despite weeks of calm weather and good tides, May was unexpectedly quiet. As June began, a powerful storm moved in bringing high winds, rain and heavy seas to the English Channel. Confident the rough seas and heavy cloud cover had postponed any invasion plans for a while, Rommel drove off to visit his family at their home in southern Germany. Additionally, most of Rommel's command staff headed inland to a military conference. At the same time, the stormy weather brought a temporary halt to all German aerial and seaborne reconnaissance around the English Channel.

Across the Channel, at his headquarters, Allied Supreme Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, faced a momentous decision. Everything was now in place for Operation Overlord and the chosen invasion day, Monday, June 5th. But the seas were far too choppy. The American, British and Canadian landing troops might wind up at the bottom of the Channel, or land on the beaches too wobbly from sea sickness if they survived the crossing. On the other hand, if the invasion was postponed by more than a day or two, and the entire force was to stand down, the next workable date would be perhaps mid-July, or even later, due to the immense amount of logistical coordination involved.

General Eisenhower needed a break in the weather. Checking and rechecking the weather maps, his chief meteorologist saw a window of opportunity emerging for Tuesday morning, June 6th, although conditions would still not be ideal. After receiving this update, and upon consulting with his landing troop commanders, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and General Omar Bradley, Eisenhower came to his decision. "OK, We'll go," he said.

Two things then happened. In the predawn hours of June 6th, American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions along with the British 6th Division parachuted into Normandy, attacking rear positions of the German 7th Army, while British glider troops seized key bridges. Additionally, BBC radio broadcasts included short declarative sentences which were special coded messages to the French Underground, spurring them to sabotage German communications throughout France.

By dawn of D-Day, the greatest seaborne invasion force ever assembled was slowly approaching the Normandy Coast, taking the German soldiers there by surprise. Four thousand vessels carried the troops while over 2,000 American and British warships furiously bombarded the landing zones, five beaches stretching along a sixty-mile front. The British 2nd Army landed toward the east at beaches code-named Gold, Juno and Sword. The American 1st Army landed toward the west at beaches named Utah and Omaha.

At Omaha Beach, the Americans got the worst of it. A soldier of the 116th Infantry Division recalled: "I got out in water up to the top of my boots. People were yelling, screaming, dying, running on the beach, equipment was flying everywhere, men were bleeding to death, crawling, lying everywhere, firing coming from all directions. We dropped down behind anything that was the size of a golf ball. Colonel Canham, Lieutenant Cooper, and Sergeant Crawford were screaming at us to get off the beach. I turned to say to Gino Ferrari, 'Let's move up, Gino,' but before I could finish the sentence, something spattered all over the side of my face. He'd been hit in the face and his brains splattered all over my face and my stuff. I moved forward and the tide came on so fast it covered him and I no longer could see him."

For German field commanders on the scene, the first minutes of the invasion brought great alarm and great confusion. Frantic phone calls went out to their generals and they in turn phoned the High Command, whose ranking members were presently staying with Hitler at his mountaintop villa at Berchtesgaden, not at their regular headquarters.

The immediate question was whether or not the Normandy landings, and earlier attacks by parachutists, were all part of an elaborate Allied ruse to draw their attention away from Calais. No one could say for sure. The result was indecision by Hitler and the High Command. And this bought precious time for the Allied landing troops now inching themselves forward in the sand.

In marked contrast to the rigid and inflexible command structure Hitler had imposed on his armies, Allied field commanders were authorized by General Eisenhower to make on-the-spot decisions about how to proceed. For the Americans at both Utah and Omaha beaches, this frontline improvisation saved the day. At Utah, troops under the command of General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. quickly realized they had landed on the wrong spot, a sparsely defended stretch of beach with a single road leading inland. Roosevelt decided to press forward anyway, gambling that he could get his troops off the beach and dash inland via the small road before the Germans could reposition themselves for a counter-attack. And it worked.

At Omaha, American troops were pinned down amid withering cross fire from Germans perched along high cliffs located at either end of the beach. Responding to calls for help, U.S. Naval commanders sailed their destroyers dangerously close to the beach and blasted the entrenched Germans at nearly point-blank range even though they risked getting blown out of the water by the big German artillery guns that were still functioning. American soldiers on the beach then climbed the cliffs and dislodged the Germans one-by-one, taking out the machine-gun nests and 88mm guns which had so far killed hundreds of Americans.

At Gold, Juno and Sword beaches, British and Canadian troops under Montgomery met less initial resistance and moved a mile or so inland. Meanwhile, German field commanders on the scene waited in vain for authorization to utilize their reserves and counter-attack.

Field Marshal Rommel, the man who was supposed to command the entire coastal defense, was completely out of touch at the moment, rushing back by car from his home, in a 400-mile journey that would take hours. Flying was out of the question due to the risk posed by Allied fighters which now enjoyed total air supremacy.

As the hours passed and Calais remained completely quiet, German field commanders phoned the High Command for permission to rush all available reinforcements including two nearby Panzer divisions to Normandy. But Hitler said he wanted to wait until the overall situation became clearer. In the meantime, British and Canadian troops continued to advance inland while the Americans broke free of Omaha and moved inland as well.

Late in the afternoon, with Calais still quiet, Hitler finally gave the go-ahead, along with an order stating the entire Normandy beachhead “must be cleaned up by not later than tonight.”

Rommel now arrived at his command post and began digesting a multitude of situation reports. He relayed the Führer's order to 7th Army headquarters to clean up the whole beachhead, only to be told, "That would be impossible."

By nightfall, over 150,000 Americans, British and Canadians had come ashore against all odds, amid 9,000 casualties. Within a week, a half-million men had landed and the five landing beaches were linked together as a unified front. With the beachhead secured, two floating seaports were assembled off shore to import a gigantic arsenal of American-made weaponry including thousands of Sherman tanks that would be used to build armored divisions ready to sweep inland.

For the Germans around Normandy, reinforcements belatedly arriving from Calais and elsewhere were mercilessly blasted by long-range Naval guns and ripped to shreds by American and British fighter and bomber planes.

By late June, American troops under General Bradley had liberated Cherbourg at the tip of the Normandy peninsula, while taking 25,000 German prisoners. This was followed by hard fighting during the Battle of the Hedgerows throughout July in which American tanks pierced the German southward defenses and broke free of the peninsula entirely. Meanwhile, British and Canadians under Montgomery overcame stiff opposition to capture the city of Caen to the east, following an astounding air raid by two thousand Allied bombers. Soon after, the Americans reached Avranches, south of Normandy, then circled eastward to meet up with Montgomery at Falaise, trapping the remnants of the German 7th Army inside a narrow pocket, resulting in 50,000 more prisoners. Soon the roads to Paris and to the east, including Germany itself, would be opened by the Americans and British-Canadians.

Photo credits: courtesy U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. National Archives, Library of Congress, Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive)

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Caen Memorial

For those who want to deepen their knowledge of the main conflicts of the 20th Century, the Caen Memorial is a must-see. A whole section of the museum is dedicated to the Second World War and specifically to the Invasion of Normandy. There are also a lot of exhibits about World War I.

The museum was officially opened on 6 June 1988 on the 44th Anniversary of D Day by the French President François Mitterrand.

Caen Memorial has evolved throughout the years and in 1991 a gallery dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize opened. There are also three gardens dedicated to the American, Canadian and British soldiers. In 2002, President Jacques Chirac inaugurated an extension to the museum dedicated to the Cold War (including fragments of the Berlin Wall).

If you only plan to visit the WWII section of the museum, you should allow about half a day. If you want to see the whole museum, then you should plan to stay in Caen for the whole day. We recommend a visit of Caen Memorial to history lovers who plan to spend at least five days in Normandy.

Non Violence - This masterpiece will welcome you in Caen Memorial - Sculptor: Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, Sweden.

The Non Violence sculpture by Carl Fredrik Reutersward was created following the murder of John Lennon. From the same series, there are "non violence" masterpieces in the Headquarters of the United Nations in New York and in the European Union HQ in Brussels.

If you would like to visit some of these sights, these can be included in any of our Normandy self drive itineraries.

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