Visiting the main D-Day sites and Normandy Landing Beaches
Normandy is a pilgrimage site for travelers interested in WWII or history in general. It is incredible to think that an important chapter in the history of Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, the chapter that shaped Western Europe as we know it today, actually happened in France. We are talking about the D-Day, one of the most momentous events in modern history that led to the liberation of Western Europe from the Germans.
Today travelers in Paris can visit some of the historical sites related to the D-day in Normandy on a day trip. It is a long day, physically (and sometimes) emotionally exhausting. But this is a very part of our story and it is important to keep it alive in our memories so it will be never repeated.
The Normandy landing operations was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The invasion took place on the beaches of Normandy, France, on Tuesday 6 June 1944 by the Allies. The operation (codenamed Operation Neptune and also known as D-Day) meant the beginning of the liberation of German-occupied France (and later Europe) from Nazi control and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front.
The planning of the Normandy invasion began in 1943 by the US, Canadian and British governments. The main constraints for the success of this operation were the weather, the tides and also the logistics (shipping of soldiers, machines, and guns from the US and Canada to the UK). The French resistance had also an important role too. On the other side, the Germans were expecting an invasion from the sea and of course, they were ready. Adolf Hitler placed German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in command of German forces and of developing fortifications along the Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an Allied invasion.
The first twenty-four hours of the invasion will be decisive. . . . [T]he fate of Germany depends on the outcome. For the Allies as well as Germany, it will be the longest day.
—Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, 22 April 1944
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely. But this is the year 1944! The tide has turned! The freemen of the world are marching together to victory! I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle.
We will accept nothing less than full victory! Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
—Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, 6 June 1944
We have a sufficiency of troops; we have all the necessary tackle; we have an excellent plan. This is a perfectly normal operation which is certain of success. If anyone has any doubts in his mind, let him stay behind.
—Gen. Bernard L. Montgomery, commanding Twenty-first Army Group.
It took the Allies some time to reach their objectives. The 5 beaches were not all connected until 12 June and the city of Caen, for example, was not captured until 12 July. Casualties were very high, especially on the Allies side, and there were also many civil casualties and towns and cities heavily destroyed. This was the price to pay in Normandy for our freedom.
Museums, memorials, and war cemeteries in Normandy France propose visitors a glimpse of this terrible chapter in our history. There’s a big job of documentation and memory behind so we all can remember.
Caen Memorial Museum
Pointe du Hoc
American Cemetery of Saint Laurent