This year, I went on holiday to France, and saw the sights. As well as visiting the Bayeux Tapesty and Notre Dame, we had the opportunity to explore the wildly historic beaches of Northern France, where Canada, America and England launched their successful comeback to the Nazi domination of France with Operation Neptune, the start of a campaign to reclaim land in that region called Operation Overlord.
This blog post points out some of the important world war 2 facts you might need to know about D-Day and my own personal experience wandering this french coastline.
There were five beaches crucial to the the 6th June 1944 landings. From East to West along the coast – Utah; Omaha; Gold; Juno; Sword. This map shows how it the Normandy beaches France pan out:
Each beach had its differences: some were wide and sandy whilst a couple where set more in with a slope. Despite this, the surrounding land appeared quite low-lying and flat.
5,000 Allied ships landed at the beaches in Normandy and came under heavy fire by Nazi artillery and bunkers. The sacrifice of thousands of troops on the shores was extremely important in providing passage for the remaining 100,000 to move inland, attacking German defences. The Air Force also got involved, dropping bombs, shooting enemy targets on the beaches and releasing men in parachutes onto the land below.
“A fierce Nazi defender, Heinrich Severloh was said to have released more than 12,000 rounds before abandoning post”
Allied aircraft also dropped emergency leaflets over the city of Caen, warning civilians that a bombing would occur very soon. Multiple neighbourhoods were obliterated as bombers tried to destroy German communication lines.
Although the Nazis had been caught be surprise, they gave their best effort and fought strongly to hold their costal plots. Desperately running out of ammunition and with their machinery rapidly overheating, they began to lose to the Allied advantage of having artificial concrete harbours for resupplying their troops.
Troops from Canada, England, France and America launched assaults on army bunkers along the land, killing their defenders or taking them hostage, before loading them back onto landing ships to be taken to England.
I went to a German bunker which is on a tiny hill set above the flat beaches, and the machine gun hole in the wall faces right down to the sea. Although it has been vandalised inside (graffiti, rubbish, etc) it is still surrounded by barbed wire and the solid structure remains.
“D’Day deaths in the Allied Air Force reached more than 16,000”
Normandy has done a great job making the area an interesting tourist attraction. On every beach, there are multiple dday memorials to commemorate different soldiers with different roles in the D-Day Landings.
Normandy also has a museum for this, of course. It’s paired with the Bayeux Tapestry viewing museum, and is chock full of displays and insights into how Operation Overlord planned out. Here are some pictures I took:
There’s a lot more I could cram into this post, but I don’t want it getting too long. Despite the local government’s efforts to make a clear reminder of the day when France was rescued from the Nazis, it seems like many people relaxing on the beach don’t even realise it was a war zone at one point.