Utah Beach: The Amphibious Landing and Airborne Operations on D-day, June 6, 1944
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The landing beach
Each area would be assaulted by approximately one army division, with initial landings being made by much smaller units at AM in the American areas and about an hour later in the British. Their arrival on the shore was to follow a bombardment by ships' guns and aircraft ordnance, kept relatively brief to maintain as much as possible of the element of surprise. As a result, German shore defenses frequently remained intact, and would prove troublesome to both the landing forces and ships offshore.
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To protect the invasion zone's western extremity, and to facilitate the "Utah" landing force's movement into the Cotentin Peninsula, the U. Though badly scattered and lacking much of their equipment, these brave paratroopers kept the Germans occupied and helped ensure that the "Utah" Beach assault went relatively easily.
The British and Canadian attacks, assisted by an air-dropped division on their eastern flank and a longer naval bombardment, generally also went well. Not so in the "Omaha" area, where deep beaches backed by steep hills meant that the U. Casualties were very heavy and the assult only succeeded after a day of brutal fighting, with warships coming in close to provide direct gunfire in support of the hard-pressed soldiers. By nightfall on the sixth of June, the situation was favorable, even on Omaha.
From the air...
Note: This page is overwhelmingly concerned with amphibious landings in the American sector of the Normandy invasion area. Only a few views may show operations in the British and Canadian sectors, and there is virtually nothing on the airborne assaults. This reflects the nature of the images available in our collection and is in no way intended to deemphasize very significant British, Canadian and paratrooper contributions to the Normandy invasion.
For pictorial coverage of non-U. The U. Army photo collection in the U. National Archives should contain whatever coverage exists of the airborne assaults. Naval History and Heritage Command. Some French naval forces also took part, under Philippe Kieffer.
Ouistreham was taken relatively easily on D-Day. Hermanville-sur-Mer, where many of the troops landed, proved more difficult, and the fighting there slowed the mission of racing on to the city of Caen. At Lion-sur-Mer, the marines also encountered stiff resistance.
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Although this stretch of coast was secured fairly rapidly, the mission to take Caen quickly proved a failure and the Germans dug in for many weeks in that city. While the bunker looks substantial, conditions were very cramped within. The troops were scattered as they came down. However, as recalled in the museum in the battery itself, they still managed to secure the spot on D-Day itself, albeit after a bloody battle.
Under Canadian leadership, Canadian and British forces took on a stretch of coast from Courseulles-sur-Mer west. Although there were no major defensive batteries along this stretch, the mines and vicious obstacles set up by the Germans along the beaches, along with guns placed on the jetties in the ports, caused many fatalities. Of 14, Canadian troops who landed here, were killed and wounded.
Through gritty determination, the Allied troops along this stretch managed to make important inroads on D-Day, reaching 16km inland, further than any other Allied forces that day. At the end of the day, however, some German troops still defended a strip between Sword and Juno Beaches. The Gold Beach sector stretched east of the port of Arromanches where action was deliberately avoided on D-Day, to keep it clear for the floating pre-fabricated Mulberry Harbour to be put in place after the invasion.
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Aerial and naval bombardments before the troops landed had successfully knocked out some of the strongest German defences around here. In this sector, east around Ver-sur-Mer, advances were generally rapid. West at Asnelles, German resistance was stronger. By the end of the day, the Allied forces here had practically met the objectives set for them, closing in on the town of Bayeux.
Another part of the museum commemorates an event in , when the first mail-carrying flight from the USA to Europe crash-landed in the sea off Ver-sur-Mer. The aircraft was named America.
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Omaha Beach. Out on a limb to the west, the capturing of the Pointe du Hoc , a steep, heavily fortified headland surrounded by cliffs, was given to the Rangers. Not surprisingly, given the extreme challenges, they suffered the worst losses of all. However, their mission began well, with the rapid scaling of the cliffs.
Up top, though, they found that the German canons had been removed and that they were practically encircled by German fighters. The Rangers dug in, having to wait until around midday on 8 June for reinforcements to help them out. Of the men who had landed, only 90 were fit for battle by the end of the assault, and 80 of their number had died.
A mass of objects and documents help to give visitors a detailed picture of the war. Numerous scenes, vivid archive photos, maps and a film commented by American veterans, explain the landings on Omaha Beach and the Pointe du Hoc. This steel sculpture pays homage to the soldiers who landed here on 6th June A museum set back from the headland covers the campaign here in detail. Follow the trail right around the point and you learn the moving stories of many of the individual American soldiers who took part in the attack here. The ground is still littered with German concrete defences.
From the tip of the headland, with its memorial, you can appreciate just what a strategic position this was, with views stretching far to east and west.
Utah Beach. The most westerly landing sector on D-Day, Utah Beach lies on the Cotentin Peninsula , also known as the Cherbourg Peninsula, and it was in fact in order to help take the vital port of Cherbourg rapidly that the Allied commanders of Operation Overlord, Eisenhower and Montgomery, decided that this further Landing Beach was required.
Extensive marshes separate Utah Beach from the other D-Day beaches. These wetlands caused havoc as American airborne troops parachuted down into the area behind the coast in the night of 5th to 6th June to try and eliminate German defences there. The landings from the ships also went awry in these parts, the bulk of the American forces coming ashore a couple of miles south of the designated zone. This error turned out to be a blessing, as the soldiers setting foot on French soil here met with relatively little resistance.
Utah Beach La Madeleine : located right beside the beach where so many American forces came ashore on 6th June, this museum retraces chronologically and clearly how D-Day was planned and executed. Among the telling objects on display, none is more impressive than the B Marauder bomber. Along with the classic presentation of the airborne operations, a new wing of the museum plunges visitors into an intense sensory experience of the war.