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RETURN TO NORMANDY

 

Seventy years ago, the largest armada ever assembled set off from England for the French coast. On June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops, supported by 700 warships and carried by 2,500 landing craft, assaulted a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast in an effort to push the Nazis out from occupied France and drive into Germany.

Earlier that day, thousands of paratroops landed behind the enemy’s defensive lines to protect the armada’s flanks. Despite heavy losses within the first six days of the assault, 326,000 men, 54,000 vehicles and 104,000 tons of materiel came ashore. But the battle for Normandy was far from over.

Twenty days into the operation the Allies had advanced only a dozen miles inland. By July, the breakout from Normandy had begun. Troops fought the battle among the hedgerows and captured St. Lo. By month’s end, they were at the edge of Brittany. In August, Brittany was in Allied hands, and it was on to Paris, which was liberated on Aug. 25. The Allied advance suffered a setback in the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden and stalled in December at the legendary Battle of the Bulge. On March 7, 1945, the U.S. 9th Armored Division captured the bridge at Remagen, Germany, and by the end of the month all of the Rhine was in Allied hands. The march across Germany had begun. On May 9, 1945, just a little more than 11 months after D-Day, the Nazis surrendered.

Now, seven decades later, feted by still-thankful French residents, D-Day veterans, their families and friends, along with tourists and history buffs, will return to the invasion beaches — Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword — to commemorate the Allies’ efforts and sacrifices.

— Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes

 


 

CONTENTS


MAPS: The D-Day invasion | Locations & memorials | VIDEOS: The American Cemetery at Normandy | Sights & sites at Normandy
GALLERIES: Utah Beach | Omaha Beach | Point du Hoc | Cemeteries | Monuments & museums | Historical
FROM THE ARCHIVES: D-Day front pages from Stars and Stripes | Reporting from the scene

 



 


 

Where hard-fought battles were won, and heroism was paramount

Early on June 6, 1944, an armada of warships and landing craft headed toward the coast of Normandy, France, and the night sky was filled with a swarm of more than 3,000 airplanes and gliders. Airborne troops — 20,000 of them — were to jump into Normandy with the task of capturing and securing bridges and beach exits for the amphibious force that was to hit the beaches in the morning in an effort to rout the Nazis from occupied France.

Know & Go


The 70th anniversary of D-Day will be commemorated across Normandy, from Cherbourg to Caen. Here’s some info to consider if you decide to go.



Getting there

The D-Day beaches and Normandy American Cemetery are about 175 miles northwest of Paris, about a three-hour drive. Tolls need to be paid on the French highway system. Expect to pay about 50 euros each way if traveling from Germany. The roads in Normandy are very narrow, especially for American cars, so drive carefully.

American cemetery/museums: Costs and times


The Normandy American Cemetery is open daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 15 to Sept. 15; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year; closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. Admission is free.


The visitor center at Pointe du Hoc is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 15 to Sept. 15; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year. Admission is free.

More information for both places can be found at the American Battle Monuments Commission website.


The Utah Beach Museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 1 to May 31; 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 1 to Sept. 30; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 Closed the rest of January. On Dec. 31 the museum closes at 4 p.m. Last ticket sales one hour before closing.

Admission is 8 euros for adults and 3.50 euros for children under 15. Children under 7 and World War II veterans have free admission. More information can be found on the museum website.


The Airborne Museum at Ste.-Mère-Église is open daily except Dec. 24, 25, 31 and all of January. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 1 to March 31 and Oct.1 to Dec. 30; 9 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. April 1 to Sept. 30.

Admission is 8 euros for adults and 4.50 euros for ages 6 to 16 years old. Free for children up to 6 years, disabled, veterans of World War II and military in uniform, whatever their nationality. For more infomation, go to airborne-museum.org.


Other museums of interest include the Overlord Museum and the Omaha Beach Memorial Museum.

Schedule of events

The main international ceremony will be on Sword Beach near Ouistreham on June 6 at 3:30 p.m. If you want to attend, go to the American Battle Monuments Commission website, click on the News and Events button and read the instructions. Admission is very limited.


Meanwhile, there are plenty of other ceremonies and events around the American landing beaches involving Americans. Here is a sampling of the bigger ones:


June 4: Carentan, 5 p.m.

June 5: Pointe du Hoc, time to be determined, but between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

June 6: American-French ceremony at Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, 10:30 a.m.

June 7: Ste.-Mère-Église, 5 p.m.

June 8: La Fiere drop zone — “Iron Mike” Memorial, with parachute jump (weather permitting) 4 p.m.; ceremony welcoming the paratroops 6 p.m.


For a full list of events, go to the70th-normandy.com and normandie-tourisme.fr.

Events with US troops

Some of the more than two dozen events the U.S. has committed to and the units attending include:

June 4

  • 10 a.m. – Gourbesville – 82nd Airborne Division
  • 11:30 a.m. – Amfreville – 82nd Airborne Division
  • 2:30 p.m. – Amfreville – 82nd Airborne Division
  • 4 p.m. – Gueuteville – 82nd Airborne Division
  • 5 p.m. – Carentan – 101st Airborne Division

June 5
  • 10 a.m. – Picauville – roughly 200, led by U.S. Air Force, personnel
  • 2 p.m. – Chef du Pont – 101st Airborne Division
  • 2 p.m. – Pointe du Hoc – 75th Ranger Regiment
  • 4 p.m. – Ste.-Mère-Église – 82nd Airborne Division
  • 5 p.m. – Colleville-sur-Mer – 1st Infantry Division
  • 5 p.m. – Montebourg – 4th Infantry Division
  • 8 p.m. – Utah Beach – U.S. Coast Guard Color Guard and Navy Europe Band
  • 11 p.m. – St. Laurent – U.S. Army Europe Band

June 6
  • 10:30 a.m. – Normandy American Cemetery – about 200 personnel from various units; color guard from 529th Military Police; flyover by U.S. F-15s
  • 3 p.m. – Negreville – 82nd Airborne Division
  • 3:30 p.m. – Ste.-Mère-Église – 101st Airborne Division
  • 5 p.m. – Vierville-sur-Mer – 29th Infantry Division
  • 7 p.m. – Picauville – 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team

June 7
  • 10:30 a.m. – Angoville au Plain – 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division
  • 10 a.m. – DeGlopper Memorial, La Fière – 82nd Infantry Division
  • 11 a.m. – Bois du Limors – 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team
  • 3 p.m. – St. Lô – 1st Infantry Division
  • 3:30 p.m. – Pointe du Hoc – 75th Ranger Regiment
  • 5 p.m. – La Haye de Puit – 4th Infantry Division
  • 5:30 p.m. – Graignes – 101st Infantry Division

June 8
  • 11 a.m. – La Fière dropzone (multinational Airborne drop) – about 400 American paratroops – mix of all Airborne units plus 10 American C-130s and other French, German and Dutch aircraft

 

 

 




GALLERY | Utah Beach

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  • A sailor holds a shell as the American and French flags wave in the wind above the U.S. Navy monument on Utah Beach. The monument was unveiled in 2008. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • The Kilometer 00 marker on Utah Beach marks the beginning of the Voie de la Liberté, or Liberty Road. The route follows the Americans' drive across France to liberate the country in World War II. Interestingly, there is a Kilometer 0 marker in Ste.-Mère-Église, as well. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • The monument to the 1st Engineer Special Service Brigade stands on top of a German bunker on Utah Beach. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • The 90th Infantry Division memorial on Utah Beach. The "Tough Hombres," as they were known, fought from Utah Beach to Czechoslovakia during the war. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • A German gun points toward Utah Beach at the Crisbeq Battery Museum, near Crisbeq, France. Here, visitors can walk through and around the German gun emplacements and bunkers. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • A memorial to Company E, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, the "Easy" Company in "Band of Brothers," stands on a crossroads near Utah Beach. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • An American tank, looking inland, stands outside the Utah Beach Museum. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • Visitors to the Utah Beach Museum study the Martin B-26 Marauder. This plane did not see action during the invasion, but Marauders played a major role in the rollup to D-Day. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • A display case at the Utah Beach Museum shows items carried by U.S. troops during the invasion of France, and includes period American magazines and newspapers with stories about D-Day and the soldiers. Reflected in the glass is the museum's original Higgins boat LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) landing craft. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes





GALLERY | Omaha Beach

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  • The monument to the 29th Infantry Division at Vierville-sur-Mer on Omaha Beach. The division's 116th Infantry Regiment was in the first assault wave at Omaha Beach. | Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • The National Guard Memorial at Vierville-sur-Mer on Omaha Beach stands on a former German gun position. The inscriptions inside the U-shaped monument tell the National Guard's story in English and French. | Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • The dedication to the 116th Regimental Combat Team, 29th Infantry Division on one side of the Signal Monument at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer on Omaha Beach. | Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • The Signal Monument at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer on Omaha Beach has a dedication to the 1st Infantry Division on one side and the 116th Infantry Regimental Combat Team on the other. Behind it on the beach is the modern stainless steel sculpture "Les Braves." | Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • A small monument on Omaha Beach on the edge of Vierville-sur-Mer (look for house number 156) marks where the first American cemetery in France in World War II was once located. The bodies were later relocated. | Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • Visitors to Normandy American Cemetery study an orientation table showing all of the invasion beaches. The table overlooks the English Channel and Omaha Beach. | Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • The 1st Infantry Monument stands on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, near the Normandy American Cemetery on the outskirts of Colleville-sur-Mer. | Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • Visitors look at the remains of a world War II landing craft sunk in the sands of Omaha Beach below the Normandy American Cemetery in April 2014. | Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • The modern stainless steel sculpture at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer on Omaha Beach is more than 29 feet high at its tallest point and weighs 15 tons. Its pieces, from left to right, represent the wings of hope, the rise of freedom and the wings of fraternity. | Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes









GALLERY | Cemeteries

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  • An American flag waves in the breeze beside a French flag before a headstone at Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. The cemetery is the final resting place for 9,387 American war dead. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • A single rose decorates the grave of an unknown soldier at Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. On a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, the cemetery is the final resting place for 9,387 American war casualties. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • The German War Cemetery at La Cambe, France. It is the final resting place for 21,140 German war dead. In the mound, underneath the large cross, 296 fallen are interred. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • The British Commonwealth Bayeux War Cemetery is the final resting place for 4,648 fallen from World War II. Although the largest number, 3,935, are British, it includes war dead from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Poland, Italy, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and even 466 from Germany. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • A Star of David marks the grave of a Jewish soldier at Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. Among the 9,387 graves at the cemetery, 149 of the marble headstones are topped by the Star of David. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes





GALLERY | Point du Hoc

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  • The Ranger Memorial at Pointe du Hoc, left, stands atop the cliffs that Lt. Col. James Rudder and his men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion fought their way up to capture a German gun position. | Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • The Ranger Memorial at Pointe du Hoc. Lt. Col. James Rudder and his men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion fought their way up steep cliffs to this point to capture a German gun position that threatened both the Utah and Omaha D-Day landing beaches. They captured the position only to find that some of the guns had been moved and tree trunks were used as props. The guns were soon found, however, and destroyed. | Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • The Ranger Memorial at Pointe du Hoc as seen through the opening of a German gun position. | Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • Seventy years after D-Day, Pointe du Hoc, where the U.S. Army's 2nd Ranger Battalion captured a German gun position, is still scarred with craters from the bombing and shelling. | Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes





GALLERY | Monuments & museums

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  • The statue "The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves" is part of the memorial at Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • Dead Man's Corner Museum features the history of the D-Day invasion and gets its name from a tank commander killed in battle whose body hung outside the turret of his tank for several days. As the story goes, soldiers called it the corner with the dead man in the tank, but shortened it eventually to dead man's corner. In the shop at right one can buy original equipment, patches and other World War II memorabilia. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • Inside the Visitor Center at Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. It was opened in 2007. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • An effigy of Pvt. John Steele, an 82nd Airborne Division soldier, hangs from the steeple at the Ste.-Mère-Église church. Steele's parachute got caught on the steeple when he jumped on D-Day. He played dead for several hours, but eventually was taken prisoner by the Germans. He later escaped and continued to fight in the war. His plight was retold in the1962 movie "The Longest Day," where he was played by Red Buttons.. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • This stained-glass window in the Ste.-Mère-Église church showing St. Michael, patron saint of parachutists, was donated by veterans of the 82nd Airborne Division for the 25th anniversary of D-Day. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • A look inside the Waco glider on display at the U.S. Airborne Museum at Ste.-Mère-Église, France, shows the cramped conditions in the aircraft, which was made of fabric, wood and metal. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • A newer monument on the road between Utah Beach and Sainte-Marie-du-Mont is, as its plaque says, dedicated to those who led the way on D-Day, and depicts Maj. Richard Winters, commander of "Easy" Company — the "Band of Brothers." A marker dedicated to Company E is nearby. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • The 22-foot statue "The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves" is reflected in the pool at Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • The statue of "Iron Mike" standing in a field at La Fiere, near Ste.-Mère-Église represents the paratroops of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions who fought in the area.. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes



  • A post marking Kilometer 0 of the Voie de la Liberté, or Liberty Road, stands in front of the Ste.-Mère-Église town hall. The route follows the Americans' drive across France to liberate the country in World War II. Interestingly, there is a Kilometer 00 marker at Utah Beach, as well.. Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes





GALLERY | D-Day front pages

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  • June 6, 1944 - Africa edition Stars and Stripes



  • June 6, 1944 - Rome edition Stars and Stripes



  • June 7, 1944 - London edition Stars and Stripes



  • June 7, 1944 - Africa edition Stars and Stripes



  • June 8, 2944 - London edition Stars and Stripes



  • June 8, 1944 - Africa edition Stars and Stripes



  • June 9, 1944 - Africa edition Stars and Stripes



  • June 10, 1944 - Rome edition Stars and Stripes



  • June 12, 1944 - Africa edition Stars and Stripes



  • June 12, 1944 - Rome edition Stars and Stripes





Reporting from D-Day

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Stripes DDay front

Flying S&S writer files first eyewitness story

Six thousand feet below, troops surged over the beaches of France and against Hitler's Atlantic Wall, and as the first black dots moved over the white sand a gunner said over the interphone: "Jesus Christ! At last."

On the dirty dark green of the Channel waters. battleships, cruisers, destroyers and more mann-carrying craft than you could count rolled steadily toward the green fields and the white towns the Nazis had taken from France. Through a smoke screen the wraith-like shapes of warships loomed a moment, chameleoned into blobs of flame as another broadside roared off to find some Wehrmacht strongpoint beyond the coast.

This was the invasion. ...
[Read more]

3 mighty words, 'This is it,' gave press the news

Three words — which didn't mention "invasion," "Second Front," "landing in Europe" or "beachhead" — revealed in London at 8 AM Tuesday the first news of the invasion of Western Europe by Allied forces.

"This is it," said a staff officer of Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force ...
[Read more]

Liberators take Bayeux; important road severed

"The major battle in France is joined," it was declared here today as Allied liberation troops fought inland from captured Bayeux on the Cherbourg peninsula in France, five miles from the coast.

With American, British and Canadian troops driving southward across the Cherbourg peninsula ...
[Read more]

US papers playing up grim stories of invasion

A flood of copy from correspondents who actually went into France with the invasion forces hit American newspapers Thursday giving a detailed picture and the price the Allies paid in cracking it.

The most dramatic eye-witness account came from a reporter with the paratroopers, Leonard Mosely, of the London Daily Sketch ...
[Read more]




VIDEO | Sights & sites

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D-Day sites and sights in Normandy, from Ste.-Mère-Église and Utah Beach to Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach and the Normandy American Cemetery.

 

 

 




VIDEO | American Cemetery at Normandy

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9,387 American war dead are buried at Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. The headstones are of white marble shaped like a Latin cross, except for the 149 topped by the Star of David, marking Jewish graves. Three Medal of Honor recipients are buried here, along with 41 sets of brothers and even a father and son. The cemetery's focal point — besides the graves — is the 22-foot high statue "The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves."

 

 




GALLERY | Historic photos

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  • One of the first assault groups to land on D-Day at Omaha Beach was the Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. Center for Military History, U.S. Army. U.S. Army



  • American troops practice for the D-Day landings at Slapton Sands in southern England. That stretch of coastline was picked for the training because of its similarities to Utah Beach, one of the sites of the landing on June 6, 1944.. Exercise Tiger Trust



  • A U.S. Coast Guard landing barge, tightly packed with helmeted soldiers, approaches the shore at Normandy, France, during initial Allied landing operations, in this June 6, 1944 file photo. AP



  • Soldiers in cargo vehicles move onto a beach in Normandy during the Allied Invasion of Europe, D-Day, June 6, 1944. After fierce fighting, the Allies established a foothold in northern France.. U.S. Army



  • In this photo provided by the Office of War Information, U.S. landing craft are beached on a Normandy shore to unload troops and supplies to back up Allied advance against the Nazis in France in 1944. Richard Boyer/Office of War Information



  • Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division was one of the first waves to land on D-Day. U.S. Coast Guard



  • Troops in an LCVP landing craft approaching "Omaha" Beach on "D-Day", 6 June 1944. Note helmet netting; faint "No Smoking" sign on the LCVP's ramp; and M1903 rifles and M1 carbines carried by some of these men. This photograph was taken from the same LCVP as Photo # SC 189986. U.S. National Archives



  • Sitting in the cover of their foxholes, American soldiers of the Allied Expeditionary Force secure a beachhead during the initial Normandy landing operations in France, in this June 6, 1944 file photo. In the background amphibious tanks and other equipment crowd the beach, while landing craft bring more troops and material ashore. Weston Hayes/AP



  • British troops move on the Normandy shore from their landing craft in this June 6, 1944 file photo during the D-Day invasion of German occupied France during World War II. AP



  • U.S. paratroopers fix their static lines before a jump before dawn over Normandy on D-Day June 6, 1944, in France. The decision to launch the airborne attack in darkness instead of waiting for first light was probably one of the few Allied missteps on June 6, and there was much to criticize both in the training and equipment given to paratroopers and glider-borne troops of the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions. Improvements were called for after the invasion; the hard-won knowledge would be used to advantage later. Army Signal Corps


 

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MAP | The D-Day invasion

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MAP | Locations & memorials

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