The D-DAY Landings and the Battle of Normandy

The D-DAY Landings

This exhibition space deals exclusively with the Invasion of Normandy, a key episode in the liberation of Europe.

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For the first time ever, we cover every detail of the Invasion of Normandy. Indeed, few people really know how much Normandy suffered following 6 June 1944. 20,000 inhabitants of Normandy were killed, that is a third of all French civilians killed during the Second World War. Towns were razed to the ground in mass bomb attacks, battles as fierce as those on the Eastern front raged, civilians underwent terrible suffering and many were evacuated, the German army fled and was pursued.

Operations started on the night of 5/6 June, with airborne troops being parachuted down while heavy bombers pounded the coastal artillery batteries deemed to present the greatest danger. Meanwhile, an armada of 5000 ships (including a thousand battleships) crossed the English Channel and took up position off the beaches without being spotted by the Germans, who were battered by the storm that still raged and weakened by the loss of their radar stations, which had been destroyed over the previous few weeks. The surprise was therefore total.

At 5:45 a.m., the battleships opened fire on the Atlantic Wall defences, while the landing craft carrying the first assault waves drew nearer their targets.

Utah Beach

At 6:30 in the morning, the American 4th Infantry Division under General Barton, supported by amphibious tanks, reached the La Madeleine dunes on Sainte-Marie-du-Mont beach.

At 6:30 in the morning, the American 4th Infantry Division under General Barton, supported by amphibious tanks, reached the La Madeleine dunes on Sainte-Marie-du-Mont beach. As luck would have it, coastal currents had carried their landing craft two kilometres south of the planned location, where landing would have been a good deal more dangerous. Weakened by air and sea bombardment, German resistance was not up to scratch. The Americans only suffered minor losses, with some fifty dead and around 150 wounded. By the early afternoon, they had joined up with the 101st Airborne.

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Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach forms a 7-kilometre indentation between Vierville and Colleville-sur-Mer, with cliffs on either side and was overlooked by a sheer embankment bristling with field guns, mortars and machine guns.

Omaha Beach forms a 7-kilometre indentation between Vierville and Colleville-sur-Mer, with cliffs on either side and was overlooked by a sheer embankment bristling with field guns, mortars and machine guns. The Allies were well aware of the dangers of an assault on a spot that seemed so much like a trap, but it was the only possibility. Inaccurate bombing had left German defences almost intact – and these were further reinforced by the unspotted arrival of the 352nd Infantry Division. In the morning of 6 June, the men of the 1st and 29th American Divisions, under the command of Generals Huebner and Gerhardt, suffered full-scale carnage. Pinned down on the beach in the midst of dead bodies and burned out equipment, it took them almost 6 hours to extricate themselves, climb the embankment and reach the plateau that overlooked it. By the evening, they had only managed to penetrate a mere 2 kilometres inland.

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Sword Beach

The sector to the west of the Orne, between Langrune and Ouistreham, was strongly fortified.

The sector to the west of the Orne, between Langrune and Ouistreham, was strongly fortified. General Rennie’s 3rd British division had also been reinforced by two special commando brigades. The landing took place at Hermanville and Colleville. Heavy fighting was required to take Ouistreham. During the afternoon, Lord Lovat’s Special Brigade reached Ranville and Bénouville bridges (Pegasus Bridge) and joined up with the paratroopers. The 4th Brigade, however, was struggling to take Lion and Luc-sur-Mer, leaving a breach between Sword and Juno through which a detachment of the 21st Panzer infiltrated in the evening and reached the sea… only to turn back again. At the centre of the plan of action, the larger part of the 3rd division, which had been delayed by German fortified positions, failed to take Caen as planned.

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Gold Beach

he British 50th Infantry Division under General Graham reached Asnelles and Ver-sur-Mer at around 7:25 in the morning.

The British 50th Infantry Division under General Graham reached Asnelles and Ver-sur-Mer at around 7:25 in the morning. German resistance was strong at both ends of the landing zone, but the enemy troops were pushed to the centre and were unable to prevent the British from penetrating inland. In the evening of 6 June, the 50th Division’s vanguard was at the gates of Bayeux, which they entered the following day without bloodshed. Meanwhile, in the late afternoon alongside the coast, the 1st Hampshire regiment took Arromanches, where one of the artificial ports was to be set up.

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Juno Beach

The sector between Courseulles and Saint-Aubin was put in the hands of General Keller’s 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, supported by the 48th Commando of the Royal Marines.

The sector between Courseulles and Saint-Aubin was put in the hands of General Keller’s 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, supported by the 48th Commando of the Royal Marines. With coastal reefs making navigation difficult, the landing craft were late in arriving. They reached the shore at high tide and came straight up against the obstacles that Rommel had put in place, causing heavy casualties and obstruction of the beaches. After some fierce fighting and the loss of a thousand men (including 300 killed), the Canadians finally managed to join up with the British forces that had landed at Gold Beach and establish a solid bridgehead a dozen kilometres deep (the record for the day). They had not, however, achieved two of their objectives – Route Nationale 13 and Carpiquet aerodrome.

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