The WWII landings in Normandy

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The Longues-sur-Mer battery, Normandy
« The first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive. For the Allies, as well as Germany, it will be the longest day », said Rommel to his aide in April 1944. A few days later, on June 6 of the same year, the Canadian, British and American armies carried out the largest seaborne invasion in history, Operation Overlord. The Battle of Normandy had just begun.
The high cliffs of Normandy.

The numbers speak for themselves: in one day, the Allied forces moved 1,200 planes, 5,000 ships and boats, and nearly 160,000 troops across the English Channel to Normandy. On one side, General Dwight D. Eisenhower (USA) and General Bernard Montgomery (Great Britain), in charge of leading the massive landing of Allied troops in Europe to counter the Nazi regime. On the other side, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (Germany), tasked by Hitler to develop fortifications all along what was called the Atlantic Wall, in anticipation of the invasion. The rest, as they say, is history.

The infantry beach landings in Normandy.
The WWII landings in Omaha Beach.
A WWII re-enactment.

After months of cunning military deception campaigns led by the Allies to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the landings (known as Operation Bodyguard), the 75 miles of Atlantic coast north of Bayeux, in Normandy, were chosen as the main site of the invasion. The Americans were assigned to land at sectors codenamed Utah and Omaha, the British at Gold and Sword, and the Canadians at Juno.

An old German bunker on Utah Beach, Normandy.
The battle remains of the WWII landings in Normandy, 1944.
The battle remains of the WWII landings in Normandy, 1944.
The WWII landing sites in Normandy.
The Pointe du Hoc, Normandy.
The WWII landing sites in Normandy.
An old German bunker, Normandy.

Several hours before the beach landings, three airborne divisions were dropped behind enemy lines with various objectives, like capturing bridges or destructing enemy artillery. After over half an hour of preliminary bombardment by the Allied naval forces, infantry began arriving on the beaches at around 6.30. At Pointe du Hoc, 225 Rangers led by Lieutenant Colonel James Rudder, climbed the 100-foot high cliffs with ropes and ladders to destroy the German gun battery. In Juno, the Canadians suffered many casualties while disembarking due to rough seas and heavy German defenses but quickly managed to clear the beach and create exits to the villages above. In Omaha, casualties were heavier than all the other landings combined, the men being subjected to fire from the cliffs above.

A Sherman tank in Utah Beach, Normandy.
The John Steele Memorial, on the church of Ste-Mere-Eglise.
Utah Beach, Normandy.
The Normandy American Cemetary, Colleville-sur-Mer.
The flags, Omaha Beach, Normandy.
In Arromanches, Normandy.
The Omaha Beach Memorial, Omaha Beach, Normandy.
The Pegasus Bridge, Normandy.

In one day, out of the 160,000 Allied troops who crossed the Channel, 10,000 lost their lives, along with 1,000 German soldiers. « You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months, » said Eisenhower in his Letter to Allied Forces. « In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. » By the end of August, over 2 million Allied troops had reached France. The liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944, was the start of a long list of military setbacks for the Third Reich, that eventually led to the end of the war, on May 8, 1945.

Utah Beach memorial monument.

Want to learn everything about the Normandy Landings and its stories of courage and heroism? Check out Totem Moto Tours’ Normandy Legends Tour, and come with us to explore the most important landmarks and battle remains of the area, from the Utah Beach memorial to the deeply moving Normandy American Cemetery with its endless rows of white marble crosses and stars of David.

Vincent Martinez
CEO & Founder Totem Moto Tours

Photo credits

Vincent Martinez & Pixabay