Utah Beach – Introduction
The names Omaha, Utah, Sword, Gold and Juno are names that many WWII buffs will know very well since those are the names of the landing beaches during the D-Day, the Allied invasion of German occupied Europe. 4 years of World War II lead to this massive invasion, by sea and air, of occupied France.
The Omaha Beach, which now hosts an enormous American cemetery, lies next to the Utah Beach landing. The beach is like most beaches in the lower part of Normandy; deep sand and dunes:
The dunes were heavily fortified by the Germans, and the Allied soldiers had to wade through deep and soft sand to reach the dunes. Some 3,200 soldiers died that day on this beach landing!
The paths to the beach have been named after fallen soldiers. This is the Olle Road, named after S.J. Olle.
The Olle path leads straight to the beach. You can imagine how difficult it is to run through this sand in boots and heavily loaded with gear, while dodging bullets.
On the notorious Utah beach you will not only see many memorials but also a rather large museum, the “Musee du Debarquement Utah Beach“.
All around the Utah Beach you will find “souvenirs” of the D-Day landing. Cannons and other artillery, but also this special tree:
This is one of three Liberty Trees. An artificial tree made by 500 young school children, with 70 leaves, each representing one of the 70 witnesses to the events and who passed on the information to 2500 school kids.
The three trees are to be found here in Utah Beach, Ouistreham (Caen harbour) and Montormel.
A US Army tank on display at the Utah Beach.
This is a Higgins landing craft. 1089 of these landing crafts took part in D-Day. The Higgins could hold 36 troops. This replica of the Higgins craft was a gift from the citizens of Columbus, Nebraska, the birth-city of Andrew Jackson Higgins, the creator of the landing craft.
Also on the beach, you will find this “strange” statue. It is a memorial statue to the US Navy, designed by Stephen Spears, with three figures, an officer (representing leadership), a sailor on his knees (representing the sailors who fought on the shores, taking heavy casualties) and a sailor loading a cannon for the shore bombardments.
An anti-aircraft cannon, and behind it another memorial.
Like the Omaha Beach Cemetery, visiting this place is a very sobering experience. You can see why so many young kids were killed storming the beach front.
The area can be visited for free and a nice walk alongside the beach is a good thing to do, weather permitting. A visit to the museum on the beach is a must.
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