Omaha Beach – San-Laurent-sur-Mer

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We had initially planned on only spending one day visiting D-Day-related sites during our time in the Normandy region.  We quickly discovered, however, that one day was going to be enough time to see everything that we had hoped to see.  We changed up our itinerary and, rather than driving to Mont St Michel in the morning, we visited Omaha Beach in San-Laurent-sur-Mer first and then headed on to Mont St Michel.  There was quite a bit to see in San Laurent, so the detour was definitely worth it.

We didn’t stop at the D-Day museum, but we did make a quick stop to get a good look at the Sherman Tank and the Czech hedgehog.  It was neat to see them in person after having seen them in movies.


Sherman Tank & Czech Hedgehog

We were surprised to see that the name “Omaha Beach” had stuck — it was the Allies’ code name for the beach.  I’d assume that the beaches had other names prior to the D-Day invasion.

Entrance to Omaha Beach at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer

I was surprised to see so many remembrance crosses — I think they were at every D-Day sight that we visited during our trip.  It was very touching to see how appreciative they are — to this day — of the men and women who fought for their freedom.

Remembrance Crosses

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Longues-sur-Mer Artillery Battery

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The second stop on our D-Day road trip was a German artillery battery at Longues-sur-Mer.  Construction of the Longues-sur-Mer battery was completed during April 1944, and the battery was an important part of Germany’s Atlantic Wall coastal fortifications.  The battery housed four, 152mm (6 inches!) guns and is located between Omaha and Gold Beaches — two of the D-Day landing zones.  On the night before D-Day, the battery was hit with 1,500 tons of bombs, though none of the guns were disabled by the time D-Day landings began.  British cruisers, Ajax and Argonaut, eventually managed to destroy three of the four guns; the fourth was finally destroyed at 7 PM on D-Day.  The crew of the battery surrendered to the United Kingdom’s 231st Infantry Brigade.

A Field of Shasta Daisies

152mm Gun & Casemate

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Arromanches-les-Bains – Mulberry Harbor

One of the main reasons for planning our trip to France the way we did was so that we could see several sites related to the D-Day invasion of Normandy (a.k.a. Operation Neptune).  The first stop on our D-Day road trip was Arromanches-les-Bains to see what remains of the British mulberry harbor (a.k.a. Mulberry B and Port Winston).

Mulberry harbors were designed by the British during WWII.  They were temporary harbors that were used to facilitate the unloading of troops and supplies — a truly brilliant feat of engineering.  The mulberry harbors were designed to be able to offload enough supplies to sustain Operation Overlord for three months (the amount of time they thought it would take to capture a French port for more permanent use).

The British built Mulberry B (the Gold Beach mulberry harbor), which remained in use for ten months, at which point the Allies captured Antwerp and were able to use its port instead.  Mulberry B had 10 miles of floating roadways that were used to bring both supplies and troops to shore.  It took 600,000 tons of concrete to build Mulberry B.  According to Wikipedia, Mulberry B was used to offload over 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of supplies — the numbers definitely make it easy to see how important Mulberry B was for Operation Overlord.  The Americans were responsible for building an additional mulberry harbor (a.k.a. Mulberry A) at Omaha Beach; however, it was destroyed by the storm that hit the Normandy coast on June 19, 1944.

Portions of Mulberry B can still be seen in Arromanches today.  Several sections of the 10 miles of road are washed up on the beach.  You can also hike up a nearby bluff to get a better view of the Phoenixes (concrete caissons) that remain there today.

Prior to arriving at Gold Beach, it never really dawned on me that the Normandy beaches are actual beaches — beaches that people swim in and play on and use for boating.

Gold Beach at Arromanches

Mulberry Harbor Remains at Arromanches

Mulberry Harbor Remains at Arromanches

Children Playing


Mulberry Harbor Remains (Arromanches in the Background)

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