Any fan of modern history knows that the French region of Normandy has a very long story full of great characters and marked by events that were shaping the European identity. It was here, in the 80 kilometers of sandy beaches where the so-called Battle of Normandy took place, and today is recognized as an interesting sightseer place.
It was on June 6, 1944, when the legendary “Operation Overlord” was developed. A key military action, in which disembarked on this coast 156,000 soldiers in 20,000 armored vehicles, all from the armed Allies coalition who fought World War II.
Caen is the cultural and economic capital of Lower Normandy, an interesting place to visit. The city endured Allied bombing for two months. Three-quarters of the city were devastated and 2,000 of its inhabitants were killed during these actions. It was a real miracle that its artistic heritage (such as the collection of paintings by Rubens that is held in the castle of William the Conqueror) and its monuments (such as the Abbey of Men) were practically unharmed.
A place to visit is the “Memorial for Peace”. The building occupies the site of the bunker of the German General W. Richter. Another historic landmark is the artificial harbor of Arromanches, an anchorage that had to support daily about 12,000 tons of goods and 2,500 vehicles without succumbing to the push of the tides. Despite the years, its vestiges are still visible to the naked eye.
Nearby, just 5 km away is the battery of Longues-Sur-Mer, the only one in Normandy that preserves its cannons. Another site of interest is the American military cemetery of Colleville, were rest the mortal remains of 9,387 American soldiers (among them, the two sons of President Roosevelt) all fallen on this battle. Each day, a salvo in honor of the departed resounds in the evening breeze.
Omaha Beach is the most famous of the Landing. 40% of men that combat on the D-Day died here. Don’t forget to visit the Omaha Beach Memorial Museum. On the beach of Les Braves, is possible to admire the sculpture of Anilore Banon that pays tribute to the soldiers, it simulates wings of freedom sprouting from the sands and water.
The English Cemetery is located in Bayeux. Here rest the 4648 bodies of British and Canadian soldiers. In front of the cemetery, there is a monument in memory of the 2092 Commonwealth soldiers killed during the Normandy landings who never had a burial. Also is the Museum of the Tapestry of Bayonne.
The peak of Hoc is one of the hard places on the itinerary. This cliff remains as it was after the battle, with the holes opened by the projectiles and its bunkers demolished. The place is a sanctuary since under the rubble rest the remains of American and German soldiers.
The village of Sainte-Mère-Église was a strategic plaza on the road that links Utah Beach (another of the 7 beaches on which the landing was divided) with Cherbourg. The groves of its surroundings were the scene of the so-called “war of the bushes”.
The final milestone to visit is the German cemetery of La Cambe, here lies the remains of 21,500 German soldiers. To have a glimpse of the magnitude of the killing, it’s recommended to climb to the top of the central hill, each body buried here is represented by a black cross. This journey of just over 200 kilometers, will take anyone to revive those dark days.