La Manche department is steeped in history and is an important place of remembrance. On 6 June 1944, more than 150 000 soldiers landed by sea or by air in Operation Overlord. The “longest day”, the turning point of the Second World War, paved the way for the liberation of France and Europe. After three months of fighting, Normandy was freed from German occupation, but was left scarred.
The best way to learn about the history of D-day is not through books, but on the ground, where the Allies actually fought. From Utah beach to Cherbourg, the roads to liberation are dotted with fascinating sites where you can follow in the footsteps of the American troops, and hear the many small stories that make up the bigger picture. Passing on history to ensure we never forget: this is the goal of the D-Day sites.
Musée du Débarquement at Utah Beach
an emblematic site
At Utah Beach, a museum now stands on the very spot where the Allied troops landed on 6 June 1944. With a rich collection of wartime artefacts, vehicles and materials, relive D-Day as if you were there!
Built around German bunkers and with a view of Utah Beach, the D-Day Museum is a truly immersive experience. Several exhibitions tell you all about this historic event and about life during the Occupation. You can also see a rare B-26 bomber, of which there are only a few left in the world.
In Saint-Côme-du-Mont, at the heart of the Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin Regional Nature Park, this emblematic site is dedicated to the Normandy landings. Not far from Carentan, this village was a strategic point for the American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. Their mission was critical: to take Saint-Côme-du-Mont in order to link up the different landing beaches.
Climb on board an authentic aircraft and join your brothers in arms as you relive the crossing of the Channel. This dynamic flight simulator is unique in the world. Prepare for a truly immersive experience!
This must-see museum focuses on the period that followed the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944. La Manche saw heavy fighting, with the Battle of the Hedgerows and Saint-Lô, the breakthrough in Avranches and the offensive in La Haye du Puits.
The different reconstructed scenes, collections of artefacts and old military vehicles, archive images and poignant accounts tell the story of those dark days. Temporary exhibitions are also organised throughout the year.
This immersive museum is situated in Sainte-Mère-Église, opposite the church spire where the paratrooper John Steele was famously snagged and left hanging by his parachute. During a visit to this spectacular museum, you’ll relive D-Day alongside the American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.
Imagine taking off from England one night in an authentic C-47 aircraft, then jumping out and landing in the main square in Sainte-Mère-Eglise to join the fighting. A 20-minute film tells the poignant story of life under the German occupation, then the liberation of Sainte-Mère-Église and the Cotentin. Go back in time with the Histopad, an interactive tablet that will transport you to the key moments of D-Day.
From 6 to 22 June 1944, Saint-Lô was bombed, leaving more than 91% of the town in ruins. The Musée d’Art et d’Histoire has a model of the town that was the most heavily bombed in the department. There is also a reconstruction of the inside of an apartment. After the bombardment, the people of Saint-Lô were rehoused in temporary accommodation built by the Allies. Step into the daily post-war lives of civilians. A journey back in time that reminds us of the cost of freedom.
Follow this 50 km trail around Sainte-Mère-Eglise and Utah Beach to see 11 important historical points. To do so, you can download the Kit’M application or hire a tablet from the Baie du Cotentin Tourist Office.
The GPS will guide you from one point to another. When you get to each site, scan the QR code and you’ll hear the story of D-Day, with videos and archive images that will plunge you straight into the atmosphere of the war. With the Open-Air Museum, you can follow the events of the “longest day” at your own pace.
In Quinéville, relive the history of the Second World War and life under the occupation. Walk down a typical 1940s street, with its shops and houses, and imagine the lives of the people of La Manche in those days.
The remnants of an anti-tank wall on the beach in Quinéville will take you back in time. Different vehicles and artefacts are exhibited in the World War II Museum, giving you an interesting look at the history of the time.
With photos, archive documents and artefacts, this museum focuses on the daily lives of civilians and soldiers. A multimedia exhibition, “Cherbourg 1944, the strategic points of the Liberation”, describes the key strategic role of the port town at that time.
The Musée de la Libération is located in the Fort du Roule. These fortifications were built into the heights above Cherbourg during the Second World War. Now a Historic National Monument, the underground passages were equipped with artillery to defend Cherbourg Harbour, the largest artificial harbour in Europe.
In Azeville, four powerful casemates were equipped with artillery that was used to shell the beaches when the Americans landed. You can visit the underground passages and the battery at Azeville with an audioguide. Find out more about the lives of the German soldiers and their relations with the local people. Guided tours and different activities are organised regularly at the battery, bringing to life the history of the site.
Just a short distance from Utah Beach is the Crisbecq battery, which fired the first artillery shot of D-Day. This unique site, with its 22 underground casemates, has been restored so that visitors can experience the atmosphere of the time. During the war, a whole village sprung up around the battery, with an anti-aircraft command post, a kitchen, ammunition bunkers, dormitories and an infirmary.
In Huisnes-sur-Mer, Orglandes and La-Chapelle-en-Juger, the cemeteries pay tribute to the German soldiers who died during the battles fought there. The cemetery in Mont de Huisnes is the only German mausoleum in France, where 11 956 soldiers are laid to rest.
In Montjoie-Saint-Martin, near Saint-James, the American cemetery honours the heroes who died for freedom. These moving places help to guard the memory of this terrible war and to remember the soldiers who lost their lives.