Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword were, along with Utah, the 5 Normandy D-Day landings beaches. On 6 June 1944, the allied American troops landed on Madeleine Beach in Manche. Their objective: to liberate Cherbourg and the deep-water harbour. The expedition across the sea was a success. Over 23,000 men landed and joined up with the troops who had parachuted over Sainte-Mère-Église during the night.
Today, Utah Beach is filled with memories. There are many monuments and several memorial sites paying homage to the landings on 6 June 44.
Utah Beach is a symbolic place, as well as an ideal region for a holiday, with large beaches, the nearby marshes, cycling and hiking trails… We can share a few of the great places to stay near the D-Day landings beach.
Visiting the famous D-Day sites
The Musée du Débarquement
Utah Beach Landing Museum
On the very spot where the Allies landed on D-Day, the Musée du Débarquement today pays homage to the men who came from America to liberate France.
A collection of objects, vehicles, materials and eye-witness accounts immerse visitors in the history of the Battle of Normandy. A chance to see a genuine B26 bomber, a rare example of just a handful of planes still existing in the world today.
With a guide or on your own, inside the museum or on the beach itself with a glimpse inside the German blockhaus... Choose the visit that suits you best.
In the night of 5 to 6 June 1944, the first American parachutists from the 101st and 82nd Airborne Division jumped from C-47 planes over Utah Beach and Sainte-Mère-Église. They were the first soldiers to land on French soil.
During the night, 15,000 soldiers parachuted in and around the village. 75 % of them did not land in their target areas due to errors during the airdrop. Carried adrift by their parachutes, some ended up hanging from trees. Private John Steele found himself suspended from the church spire for two hours before being rescued by German soldiers.
Early on the morning of 6 June, Sainte-Mère-Église was under the control of the US army troops. They were soon joined by reinforcements who had just landed at Utah Beach. This was the first town in France to be liberated from the air.
Try your hand at sand-yachting with Utah Mer Loisirs
The long Madeleine Beach is a memorial site, but also a call for a sand-yachting session! With your feet on the pedals, your sail in the right direction and a light wind, the yacht will set off and soon build up speed. The thrills will start coming thick and fast.
There are lessons for beginners at the centre all the year round. Sea kayaks and paddleboards are also available.
Hiking and a glimpse of the seals
at the Beauguillot nature reserve
Right at the heart of the Baie des Veys, the Beauguillot nature reserve is a paradise for water birds and harbour seals. An educational trail filled with observatories is a chance to see some unique examples of fauna and flora. On your own or during a guided tour, come and see the wigeons, greylag geese, peewits, etc.
Rent a bike and set off along the VéloWestNormandy
For a ride with your family or an adventure lasting several days, a bike is the ideal option for exploring Utah Beach and the nearby areas.
One of the major trails going through Manche, the "VéloWestNormandy" cycling route takes you from the historic site to Mont Saint-Michel. 230 km of green ways and country roads for a route that is accessible to all!
In Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, the “Chez Arsène” restaurant welcomes diners every evening but also serves brunch on Sundays. Here, fresh and local ingredients are served with beef and veal from the organic farm next door.
At L’Estaminet, you can enjoy oysters and mussels from Utah Beach while comfortably seated on the terrace. The oysters are raised in the Utah Beach waters and are celebrated for the quality of their flesh, partly due to the quality of the water.
Are you looking for a great place to enjoy afternoon tea? Then head for the tea room next to the Quinéville traditional biscuit factory. Taste the sweet treats made here along with a delicious cup of tea.
Just a few miles from Utah Beach, the Manoir de Juganville is a real gem in a green setting. The 4 tastefully decorated rooms look out over a magnificent garden or the converted stables. A stay here is the guarantee of a break far removed from the modern world.
At Domaine d’Utah Beach, you can choose between a hotel room at Le Grand Hard or a top-quality gîte in the Domaine.
The 4 gîtes have the "Gîte de France" label and a capacity for 2 to 5 people. The hotel has 19 rooms in a range of categories and are all tastefully decorated.
Utah Beach, the history of the D-Day landings beach
Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword were, along with Utah, the 5 Normandy D-Day landings beaches. Utah Beach (the code name the Allies gave to Madeleine Beach) stretches from Sainte-Marie-du-Mont to Quinéville for about 5 km, with the main battle zone near Varreville.
In December 1943, General Eisenhower was appointed to lead Operation Overlord with the task of liberating Normandy and then Europe. The D-Day plans initially involved 3 beaches for landings in Calvados: Omaha, Gold and Juno. In January 1944, Eisenhower and Montgomery decided that 3 zones would not be enough and chose 2 extra zones:
Utah Beach, in order to establish a bridgehead directly in Cotentin and to liberate Cherbourg and its deep-sea harbour more quickly (this was the only port big enough to receive the supplies needed for the Battle of Normandy)
Sword, to liberate Caen
They chose Utah since the fortifications were less dense and the enemy resistance weaker than on other beaches. The Germans thought a landing on this part of the Manche coast unlikely to succeed.
At dawn, on 6 June 44, the Germans looked incredulously at the armada before their eyes. The sea seemed to be covered with boats. On Utah Beach, from 6.30 in the morning, 23,000 men and 1,700 military vehicles landed and headed for Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. The troops from Utah linked up there with the parachuters who had landed during the night of 5 and 6 June.
Parachuters from the 82nd and 101st US divisions were tasked with controlling the roads near the beach and enable the Allies to break out of the beach area.
Did you know?
The D-Day landings were not initially planned for Cotentin
Before opting for a landing at Sainte-Marie-du-Mont in Normandy, the Allies had planned to land on the beaches near Calais. In anticipation, Hitler had placed all his military might in the region. The Allies experienced the onslaught at first hand when, on 19 August 1942, 6000 soldiers, mainly from Canada, tried to raid the Dieppe coast. The Germans were waiting for them, the operation failed and over half the troops were killed, wounded or reported missing. The landing showed the Allies that an offensive in the Calais area was impossible. A second option was then considered: Normandy.
The large beaches provided ideal conditions, and the tides could be an asset for the landings.
A brief look at the other D-Day beaches
After Utah, Omaha was the second beach in the US sector. The landings at Omaha were the most difficult and deadly. It earned the Calvados beach the nickname of "Bloody Omaha".
Although the landing of British troops at Gold Beach went quite smoothly, the German army inflicted heavy losses on the Allies in the village of Hamel, which had been spared from bombing beforehand.
At Sword Beach, meanwhile, alongside the British troops, 177 French naval infantrymen landed under the leadership of Lieutenant Philippe Kieffer.
At Juno Beach the landing of Canadian troops was difficult. Due to the waves at high tide, many boats were driven against the mines that stood on stakes dug into the sand.