During our time in Normandy, we stopped by several of the places where D-Day operations had taken place in June 6, 1944. The Normandy landings were the beginning of the operation to liberate Europe from Nazi control. On this day, 24,000 Canadian, American, and British groups landed on the coach of france, spanning 80 km of shoreline. The coast was divided into 5 sections – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches. All of the Allied troops would be directly facing the heavily fortified “Atlantic Wall” which included bunkers and fortifications all along the coast by the Nazis. Things did not go as planned on any of these locations, and the Allies experienced heavy casualties (4,414 confirmed dead).(Photo from The Atlantic)
Hearing about the important role Canadian soldiers played at Juno beach, we were all glad to have the opportunity to visit Juno beach and learn more.
When we drove from Bayeux to Juno Beach, the sky looked dramatic and threatening. Opened in 2003, this centre commemorates the contributions of Canadians in the second world war. This was the visitors centre as we arrived and waited for a tour. The tour was led by a friendly young Canadian, who was part of the National Guide Program. This incredible initiative brings young Canadians to France to work in the centre. You could tell that being a part of re-telling the narrative of the war had a huge impact on these young Canadians and undoubtedly makes the sacrifice and significance of this place real to the young guides. It was also special to be visiting these sites with Matt, whose family had fought in the war.This is one of the cement barriers that would have been lining the beaches to prevent the tanks from advancing. All of the beaches had been covered with mines, barbed wire, and other obstacles to make the work of beach clearing difficult and dangerous. This beach is beautiful and as we wandered the shore, it was hard to imagine what it would have been like to be one of the young men arriving early on June 6, 1944, fighting for their lives.
It is hard to imagine what it would have been like to see the Normandy coast in the distance, knowing that the next hours and days would be some of the hardest of the war for the Canadian troops. (Photo from Wikipedia)
Being on this beach and hearing the stories at the museum really made the sacrifice of these young men so real.
This was one of the landing craft boats that was used. Clearly made out of plywood, these boats were appeared to be designed for one single purpose – to get the soldiers to the shore.
(Photo from Omaha Beach Memorial)
The following day we stopped by Omaha Beach, which was also part of the same Allied offensive by the American troops. It was sobering to hear about this battle, as the infantry had disembarked from the boats on sandbars up to 100 meters out. The cliffs at Omaha also contributed to the high casualty count, as once the soldiers cleared the beach, they had to scale steep cliffs.And face the gunners in the fortified German bunkers.
Utah beach(Photo from Utah Beach.com).
We also briefly stopped at Utah beach, which was another site of American action during the D-day activities. Walking on the soft sand, watching horses and children race through the water made it really surreal to think about how different this place would have been 72 years ago.