The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, dragging the USA into World War II. By summer 1944, Allied leaders were preparing for Operation Overlord on the beaches of northern France, and on June 6th, 1944, the D-Day landings from the sea were launched. Among the five beaches earmarked by the Allies, Omaha Beach was the US’s responsibility, an eight-km (five mile) span of beach that American troops were tasked with invading and securing. By nightfall on one of the darkest days in US military history, Omaha Beach was held for the Allies, but at the expense of 3,881 dead and wounded from the 1st, 2nd and 29th US Divisions, who encountered appalling weather, strong tides in the English Channel and fierce bombardment from Nazi forces.
The Memorial Museum tells the story of the D-Day Landings on Omaha Beach, backed up with displays of vehicles and weapons that took part in the action as well as dioramas illustrated with graphic black-and-white images, a selection of uniforms, personal objects, maps and military charts. The exhibition culminates with a film of hard-hitting personal testaments from American soldiers who survived the maneuvers. Among the tanks and armaments ranged outside the museum stands the marble American Memorial, peering over the beach and backed by the flags of the Allied nations. The Normandy American Cemetery also overlooks the beach, containing the remains of 9,387 American military servicemen who died in France during World War II.
Les Moulins, avenue de la Libération, Saint-Laurent-sur–Mer, Normandie. Open daily Feb 15–Oct 15; exact times vary but always between 10am–5pm (Jul–Aug until 7.30pm). Admission adults €6.50; students €5.20; children aged 7–15 €3.90. The best way to get to Omaha Beach and the Memorial Museum from Paris is by organized tour or private car. Otherwise, trains to Caen or Bayeux take up to three hours and buses run from the railway stations to the beach.