The Memorial for Peace Museum in Caen: A modern, polished museum
clearly marked at exit D22 on the outer ring, A13. The museum gives an
overview of WWII, including the German occupation of France, the Holocaust,
and the Normandy Invasion. Several hours to a half-day are needed to see this
museum so plan accordingly.The only color footage of D-Day is here, along with
many creepy short clips from German archives. Those with a basic knowledge of
WWII/DDay history may want to skip this museum in favor of the smaller, more
homegrown ones farther west on the beaches. This museum does not have many
personal items and focuses primarily on pictures and documents.
The Musee de Debarquement at Arromanches : This small harbor on the
British portion of Gold Beach is significant for the artificial "Mulberry" harbors,
built shortly after D-Day. More cargo was offloaded here than in any harbor in
Europe. Though a freak storm on June 19th 1944 severely damaged the
Mulberries, parts are still visible offshore. The museum at Arromanches, Musee
du Debarquement, is reputed to be one of the best.
Self Guided Walking Tour: There is a marked path on top of the bluffs
extending the entire length of the beaches; KMC tourists highly recommended the
trip but say it makes for a strenuous day.
There are several museums on Omaha Beach, each with its own character and
area of emphasis.
The Omaha Beach Memorial Museum is located adjacent to the St. Laurent-sur-
Mer portion of Omaha Beach. There is another DDay museum in Vierville but it
apparently does not have a website. The beach outlets are now connected by a
road, which was not there in 1944. A drive along the beach road is recommended
to see where the shingle used to be, a low wall and stretch of egg-sized stones that
provided cover but also trapped troops on the beach. Watch for the site of the
original American cemetery marked with a small sign, in an area now occupied by
beach cottages. The swampy area which posed so much difficulty to the troops is
still visible, though dry now and free of concertina wire and mines. German gun
emplacements are clearly visible on the bluffs.
The Ranger Museum at Grandcamp Maisy: A few kilometers east of Pointe du
Hoc is the Ranger Museum (Musee des Rangers) in downtown Grandcamp
Maisy. This tiny homegrown museum doesn't take long, but contains a
fascinating newsreel and equipment and supplies not seen elsewhere. Several of
the spindly ladders used to scale Pont du Hoc are displayed, along with personal
accounts and gear donated by members of the Ranger battalion. This museum
gets a thumbs up from about everyone!
Utah Beach Museum at St Marie de Mont: Heavy German fortifications are
obvious along the beach road west toward Utah Beach. Fortuitously, currents and
wind swept the 4th Infantry Division landing force several miles away to a less
defended site. The Utah Beach Museum has an unusual display on the naval
role at DDay, and an actual Higgins landing craft outside. The museum itself is
built over a German bunker, parts of which are visible. Across the parking lot
Cafe Roosevelt operates a small museum in their cellar, an old bunker used by
both the Germans and American. Their website is http://www.le-roosevelt.com
The Airborne Museum at St Mere Eglise: This village was the first one
liberated by the 101st Airborne Band of Brothers. This museum is a personal
favorite, loaded with private donations of diaries, uniforms, photos, and personal
gear. Across the street is the church where American paratrooper John Steele
hung suspended from his chute for hours
The museum scene in Normandy is flexible, and new ones open as old ones close.
If you're flexible enough to take the time to see the "little ones" that pop up here
and there, you'll for sure learn something from each one.
The Ranger Museum
Utah Beach Museum