The coast of Normandy in northern France will forever be intimately linked with the invasion, on 6 June 1944, of the Allied forces of liberation, and Utah Beach was one of the principal landing areas, the westernmost and closest to the essential target of Cherbourg harbour. To commemorate this historic day, the Utah Beach Museum was created in 1962 by Michel de Vallavieille, Mayor of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, on the site of “La Madeleine” beach within the extraordinary natural setting of the Parc Naturel Régional des Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin. Originally set inside a German fortification with the designation Bunker WN5, the museum has transformed an ugly block of concrete into a shrine of remembrance and gratitude. The shape evokes an oyster shell lying on the beach, harmoniously blending in with the dunes and sea vistas that were the scene of such havoc. Inside, the museum features over 1300 artefacts, mementos, and testimonies of the landing; the beach itself is littered with vestiges of the conflict.
In honour of its 50th anniversary, the Utah Beach Museum has been completely revamped and is inaugurating its new extension, with its grand opening scheduled for 6 June 2012, coinciding with commemorative celebrations in nearby Sainte-Mère-Eglise which will feature, among other events, a dramatic display by 800 American, British, French, and German parachutists. Costing €6m, the renovation has trebled the existing exhibition area to 3500sqm. The extension was designed by American architect Nicolas Kelemen, and features a reconstructed American Martin B26, a piston-engined bomber, one of six remaining in the world, and an airplane that was instrumental in the invasion. A six-man team from the aerospace museum at Bourget required 610 hours for its reconstruction and installation; there is an amusing time-lapse video of this process on the museum’s website.
Musée du Débarquement Utah Beach
Tel: 02 33 71 53 35
Entrance to Museum
Photos courtesy of the museum.