D-Day and the Campaign for Normandy, 1944
This is actually two battles in one. The first – and the one most people recall – is the fight for the beaches and the airborne drops shortly inland from the beaches. That fighting consumed June 6, 1944 and raged for several days after. However, after that initial gain, it took the Allies about two months to slug their way through the hedgerows (which back then were more dangerous than hedge funds) and break out of the Normandy peninsula. This fighting included many tank-on-tank fights between the British and the vaunted Tiger tanks of the Wehrmacht. Some of the tanks remain as markers in various small villages.
This battle dwarfs the Little Bighorn and to do it right, you really need to study the battle for several weeks before you go. It is essential that you acquire as many of the “After the Battle” publications (magazines and some hardbound books) on Normandy as you can. Many are sold in bookshops in Europe (They are in English), so plan for some delivery time before they arrive. In a nutshell, “After the Battle” publications take well-known photographs from history and show you what is at the exact same location today. They have great maps; we used one edition to find the exact spot that Tiger ace, Michael Wittmann, was killed in action.
There are several American and German Military Cemeteries in Normandy. They are mentioned in “After the Battle” and are well worth a visit.
Normandy has the added value that there are many attractions that other family members will enjoy as much as you do peering into a shoreline bunker. Must stops include Mont Saint-Michel, near Avranches. A rocky, tidal island, Mont Saint-Michel has been a strategic point holding fortifications since ancient times. Since the Eighth century, it has been the seat of the Saint-Michel monastery, from which it draws the name. More than 3,000,000 people visit it each year. Also, visit Villedieu-les-Poêles, about 25 miles southwest of Saint Lo. Y ou can purchase some of the world’s best cooking pots and pans, many using copper to keep an even temperature.
Normandy best addresses visitors who want to dig down into the historical piece of an event they have seen numerous times in movies and television. While the Little Bighorn can easily be done in one day, to get a full appreciative of Normandy would take you at least five days. But five days at French hotels and French cuisine is a great experience in itself!
If you are limited by time, go to Omaha Beach.