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Although not the first invasion of northern France by the Allies during World War II, the landings on 6th June, 1944 along the Normandy coast saw a decisive change in the fight against Nazi Germany. It was a key moment in the wider strategy led by General Eisenhower to overturn Hitler’s occupation of Western Europe, but the landings came with devastating consequences.

A guided visit to the beaches where Allied forces landed offers engaging insights into the importance of the invasion and its place in modern history, but is also a time for reflection with poignant reminders of the bravery and sacrifice of those who fought here.

You’re met in the morning in Bayeux by your private driver and guide for this full-day tour of the D-Day landing sites and American Cemetery. Your first stop is Utah Beach. Each nation was designated a separate beach for the landings — the Canadians at Juno, the British at Sword and Gold, and the Americans at Omaha and Utah.

Although Hitler’s intelligence knew that an attack was imminent, it was expected much farther north in the Nord Pas de Calais region on the border with Belgium. With the element of surprise on their side, the US 4th Infantry Division took Utah Beach with only minor resistance.

Your guide will recount stories from the landing and you can walk along the beach to see German pillboxes dotting the dunes and the monuments that commemorate those who died here.

You also get a chance to stop for lunch, with your guide recommending possible restaurant options, but please be aware that these are usually quite simple places and often crowded.

Following your time at Utah Beach, you continue on to the American Cemetery, where so many named and unnamed soldiers are buried. Rows and rows of white marble crosses stretch across the manicured lawns, a chilling reminder of the brutality of the offensive.

More than 9,000 American soldiers are buried here, but that figure accounts for just 40% of American fatalities in the Battle of Normandy. There's a large memorial you can visit before walking through the cemetery.

From the American Cemetery you can look down over the bluff to Omaha Beach, the site of the most brutal encounters of the landings. The 29th and 1st Infantry Divisions, along with US Army Rangers, found themselves in terrifying conditions on landing, with unexpectedly large numbers of German troops inflicting heavy casualties. You can walk along the long, sweeping beach, which is overlooked by abandoned German bunkers.

After some time at Omaha Beach, you return to your hotel with your guide, who can answer any further questions you may have en route.

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Audley Travel Country Specialist Emily

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Photos of American D-Day landing sites at Utah and Omaha sectors