When searching for what to see at Utah Beach in Normandy, you’ll quickly find that you’re very much in luck. There are so many things to see on Utah Beach (and the surrounding areas) for World War II enthusiasts.
Utah Beach is the westernmost of the five Normandy beaches where troops landed on D-Day (June 6, 1944). Utah Beach (along with neighboring Omaha Beach) is where American troops landed. Because of this, the majority of Utah Beach monuments and museums center around the heroism of American troops.
What happened at Utah Beach?
The U.S. actually added Utah Beach to the list of D-Day landing zones at the last minute but it ended up playing a major role in the Allied success in Normandy. Here are some Utah Beach fast facts:
Utah Beach objective: to secure the Cotentin peninsula and to capture the port city of Cherbourg at the northern tip.
Utah Beach casualties: a relatively light 197 (including 60 missing) out of 23,000 troops that landed on Utah Beach
Which units landed on Utah Beach? Including air and amphibious landings, the units that landed on Utah Beach include:
- 82nd Airborne Division – commanded by Major General Matthew Ridgeway
- 101st Airborne Division – Major General Maxwell D. Taylor
- VII Corps – Major General J. Lawton Collins
- 4th Infantry Division – Major General Raymond O. Barton
- 90th Infantry Division – Brigadier General Jay W. MacKelvie
- 4th Cavalry Regiment – Colonel Joseph Tully
- 70th Tank Battalion – Lieutenant Colonel John Welbron
Utah Beach outcome: success!
Things to see at Utah Beach
I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I started searching for what to see at Utah Beach. But what I did discover is that there’s a lot more to see here than I expected. This list includes museums, memorials, monuments, and a couple handfuls of some other really cool spots worth checking out.
This list includes not just the sites on Utah Beach, but also those related to the activities of the Utah Beach landings which spread past the sand and into the towns. However, every stop on this list is still within a 20-minute drive of the beach.
Here are 15 awesome things to see at Utah Beach (and then some).
1. The beach itself
While there is a lot to see in and around Normandy’s Utah Beach, don’t forget about the beach itself. Normandy’s D-Day landing beaches are thankfully undeveloped and you can roam around as you please. These beaches are wide and clear and make it easy to imagine the events of 1944.
Spend some time strolling the beach, thinking about the events of June 6th, 1944 and the lives and families forever changed as a result of what took place here. Utah Beach may have been the one with the fewest casualties, but the success seen here was not without sacrifice. Take your shoes off and feel the sand beneath your feet.
2. Utah Beach Landing Museum
Built atop a former German bunker on Utah Beach is the Utah Beach Landing Museum. Through a large collection of historical artifacts, oral histories, military vehicles, and more, you’ll learn about D-Day from the initial preparations through the final outcome.
One of the most popular aspects of the Utah Beach Landing Museum is an original B26 bomber—one of only six left in existence.
3. Utah Beach Monuments
In the same general area at the Landing Museum you’ll find a collection of monuments honoring various Army divisions and more. Here are some (but not all) of the Utah Beach monuments you can expect to see:
Higgins Boat Monument
On D-Day, Americans landed on the beaches of Normandy in amphibious crafts known as Higgins Boats (named for its inventor Andrew Jackson Higgins). At this point in the war, the U.S. has used the Higgins Boat in all its amphibious landings: North Africa, Italy, Southern France, and the Pacific.
A 4-man crew operated the Higgins Boats and they could hold 36 troops and two Browning M1919 machine guns. They’re also sometimes referred to as LCVP which stands for Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel.
The Higgins Boat Monument on Utah Beach is a replica of the one created for the city of Columbus, Nebraska, birthplace of Andrew Jackson Higgins. It’s meant as a memorial to these boats and their crew who made an Allied victory possible.
U.S. Navy Monument
The U.S. Navy Monument at Utah Beach consists of three figures meant to represent: leadership, sailors, and combat units. Inscribed on the base of this statue are the names of the American ships that participated in Operation Overlord (the Battle of Normandy). It’s the only monument to the U. S. Navy that exists outside the United States.
90th Infantry Division Monument
The 90th Infantry Division Monument honors, obviously, the 90th Infantry Division and features their sleeve insignia carved in stone.
After landing on Utah Beach on D-Day, the 90th continued inland through Northern France, then Belgium and the Ardennes for the Battle of the Bulge. The division eventually moved into Germany and ultimately Bavaria where it helped liberate the Nazi concentration camp at Flossenbürg. The 90th Infantry Division has been recognized as a liberating unit by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
This monument at Utah Beach was constructed from granite taken from the quarry at the Flossenbürg concentration camp were prisoners were once forced to work.
4. Le Roosevelt
Because what to see at Utah Beach also means where to eat. Directly across the walkway from the Higgins Boat Monument is Le Roosevelt—a small café, restaurant, and gift shop that may seem totally out of place in that setting.
Le Roosevelt is so named for American General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. who landed at Utah Beach with his 4th U.S. Army Infantry Division and who received the Medal of Honor for his role in the Normandy beach landings.
During World War II, this building was a simple fisherman’s house that had been taken over for use by German forces… that was then taken over by U.S. troops on D-Day. Today, Le Roosevelt is a place to grab a drink, a meal, or a souvenir in a truly historic building.
The place is full of WWII memorabilia, historical artifacts, and thousands of signatures and photos from veterans. Check out the video on their website for a cool look inside.
5. Countryside monuments
Leaving the beach and heading out into the countryside you’ll find more monuments, many lining highway D913 with areas for pulling off to view them. Such as:
Monument to Danish Seamen
This monument honors the 800 Danish sailors who contributed to the success of the D-Day landings. Though Denmark wasn’t entirely an Allied nation (they were initially neutral, then began to cooperate with Germany after being occupied by them), there was a large resistance network.
Proving that not all of Denmark held allegiance to the Nazis, these 800 men fought alongside the Allies, storming the beaches of Normandy and beyond. This is the only monument in France honoring Danish contributions to Europe’s liberation.
Richard D. Winters Leadership Monument
This monument ultimately honors the leadership of American troops during Operation Overlord but utilizes Major Richard “Dick” Winters as its symbol.
Made a household name (in WWII-fanatic houses like mine) in the HBO miniseries (and book) Band of Brothers, Dick Winters was an officer in the U.S. Army commanding Easy Company, part of the 101st Airborne Division.
Along with his men he parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and fought through France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.
Easy Company Memorial
Just around the corner from the Leadership Monument is the memorial to Easy Company of the 101st Airborne.
This monument is located near Brecourt Manor where Dick Winters and his team destroyed a German artillery battery. In doing so they found a map showing all German artillery and machine gun positions on the Cotentin peninsula. The show Band of Brothers features the Battle of Brecourt Manor in episode 2.
6. Le Holdy Militaria
Just past the Easy Company and Leadership Monuments in the town of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont is Le Holdy Militaria, the oldest military store in France.
Le Holdy is more than a souvenir shop, it’s a place to get 100% authentic pieces from World War II including uniforms, headwear, vehicle equipment, decorations, and more from German, French, American, Canadian, and British armies. Who wants a keychain when you can get an original battle-worn helmet with a picture of the soldier wearing it in WWII? (But yeah, you can get keychains too.)
Additionally, they also sell accurate reproductions of pieces for reenactments or just plain ol’ collection. You can also purchase modern souvenirs, clothing, movies, and books, and they can appraise your very own pieces while you shop.
7. Église Saint-Côme-et-Saint-Damien d’Angoville-au-Plain
Farther down the same road in the commune of Angoville-au-Plain you’ll find the Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian (Église Saint-Côme-et-Saint-Damian). This small church is special as it served as an emergency hospital by two American soldiers on D-Day.
As soon as the paratroopers landed, American Army medics Ken Moore and Robert Wright of the 101st Airborne Division set up an emergency first aid post inside the church. In total they rescued 81 wounded American and German soldiers.
Visitors find a stop here interesting because, within the wooden pews, you can still see bloodstains from June 6th, 1944. Also, two stained glass windows portray scenes relating to the events of the day: one honors the two Army medics and the other honors the paratroopers.
8. Dead Man’s Corner Museum
Located in the former headquarters of the 6th German parachute infantry regiment in the town of Saint-Côme-du-Mont is the Dead Man’s Corner Museum—a museum now dedicated to the American paratroopers who took it over.
The same building where the fighting took place now houses the museum and showcases genuine historical artifacts and mannequins to show how they used the house at the time. You can also watch D-Day, Normandy 1944 in their highly-rated 3-D movie theater.
Outside the museum you can see a variety of World War II equipment like an 88mm German gun, a Czech hedgehog (beach obstacle), a Stuart Tank, and the Airborne Wall Memorial.
9. D-Day Experience
Located at the Dead Man’s Corner Museum and included in the price of admission is the D-Day Experience, a trip aboard a C-47 flight simulator meant to put you alongside American paratroopers on D-Day.
You’ll relive D-Day preparations with Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lee Wolverton then board a genuine C-47 from World War II. You’ll fly over the shores of Normandy, you’ll get bombed and shot at, and you’ll leave Utah Beach having had a truly terrifying experience at a place called Dead Man’s Corner. 👍
10. Milestone 00, Liberty Road
Or, better yet, Kilometer Marker 00? This marker denotes the beginning of Liberty Road, a commemorative route following the path of Allied forces from D-Day onwards.
It begins in the town of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont (where you’ll find this marker), continues on through Northern France, eventually ending in Bastogne at the Belgium/Luxembourg border. A stone marker such as this one marks every kilometer along the way (totaling 1,146 of them).
The design is meant to represent the torch of liberty rising from the sea and being carried eastward. The top is lined with 48 stars representing the 48 U.S. states. This route officially opened in 1947 making it the first French monument to the contributions of American troops.
11. Airborne Museum
Like many of the World War II sites around these parts, the Airborne Museum is dedicated to the U.S. paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, but on a much larger scale than the others. This museum is a favorite of visitors to Normandy, especially visitors to the Utah sector.
The Airborne Museum comprises three separate buildings, two of which resemble open parachutes. Inside you’ll find an incredible collection of World War II aircraft including:
- A rare WACO CG-4 glider (the only one of these on display in France)
- Douglas C-47 Skytrain aircraft
Additionally, there’s an immsersive aspect to the museum with a C-47 simulator, a large collection of historical artifacts, and the use of a “histopad” to aid in your visit. Read more about the Airborne Museum in my post on awesome Normandy WWII museums.
12. Church of Sainte-Mère-Église
Directly across from the Airborne Museum is the Church of Sainte-Mère-Église, made famous after paratrooper John Steele became suspended from its bell tower after dropping in on D-Day.
While dropping into the town, Steele’s parachute snagged on the church’s belfry. While fighting ensued below him, he hung limp from the side of the church and played dead for hours to avoid capture. German troops eventually discovered him alive and captured him. However, he later escaped and rejoined his division.
Today, the church memorializes him with a monument of a different sort. A statue of Steele hangs from a parachute caught on the church’s bell tower. You can also find memorials to the Airborne divisions in the church’s stained glass windows.
13. Airship Hangar
The Airship Hangar at Ecausseville was actually built by the French Navy way back in 1917 for use during World War I (to search for German submarines). However, after the war they abandoned the use of airships altogether.
After the occupation of France during World War II, the hangar was used by German troops to store equipment for the construction of the Atlantic Wall. Eventually, it would be taken over by American troops and used for storage and as a maintenance center for vehicles and tanks.
Today, you can visit the Hangar a Dirigeables d’Écausseville and learn all about the use of airships, this history of this particular aerobase, and see the incredible collection of French, German, British, and American graffiti inside this impressive structure.
14. World War II Museum
At the northern end of Utah Beach in the town of Quinéville you’ll find the World War II Museum. This large museum traces the “complete chronological journey of the Second World War in Normandy.” In it you’ll find a reconstructed street of homes and shops under Occupation (complete with sound), hundreds of historical artifacts, a bunker, battle remnants and tanks outside, and an exclusive film.
15. Miscellaneous war remnants
What to see at Utah Beach is more than just museums and memorials. All over Utah Beach and in the surrounding towns you’ll find remnants of the war exactly as they were left. Batteries, bunkers, tanks, boats, beach obstacles, and more. When checking out the Utah sector, be sure to keep your eyes open. You never know what you’ll come across. Some examples are:
The Azeville battery (in Azeville) is one of the first constructions of the Atlantic Wall and was used during the Utah Beach landings of D-Day. This is a visitor favorite and includes the battery and its 350m underground bunker, an audio guide, a permanent exhibition on its history, and the chance to observe the daily life of the 170 German soldiers who used it.
The Crisbecq battery (often called the Marcouf Battery due to its location near the village of Saint-Marcouf), is said to have been one of the most powerful batteries in Normandy. Visiting today you’ll get to see many of the battery’s rooms, some that have been recreated with original equipment and others that remain in their original state.
M4 Sherman tank
Over near the Utah Beach monuments and the Utah Beach Landing Museum you can find an M4A3E8 Sherman tank. The M4 Sherman tank was the most widely used tank by United States armies in World War II.
LCVP Higgins Boat
Farther south, docked in the Port of Carentan is an LCVP Higgins Boat, one of the few remaining originals.
Where to stay when visiting Utah Beach
Le Grand Hard – Sainte-Marie-du-Mont
One of the most interesting places to stay in Normandy near Utah Beach is Le Grand Hard, a renovated 17th-century farm-turned-hotel. In case you were wondering, you can even bring your own horse to this hotel.
Le Grand Hard has beautiful rooms on a gorgeous property and serves meat from their organic farms at their restaurants. When searching for what to see at Utah Beach, don’t forget to find a hotel that’s at the center of it all. Le Grand Hard is located in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and close to all the best things to do in Utah Beach.
Ferme de Beauvais – Sainte-Mère-Église
Another lodging option located in an old farmhouse is the Ferme de Beauvais in Sainte-Mère-Église. This beautiful bed and breakfast is just a 13-minute walk from the Airborne Museum and the church of Sainte-Mère-Église.
More info for your visit to Utah Beach, Normandy
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