Omaha Beach, or ‘Bloody Omaha’ as it came to be known was imfmous for having the greatest number of casulties of all the D-Day beaches in Normandy. This long sandy beach stretches about 3 miles between the small villages of Colleville-sur Mer and Vierville-sur-Mer.
Assaulted on D-Day by 34,250 troops of the US 1st Infantry Division ‘Big Red One’, these assault troops experienced the highest casualties of any of the landing beaches. The horror and mayhem of this was brought to the silver screen during the opening stages of the Tom Hanks movie ‘Saving Private Ryan’.
With around 3000 casualties, and stiff resistance from entrenched positions on the steep cliffs, it looked uncertain that the landing here would be a success. The assault only succeeded because of the heroism and ingenuity of individual troops on the beach, who broke through the defences and pressed on inland.
It had been planned to have armour support, but of the 32 amphibious Sherman DD tanks that were launched 6000 yards from the beach, only five made it to the shore through the rough seas.
What to see
A coast road follows the beach from Vierville-sur-Mer, but by far the best way to see Omaha Beach is by cycle.
As you pass along the beach you can easily see the remains of small ‘Higgins boats’ in the sand at low tide. Some of these line up directly in front of the now overgrown German bunkers, of which there are many along the scrub-land behind the beach.
A path leads from the Colleville-sur Mer end of the beach to the US Cemetery with its panoramic views of Omaha Beach. This is quite a steep path and unsuitable for the infirm.
There are museums at each end of Omaha Beach.
The ‘Musee D-Day Omaha’ lies at the Vierville-sur-Mer end, with the ‘Musee Memorial D’Omaha Beach’ at St Laurent-sur-Mer. Both museums have a different character, and are well worth visiting.