Utah beach is unique of all the D-Day Normandy landing beaches, in that it lies almost north-south, rather than east-west.
Never and ideal landing beach, it lies north of the Carentan estuary, cut off from the rest of the invasion beaches.
Due to strong tides and navigation errors, the US 4th Infantry Division troops landed about 2,000 yds further south than was planned, and luckily this area was much lighter defended than the planned beaches. This meant that there only around 200 casualties among the 23,250 men landed. Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt had pressed to be allowed to go ashore with the first wave, despite being the president’s son, and is credited with saying that “the invasion starts here” in the movie ‘The Longest Day’.
Airborne forces had been dropped on the night of 5th June, tasked with clearing the routes inland from Utah Beach, and by nightfall on the 6th June 1944 infantry had pushed as far inland as the Cherbourg-Bayeux road at Les Forges.
What to see
Utah beach lies in a more sparsely populated area of Normandy than the other beaches, and although the actual landing area is relatively small, the beach continues north for many miles.
Utah Beach is a short drive from St Mere Eglise, and the road between them is dotted with many places of interest to WW2 enthusiasts.
Although gradually fading themselves into memory, there can be seen a belt of beach obstacles at low tide. Along the dunes can also be seen the remains of many bunkers, large and small.
The best visitor attraction on Utah Beach is the Utah Beach Museum at La Madeleine. This museum is built on a bunker, and has many interesting exhibits. There is a car park and good disabled access.
Across the car park from the museum is a period themed cafe with Internet access. This is a great place to chill out after a hike through the sand dunes.
Driving north along the coastal D421 you will notice many of the bunkers defending this beach.
At the northern end of the beach in the town of Quineville can be found the ‘Musee de la Libertie’, which tells the story of life in France during the Nazi Occupation.
When I last vistied in 2007 there was also a well stocked militaria shop in this small coastal village, although once again you are advised to know the price of items elsewhere before buying anything.