This 1,146-kilometer commemorative roadway known as the Liberty Road (La voie de la Liberté), marks the route of the Allied forces from the D-Day landings of Normandy, France to Bastogne, Belgium. Our plan was to ride the entire route and learn more about the history of WWII. The GPX route can be download via RouteYou.
Day 1 – 9 Apr
Today we explored Utah Beach, Utah Beach Landing Museum, Sainte-Mère-Église, Dead Man’s Corner, The D-Day Experience, and the Eglise Notre Dame des Champs in Avranches.
A monument to Richard Davis “Dick” Winters. Read more about this Easy Company commender of the 101st Airborne Division: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Winters
The KM 00 stone marker (borne) located at the start of D-Day at Utah Beach, Normandy, France.
The beach where 21,000 US, UK, and Dutch Infantry landed here on June 6th, 1944.
Well-wishers leave flowers to remember the fallen. The 4th Infantry had relatively few casualties at 197. The airborne divisions suffered a staggering 2,500 – nearly 18 percent of the airborne divisions involved!
A horse pulls a Sulky cart and rider through the surf of the English Channel.
Looking back at the beach entrance and museum from Utah Beach.
Monument de l’US NAVY – A monument dedicated to the US Navy Sailors of Operation Neptune. 6,939 vessels were involved: 1,213 combat ships, 4,126 landing ships and craft, 736 auxiliary, and 864 merchant vessels.
A small section of barbed-wire still exists as a reminder of the German fortifications which were built here.
A M4A1(76)W HVSS Sherman Tank marks the entrance to the museum.
Utah Beach Landing Museum
A museum dedicated to the individuals who served during the D-Day assault and those who keep the memories of the world’s largest naval, air, and land operation alive for future generations.
The monument of the 4th Infantry Division marks the museum entrance.
Utah Beach was just one of five planned amphibious landings. Omaha Beach, to the east, suffered the most American losses.
The flag of the National Socialist League of the Reich.
June 6, 1944 – Allied landing in Normany: D-Day
Dollar bills recovered from the beaches. All were dated before 1944.
French aviators, although small in numbers, also participated in Operation Overlord. Their presence symbolizes the rebirth for France. When we visited the UK last year we saw plaques dedicated to many of these French aviators.
A Martin B-26 Marauder named “Dinah Might” painted to represent the 386th Bomb Group – 9th USAAF.
Meet some men who made the D-Day landings such a success. This is Guy Whidden, he served in the 101st Airborne Division.
Here is Vernon Moon Miller. He served on the USS Cincinnati as a Boatswain’s Mate Third Class.
Meet George Shenkle, who was a part of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Charles de Vallavieille who dedicated his life to preserving the memory of Utah Beach through the Utah Beach Museum.
Cécile et Yves Osmont, who had dedication much of his like to model building and preserving the memory of the naval units involved in the D-Day landings.
James Flanagan and his comrades proudly display a trophy taken after the attack on Marmion positions at Ravenoville.
The Willys MB were successful, off-road capable, light utility vehicles. Willys built over 350,000 of these from 1940-1945.
Somehow, I doubt soldiers heeded this limit 😆.
This 48-star US flag was raises over the first German bunker captured on June 6th. It remained in place there until November before it was claimed by a local and then later donated to the museum.
The start of our ride! In 4-5 days we plan on reaching the 1,146 km borne marker at Bastogne.
A short ride from Utah Beach is the the first town liberated by the allies: Sainte-Mère-Église.
The Sainte-Mère-Église church is famous for a paratrooper named John Marvin Steele, that got his parachute hung up on the church tower. John hung there for two hours pretending to be dead. The Germans later took him prisoner but he escaped and rejoined his division.
Beautiful stained glass windows dedicated to the valiant paratroopers of Normandy.
…and paratroopers is now the theme of the church.
Those who enter are asked to think and pray for peace.
Across from the church we found a cafe that served the most interesting grilled ham and cheese sandwich I’ve ever tasted. It combined cheese slices and cheese sauce which was different but delicious.
Dead Man’s Corner
A few km south of Sainte-Mère-Église is Dead Man’s Corner. It was named for a battle in which an American tank was disabled by a German rocket. The American tank commander hung dead from the turret for a few days before follow-up crews could clean-up and identify the dead bodies.
The home is now a museum full of thousands of WWII memories.
German for ‘sick collecting point’.
French pamphlets written in a English to welcome the Allied invasion.
We also learned about the Jake McNiece and the Filthy Thirteen of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The demolition section cut their hair and applied war paint to honor the “mohawks” and McNiece’s Native American heritage.
The 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles”!
The ‘D-Day Experience’ takes you on an interactive journey as you prepare to board a C-47 named “Stoy Hora” in preparation for the D-Day aerial assaults.
The Dakota C-47 Stoy Hora has an interesting story and does a great job of making the paratrooper experiences more personal.
A museum features items from the crew, including this jacket with a lucky rabbits foot worn by Pvt. Edward Joint.
Papers reported the allied invasion shortly after it’s success.
Our route continued to the southwest through the following towns:
- Montebourg liberated on 19 June 1944
- Cherbourg liberated on 26 June
- Carentan liberated on 12 June
- Pont-Hébert liberated on 17 July
- Saint-Lô liberated on 16 July
- Marigny liberated on 25 July
- Coutances liberated on 28 July
- Lengronne liberated on 29 July
- Avranches liberated on 30 July
Eglise Notre Dame des Champs
The unique colored door of the Eglise Notre Dame des Champs in Avranches.
The Eglise Notre Dame des Champs was bright in comparison to many cathedrals.
For some reason I think of Monty Python’s Holy Hand Grenade! 😆
A statue of the Archangel Michael slaying Satan. This will be another popular art form tomorrow as we learn more about Mont-Saint-Michel.
Just before sunset we reached the impressive island fortress of Mont-Saint-Michel. My zoom camera did a decent job of getting closer to the island but we wanted to get a closer shot…
So we launches the drone. I had to fly it nearly 1.2 miles to get close enough to get this…
…stunning shot! The timing and lighting was near perfect. Ok, now I needed to get the drone back before the battery life expired.
Tomorrow we’ll visit this island in person and take a tour of the incredible abbey at the very top of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
More on Page 2…