Day 4: Utah Beach
Utah & Omaha Beach
This day’s focus is on the American landings on Utah and Omaha Beaches to the Western end of the overall landings. Understanding how the events unfolded is helped by an understanding of the Topography of this area. Utah and Omaha Beaches spanned a length of coast about 20 miles long running west to east . Behind the beaches the land was mainly arable as today. A number of rivers ran north to the coast which posed a problem for the American forces trying as they must to form a continuous front moving south towards the D13 road which runs East to West from Caen to Cherbourg.St Mere Eglise will be familiar to those who have seen the “Longest Day” Start the tour here and visit the excellent museum which tells the story of the airborne asault with a renovated Waco glider taking centre stage.
The action began with the landing of the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions in the region South and West of Utah Beach and South of the Main D13 Road. This area was mainly flooded . The performance of the members of these divisions was outstanding despite being scattered many Miles from their targets and separated by rivers which required them to secure crossing points in the face of determined German counter attacks. St Mere Eglise lies on the D13 and must be taken and held to prevent German reinforcements arriving from the Cherbourg direction. This task was famously completed by the 82nd by early morning. The major strategic tasks of the Airborne divisions were to secure the Western limits of the Invasion Zones to prevent a flank attack by German armour which could have been devastating, to secure the exits from the beaches and to gain control of the length of the D13 and the crossing points over the rivers Hence the importance of the towns of Isigny sur Mere and Carentan in the immediate aftermath of D Day to the build up and security of the American Forces arriving over the beaches during the next days and weeks. For the success of the Utah beach landings the small town of St Marie du Mont must be taken and held on D Day. It commanded the exits 1 and 2 (of the 4) from Utah beach and thanks to the excellent work of the 101st this was achieved. As the hours and days passed, the men of the airborne divisions continued to work well with the forces which arrived from the beaches and so played a prominent part in the eventual success of the invasion.
From here drive to Chef du pont and see the river Merderet and the flood plain which was flooded to welcome the paratroops in 1944.Turn back to St Marie du Mont passing through the landing grounds of the scattered 101st. The tower of the church was the rallying point for these men. Paras attended Mass in this church on the following Sunday and from here General Maxwell Taylor directed the action to secure the town and the beach exits. Follow the signs to Utah beach down exit 2.
The story of the Utah Beach landings is well told at the museum on Utah beach. This is a must for anyone who has made the journey so far. Here you will find the kilometer 00 marker on the Freedom Road and a number of specific memorials with excellent information points.
Visit this website for more information about the amazing Mulberry Harbours that were created to act as temporary ports at Utah and Arromanches.