Arromanches: At the center of the invasion beaches, this British-run area housed the "Mulberry B," the huge artificial harbor the Allies brought from England to offload men, vehicles and cargo onto the beaches. Ruins of the harbor can be seen today and a museum display explains how the structure was built, transported and operated.
Omaha Beach/St. Laurent: The 172-acre American Military Cemetery in Colleville-Sur-Mere sits on a bluff high above Omaha Beach and contains more than 9,000 graves marked by white crosses and stars of David. The cemetery and its informative visitor displays are somber, worshipful memorials set against spectacular water views. The Normandy region contains nearly 30 cemeteries that hold the remains of some 100,000 American, British, Canadian, French, Polish and German soldiers.
Pointe du Hoc: U.S. Rangers scaled this strategically located, 100-foot-high cliff on D-Day to capture a German stronghold on a promontory near Grandcamp-Masey. The Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument (currently under construction) and the ruins of bomb craters and German bunkers are present on the site.
Utah Beach: Paratroopers landing in and near the villages surrounding Carentan and Sainte-Marie-Du-Mont helped protect the arriving forces on Utah Beach. Now home to the U.S. Navy Monument at Normandy. Prior to the statue's dedication in 2008, U.S. sailors were the only service among the Allied forces without a D-Day beach memorial.
Sainte-Mère-Église: The Airborne Museum tells how U.S. paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions landed in this town and secured the western flank of the invasion. The roof of the town's church features a replica of paratrooper John Steele, who became entangled in its spires during the battle (yet survived).
Melissa Stanton is an editor at AARP.org.
Published November 8, 2010