Omaha Beach was the site of landings on June 6, 1944, D-Day, by the 1st Infantry Division, the 29th Infantry Division, and nine companies of U.S. Army Rangers. The landings on Omaha Beach met fierce resistance from the highly organized German forces. The first waves of American forces to land on the beaches suffered incredibly high casualties. It wasn’t until late in the morning that exit points of the beach were secured.
Pointe du Hoc
Located on a cliff eight miles west of the Normandy American Cemetery is Pointe Du Hoc. Also free and open to the public, this site was the location where some of the 2nd and the 5th Ranger Battalion climbed the cliffs on D-Day. Today, the site still resembles what it looked like in 1944. Large bomb craters cover the ground, along with a German observation bunker, 155mm gun emplacements and more.
On June 6, 1944 — D-Day — the 2nd Ranger Infantry Battalion assault landed to seize the dominant cliff-bound Pointe du Hoc and destroy German heavy guns positioned there. The guns were located in such a manner that they could disrupt landings at both Omaha and Utah Beaches, and had the highest single priority of any pre-invasion target. Despite difficult seas, disruption and casualties getting ashore, the Rangers climbed ropes propelled aloft by rockets and manhandled ladders while under fire, and had parties on top of the cliffs within fifteen minutes of landing. These formed up into ever larger groups as more and more men made it to the top, and moved on to seize designated targets. The guns had been moved from their initial prepared positions, but the Rangers pushed on to find and destroy them. They also cut the coastal highway behind Pointe du Hoc, and beat back furious German counterattacks to secure their gains. Meanwhile a contingent of the 2nd Ranger Infantry Battalion and the 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion had fought their way ashore onto Omaha Beach. In concert with the 29th Infantry Division and supporting units they fought their way overland, relieving the embattled defenders of Pointe du Hoc on June 8.
The site includes a monument that was erected by France to honor the 2nd Ranger Battalion, who seized the critical promontory on D-Day. The monument consists of a simple granite pylon atop a concrete bunker, with inscriptions in both French and English at its base. It was officially turned over to the American government on January 11, 1979.
The site also features a Visitor Center featuring a short film about the Rangers who mounted the cliffs.
St. Laurent Draw / Memorial to the 2nd Infantry Division
This road from Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer down to Omaha Beach was designated exit E1, the Saint-Laurent exit from EASY Red beach. On your left, you will see German bunker WN65 with the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division Monument in front of it. There is parking available at the base of the monument.
The Memorial to the 2nd Infantry Division stands at the top of the steps. Behind it is German bunker WN65, captured by the American landing forces on D-Day.
On June 6, the 37th and 149th Engineer Combat Battalions landed here with the 16th Infantry Regiment. E Company of the 16th Infantry Regiment, alongside the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion, captured the bunker. The capture helped to secure the exit off the beachhead, allowing 16th Infantry to move quickly off the beach. This area became the main exit on D-Day.
The bunker became the headquarters for the Provisional Engineer Special Brigade Group after D-Day. There is a plaque commemorating the group in addition to another plaque to the 467th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Air Warning Battalion.
The 2nd Infantry Division landed here as a follow-up force on June 7, 1944, or D+1.
First American Cemetery in Europe Marker
This memorial marks the first U.S. Cemetery from World War II on the European continent. The 2nd Platoon of the 607th Graves Registration Company established a temporary cemetery here after enemy artillery fire prevented them from setting up a cemetery site on the bluff. Instead, they dug a trench with a bulldozer on this site to serve as a temporary burial ground. The 457 bodies interred here were moved to their current location of the Normandy American Cemetery on June 10 at midnight. The site of the Normandy American Cemetery was known at the time as St. Laurent No 1.
Vierville Draw / National Guard Monument
The National Guard Monument stands on top of German bunker WN72, the bunker that was overcome in the afternoon of June 6 by the 743rd Tank Battalion supported by the USS Texas. This bunker was located within Dog Green sector of Omaha Beach.
On the morning of June 6, A Company of the 116th Infantry Regiment landed in Dog Green sector just below this bunker. As soon as the ramps from the landing vessels were dropped at 6:36 a.m., the Germans opened fire. Diving into the water as bullets flew around them, the waves of men landing in this sector suffered huge losses. Dog Green sector of Omaha Beach saw the heaviest casualties of all the landing zones that day.
The National Guard Monument was dedicated in June 1989. Inside it contains the story of the National Guard, covering American participation in both World War I and World War II.
The Vierville draw, the exit into Vierville-sur-Mer, leads up the hill from here.
The 29th Infantry Division Monument
Vierville-sur-Mer lies just above Omaha Beach, where the 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division, the 5th Ranger Battalion, and A, B, and C Companies of the 2nd Ranger Battalion landed on D-Day. Landings began at 6:30 a.m. with Vierville as a major target for Allied exit off the beaches. The landing forces outflanked German defenders blocking the exit at Vierville and captured the town by evening.
A monument to the 29th Infantry Division is located in Vierville. The monument was dedicated in 1988. To the right, along the wall, is a plaque to the 5th Ranger Battalion. Above to the right is another German gun position.
Colleville Draw / The 1st Infantry Division Monument
Just outside of the cemetery to the east stands German strongpoint WN62. Parking above it, and walking downhill, you will first come upon the Memorial to the 1st Infantry Division. Listed on the Memorial are all the names of the individuals from the 1st Infantry Division who lost their lives in the Normandy Campaign.
This area overlooks the Dog Green and Fox Red sectors of Omaha Beach. A Memorial to the 5th Engineers Special Brigade, built on top of a German bunker, stands at the base of a long set of steps. The stairs to the right enable visitors to peer inside the bunker and then look out onto Omaha Beach, a perspective that allows a glimpse of what American forces landing below faced as they came ashore.
Get a sense for the experience of the Americans who landed here on June 6 by walking out onto the beach and looking up towards the bluffs. Beyond the bluffs, you’ll see the Normandy American Cemetery.
Over 4,400 Allied troops lost their lives on D-Day, a sacrifice made as the first step in the liberation of Europe.