Michel Leloup (1929 - 2011) (founder of the collections)
Born on 19 May 1929 at the small family farm near L'Aigle in the department of the Orne. The youngest of three children he began working on the farm from an early age.
As a 15 year old he observed the battle of Normandy in the skies above where fighter aircraft were wheeling, diving, strafing and crashing. They dropped leaflets and bombed L'Aigle. He listened to the BBC broadcasting from London on a crystal radio set hidden in an old cider barrel. The penalty for being caught doing this under the occupation was death.
As the battle moved around and past his home he watched and explored the wrecks of tanks and vehicle that littered the countryside in late August 1944.
Michel was passionately interesting in both the forest and forestry and decided to start a commercial logging and timber business just after the war.
The opportunities and requirements for the reconstruction in Normandy were enormous at this time. From 1947 he started by building a timber storage yard at the family farm, leading to the construction of a small saw-mill.
The saw was powered by an electrical generator taken from a German Panzer Mark IV. Transportation of the timber was by a Canadian Chevrolet F60 lorry, purchased locally and modified by Michel when he was home on leave from his period of compulsory military service.
In 1949, in order to drag and haul heavy logs he bought a German half-track SdKfz 251 stripped chassis from Lefebvre of Argentan, specialists in the trade of ex-military equipment. Lefebvre was originally established in the town of Argentan because of the large quantities of wrecked vehicles abandoned around the town.
The half-track was run using a gasifier, a device used to produce fuel gas from solid fuels such as wood or charcoal. This system was developed by Georges Imbert in 1920 and was commonly used to overcome the lack of auto fuel during and just after WW2. The half-track was eventually scrapped in the early 1960's.
At the start of the 1970's as Michel Leloup was visiting a sawmill in Normandy he spotted a wrecked half-track in the undergrowth covered in brambles - it was a SdKfz 251, the same type as the one he had owned in 1949 - he made an offer and bought the vehicle to restore it to full working order. It was the start of a lifelong passion that consumed him for the next 40 years.
In 1987 Michel displays part of his collection in a former cheese factory in Falaise. The August 1944 Museum - Battle of the Falaise Pocket was born.
At the time there were no other museums or collections that told the story of the encirclement of the German 7th Army and the end of the Battle of Normandy.
Despite his desire to build a new large scale project to show the collection to a wider audience, Michel passed away in 2011 without knowing the extent of the project you see here today.
He did pass on his enthusiasm and vision to others to carry forward.
The Leloup collection has been built up over half a century of research, salvage and purchases of historic pieces from the Normandy battlefields. Everything from a reconnaissance plane, V1 flying bomb, more than 10 armoured fighting vehicles, 30 soft skin vehicles, artillery pieces, poster, signs, documents and personal objects all bearing witness to the terrible fighting in 1944.
Restoration of many of the vehicles to full running order , accurately equipped and painted have taken many thousands of hours by a dedicated team of skilled specialists. Some of the vehicles developed for war are unique as the factories and companies that produced them no longer exist, illustrating the preservation of the past technologies realized by the Overlord Museum Omaha beach.
Some uniform items found on the battlefield represent a complete collection from all of the combatants during the 1944 campaign in Normandy.
When it opens the Omaha Overlord Museum with the size of the building, extensive collections, variety and quality of the equipment on display will be unparalleled in this day and age.
The next major anniversary in Normandy will be 2014, it is our intention that the Omaha Overlord Museum will be focus for this anniversary.