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The Battleof Normandy
In total immersion
Life-size history Life-size history
Located 500 meters from the American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer and the famous beach of Omaha Beach, OVERLORD MUSEUM makes you discover a unique collection of more than 10,000 pieces, which traces the history of the Battle of Normandy until the liberation of Paris. The 6 armies present are staged there thanks to life-size reconstructions, associating personal effects of soldiers and more than 40 vehicles, tanks and guns.
The Kremlin demanded the opening of a second front in the West and obtained satisfaction at the Casablanca conference in January 1943. Scheduled for May 1944 in the Baie de Seine area, this audacious plan required preparation which had to live up to the Allies’ ambitions. Photographs, intelligence, aerial attacks and an incredible disinformation stratagem, made of inflatable tanks and pasteboard barges, made up this plan, the details of which are evoked through panels and relics. The first scene of this space is dedicated to the French Resistance, whose information and action on the ground facilitated the operations in Normandy.
Introduction to World War II
Discover through texts and relics, the events that led to the Second World War and the defeat of 1940.
The German defenses
In October 1941, faced with the weakening of his troops relocated to the East and the growing threat of an Allied landing, Hitler ordered the construction of a powerful “bulwark” along more than 5,000 kilometers of coastline, from the Netherlands to the Spanish border, and then along the Mediterranean in late 1942. Without being a real wall like the Chinese Wall, the Atlantic Wall was in fact a discontinuous juxtaposition of defensive constructions including fortresses, coastal artillery batteries, and resistance nests (WN). Particular importance was given to the defense of the beaches, where a multitude of obstacles of all kinds appeared. Immerse yourself in our bunker and find elements of these defenses in the museum.
D-Day: The American, British and Canadian landings
Tuesday, June 6, 1944, 6:30 a.m., “This is the day and this is the hour”. Thousands of men rushed to the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe from the Nazi yoke. Dive into the heart of the American, British and Canadian landings through a realistic and immersive scenography, involving period vehicles, authentic uniforms and real D-Day relics found on Normandy soil. Display windows containing D-Day treasures adjoin these scenes. You will find a unique example of a grappling hook found on Pointe du Hoc only a few days after the assault, as well as pre-invasion maps used for the landings.
Logistics and supply chain
Even before D-Day, the subject of supplies haunted the Allies. With the Atlantic Wall, the Germans had transformed the two major harbors of Normandy (Cherbourg and Le Havre) into veritable fortresses. A direct attack was therefore not possible. To alleviate the problem, the British developed an ingenious plan, which consisted in establishing two artificial harbors, called “Mulberry”, off the coast of Normandy. The first one, “Mulberry A”, was positioned in Vierville – Saint Laurent on Omaha Beach ; the second one, “Mulberry B”, was installed at Arromanches, in the British sector. Unfortunately, on June 19, a severe storm caused irreparable damage to the Mulberry A. Given the extent of the disaster, the Americans returned to more rudimentary practices and brought supplies directly to the beaches in DUKWs and rhinoferries. Discover in this scene one of these emblematic amphibious vehicles used for supplies: the DUKW.
Canadians in the suburbs of Caen
Landed on Juno Beach on D-Day with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles struggled to break through the German defenses. After a relentless fight, the Manitoba troops eventually gained ground and established themselves much further forward than the other Allied troops. Their objectives are then almost all met. In the early hours of June 7, however, German reinforcements launched a counter-attack, with heavy fighting and heavy casualties on both sides. Enter here a Canadian Battle HQ.
The British in the battle for Caen
Important communication hub and key to the operations towards the Seine, Caen was one of the main objectives of D-Day for the British. Unfortunately, their advance was stopped just outside the Normandy capital by the 21. Panzer Division and the 12. SS Hitlerjugend. At the end of June, after extremely violent frontal assaults with no results, Montgomery decided on a series of offensives aimed at bypassing the city. Over a period of six weeks, five Allied offensives followed one another with varying degrees of success. Finally, Caen was completely liberated on July 20, not without difficulty. This diorama not only shows one of these operations (EPSOM) but also a motorcyclist of the Corps of Military Police belonging to the 15th Scottish Division.
The Waffen-SS against the Anglo-Canadians
At the beginning of Operation Overlord, on June 6, 1944, the 12. SS Hitlerjugend was one of the armored reserve units stationed closest to the landing beaches. This division, composed for the most part of young boys from the Hitler Youth, gave the Anglo-Canadians a hard time. Presented by some as a division of heroes ready for the ultimate sacrifice, by others as a division of particularly barbaric fanatics, this unit remained active until it was encircled in the Falaise Pocket. Inspired by photos taken at Rots on June 9, 1944, after a failed attack against the Canadians at Bretteville-L’Orgueilleuse, this scene shows a group of exhausted MG 42 gunners in period camouflage.
The 21. Panzer division in the north of Caen
Several times formed, destroyed and reassembled, the 21. Panzer division took part in the fighting in Normandy from June 6, 1944. It played a decisive role on D-Day by thwarting the advance of the British. Discover here elements of this German unit stationed north of Caen. They are reorganizing after a major bombing raid by the RAF.
German logistics and repair workshop
Devoting great importance to the maintenance of tanks in battlefield, the German army attached maintenance sections to each battalion. They were in charge of repairing the damage caused on the battlefield as soon as possible. This diorama gives you a scene “on the spot” of a Panther tank whose turret would have been removed with the help of a German engineering masterpiece: the Strabokran. There are only two remaining Strabokran in perfect condition, one is exhibited in our museum, and the second is in England and is not on display to the public.
Operation Goodwood – Aborted breakthrough east of Caen
Mid-July 1944, the city of Caen was still not liberated. The Allies were in a stalemate as the Germans massed large reinforcements in the area, including armored units. A series of offensives was then planned by the British command to bypass Caen and reach Falaise. Operation Goodwood, launched on July 18, 1944, brought together nearly 1,300 tanks and was the largest gathering of tanks in the entire Battle of Normandy. Unfortunately, the operation was a failure. The German tanks, which had been heavily bombed during the battle, showed their superiority and pushed back the British tanks. See in this scene a Panzer IV damaged in battle, repaired and reintegrated into the battle. Here the crew took cover near a church to avoid the Allied fighter-bombers.
Operation Bluecoat – British breakthrough
In order to allow the Americans to exploit their breakthrough on their left flank, and to secure the road to Vire, Montgomery and Dempsey planned a powerful offensive from Caumont-L’Eventé. Led by O’connor’s VIII Corps and Bucknale’s XXX Corps, Operation Bluecoat was launched on 30 July 1944. The advance was uneven. On the one hand, VIII Corps forces advanced without encountering any real difficulties, while on the other hand, XXX Corps forces faced stubborn resistance from the Germans, who took advantage of the rough terrain, which was not very suitable for the deployment of armoured vehicles. Erskine’s 7th British Armored Division (aka “the desert rats”), an integral part of XXX Corps, struggled to advance. See in this diorama some elements of this division advancing in an artillery tractor, called “Lloyd”. They are moving south in the sweltering heat, and overwhelmed by unbearable clouds of dust.
Lüttich – a German counter-attack
Imagined by Hitler, against the opinion of his General Staff who recommended to withdraw, Operation Lüttich (or counter-attack of Mortain), launched on August 7th, aimed at recovering the areas conquered by the American troops during the breakthrough of Avranches and to isolate Patton’s divisions. After a swift advance, the German progression was quickly stopped by the Allied fighter-bombers which attacked the German columns. By imposing this attack, which ended in an abysmal failure, Hitler pushed his army a little more towards destruction. This diorama shows a group of German soldiers making their way through the ruins of the martyred town of Mortain.
After a difficult progression from Caen, the Canadians found themselves at the gates of Falaise. They then engaged in a fierce battle against the 12. SS Hitlerjugend and finally, on August 18, despite heavy losses in men and equipment, they took the city. This diorama may remind you of a very famous photo of the liberation of William the Conqueror’s city.
The Falaise Pocket – 7th army cemetery
From August 12 to 21, 1944, the Allies and the Germans engaged in a speed race a few miles from Falaise. The former wanted to trap the opposing army while the latter tried to flee at all costs. On August 16, a gap of a few kilometers remained between Trun and Chambois and allowed the Germans to converge in a final “run for your life”, under the incessant shelling of the Allied aviation. On the 19th, the 1st Polish Armored Division cut off the German retreat and joined forces with the 90th American Infantry Division: The Falaise Pocket was closed. Wreckage of tanks and German vehicles were strewn across the roads. In this breathtakingly realistic scene, you can see the German army’s stampede and the Polish army’s action.
Crossing of the Seine at Bourgtheroulde
In a growing confusion, the German army tried to cross the Seine to save as many men and material as possible. This scene features the oldest piece in the collection, an Sd Kfz 251/7, restored in the late 1970s.
The Battle of Normandy in the Air
Throughout the Battle of Normandy, Allied aircraft flew over the territory. Their missions were diverse: accompanying ground operations, parachuting, reconnaissance, attacking German convoys, transporting troops and equipment… With 140,000 Allied air raids against 10,000 on the German side, the Allies had almost total control of the Normandy skies, so much so that a joke circulated among the German troops on the ground: “If you see a white plane in the sky, it’s an American; if it’s black, it’s an Englishman; if you don’t see anything, it’s the Luftwaffe”. These dioramas dedicated to aviation, highlight the individual destinies of pilots and the remains of aircraft they flew.
Gallery & Tributes
Made in association with Ian Patrick, photographer and son of an American veteran, this gallery gives an intimate and human dimension to the war. Discover through photos and moving testimonials who was hiding under the uniforms and helmets of these men of the “Greatest Generation”, almost all of them now gone.
Liberation of Paris
The swift advance of the Allies on Paris since the victory of the Falaise pocket, encouraged the Parisian resistance and the Parisians to rise up from August 19, 1944. Backed by General Leclerc’s 2nd Armored division on the 22nd, Paris was liberated on the 24th. The last scenography of the museum pays tribute to the men and women who liberated Paris and ended the battle of Normandy and Operation Overlord.
After your visit, you will “land” in a store of more than 250 square meters full of products of all kinds that will delight young and old. Amateurs and specialists of the period will not fail to be transported by our specialized bookshop which hosts hundreds of references. Budding architects or experienced masons will discover a large space devoted to COBI models and constructions. Gourmets with a taste for quality products will find a wide range of local products. As for souvenir collectors, they will be delighted to discover an important choice of knick-knacks ranging from snow globes to magnets and pens. If some of you don’t find what they’re looking for, you may be tempted by an Omaha Beach T-shirt or a ‘Rosie the Riveter’ tote bag.
If you go on exploring the store, you will discover an aircraft fuselage above an entrance ; it announces in a “Nose art” style: Flying Aces. This new concept store, dedicated to aviation and vintage fashion, offers WWII classics, including leather jackets and GI gear.
Heer Infantry combat group
Made from a photo taken in 1935 in Lillebonne in Seine Maritime, the setting of this scene is typical of the region. Here no battle, nor operation, you simply dive into the heart of a Kampfgruppe (combat group) of a resting German Infantry division.
Come and walk around the museum, accessible to all, to discover exceptional pieces such as a Bailey Bridge (portable prefabricated bridge), several American tanks, a German anti-aircraft gun of 8.8-centimeter caliber and two bunkers.