World War II in France
Normandy Landing Tour
Allied Invasion of France 1944-45
The Normandy coast was the sight of the largest single-day invasion of all time. More than 130,000 Allied troops landed in France on June 6, 1944 during the pivotal D-Day Invasion. We can guide you to the locations involved, and can describe the historical events. We can customize your tour by nationality, or can trace the progress of divisions of your friends or relatives who served.
Begin at Utah Beach and visit St. Mere Eglise with the famous church spire where paratrooper Steel hung as the battle unfolded beneath him. We can show you Pointe du Hoc, scene of the legendary action by the Second Rangers, who scaled the 100 foot sheer cliffs. You will stand amidst the remnants of the German gun bunkers the Rangers attacked. Omaha Beach is the landing site portrayed in the movie “Saving Private Ryan” where thousands of Americans were killed during the invasion’s first day. Nearby is the American Cemetary which commemorates the terrible losses of the campaign.
Pointe du Hoc, scene of the legendary action by the Second Rangers, who scaled the 100 foot sheer cliffs.
"Landing on the coast of France under heavy Nazi machine gun fire are these American soldiers, shown just as they left the ramp of a Coast Guard landing boat." CPhoM. Robert F. Sargent, June 6, 1944. 26-G-2343.
Normandy American Cemetary and Memorial commemorates the American losses of the campaign.
Canadian Juno Beach Centre
We begin at Juno beach where the Canadians came ashore at Courseulles-sur-mer, overcoming great difficulties in landing. We will visit the recently opened Juno Centre which commemorates the Canadian effort in World War II. Canadian Forces were instrumental in Allied successes at Caen and Falaise. The cemeteries where their fallen are buried offer somber testimony to their valor. Canadian Paratroopers joined the British 6th Airborne to take bridges, guns and heights in the early hours of the D-Day Invasion. We can visit the sites of the notorious executions of Canadian soldiers by the SS.
Remnants of the Mulberry Harbor at Gold Beach
British and Commonwealth Tour
We begin at Etreham, where British and American forces linked up on D-Day. Traveling north and east we can visit the British and Commonwealth beaches, and objectives like Hillman and Pegasus Bridge. At Arromanches we can visit a fine museum and view the remnants of the artificial harbor. British cemeteries, which include some German graves are numerous.
In 1938, France joined Great Britain in an attempt to appease Nazi aggression. France signed the Munich Pact giving Germany "permission" to invade the Sudeten territories of Czechoslovakia. After Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, France declared war.
Battle of France – German Blitzkrieg
France's war against Germany did not last long. May 10, 1940, Germany invaded France and the Low Countries. The Netherlands and Belgium were overrun in a few weeks. The French fortified Maginot Line was circumvented by a flanking movement through the Ardennes region. British troops were forced to evacuate the continent at Dunkirk, abandoning their heavy equipment by the end of the month. On June 10, Italy invaded, declaring war on both France and the United Kingdom. Twelve days later on June 22, 1940, France surrendered and was divided into German and Italian occupation zones, and an unoccupied "Zone libre" under the Vichy Regime.
France was occupied by the Germans until 1944. The Allied D-Day force invaded Normandy and continued eastward through France towards Germany during the summer and fall. In August, Allied troops landed in the South of France. The Battle of the Bulge that winter culminated in the capitulation of Germany in 1945.
By the end of the war, about 350,000 French soldiers had been killed, and almost a half million French civilians had died.
Maginot Line and Battle of the Bulge Tour
The Franco/Belgium Border in the area of the Ardennes has been the fulcrum for major battles in both World Wars I and II since the Germans chose this as their route into France in both 1914 and 1940. It was also famously the area where towards the end of World War II Hitler launched a last ditch and surprise counter attack that caused a "bulge" in the allied lines - what today we refer to as the Battle of the Bulge.
Thonne le Thil Blockhouse - Maginot Line
Photo by Richard Tucker
Many say that if we go further back in history to the same area and the defeat of the French at Sedan in the 1870 Franco/Prussian war, we find the root cause of the later conflicts.
This then is an area steeped in military history that tells a story of ingenuity, heroism, incompetance, great and poor leadership and the struggles of a border area.
Much talked of and little understood by many is the famous Maginot Line built by the French after the First World War in order to prevent further German incursions into France. This was the veritable equivalent of the "French Great Wall of China". Mile upon mile of concrete defence above ground with an unimaginable labyrinth of underground tunnels and living space much of which still there to this day.
This is an area for those interested in military history and who better to show you around than Englishman, Richard Tucker.
Thonne le Thil Blockhouse Cloche - Maginot Line
Photo by Richard Tucker
Richard has read every book on the subject and visited most of the sites. There can be few people who know more on this subject. His overall knowledge on Military History, tactics, strategy and weaponry is staggering and a few day in his company not only gives a fascinating overview of events here, but also serves to debunk many myths about the Line and the war in this area.
Previously this was always an area difficult to get to and much of the sites were hidden away and largely forgotten by the French. However today the TGV (FAST TRAIN) goes from Paris to Sedan where we suggest you spend a few days with Richard as your guide studying the Maginot line around the Sedan area visiting bunkers and underground areas, also here we have the site of the furthest and last advance of the American army in World War 1, and both French and German cemetaries fom 1870 through to 1945.
From here it is only an hour to Luxembourg and General Patton's grave at the American Cemetary there and a little further on into the Belgium/Luxembourg Ardennes and the Battle of the Bulge area.
Must sees here are Bastogne, site of 101 st Airborne heroic stand and excellent museum, also Malmedy the site of a massacre of American troops and associated museum. We follow the advance of Pieper's Panzer Armoured Division and see a tiger tank at la Gleize.
Depending on your time and interests we suggest a 3/4 day itinerary starting in Sedan and returning from Charleville-Mezieres or perhaps extend a day or two and take in the Battle of Waterloo and Brussels.
World War Two Battle Summary in France
10 May : The Germany divisions drive through Holland and Belgium, passing past the French defences via the North. the French try to hold back at Sedan, but the lines are broken on the 12th of May
27 May to 4 June : Operation Dynamo, the evacuation from Dunkirk, more than 300,000 French and British soilders where evacuated by boats of all types from the beach.
16 to 24 June : Operation Ariel and Operation Cycle, more than 150,000 Allied soldiers evacuated from the ports Cherbourg, St. Malo, Brest, St. Nazaire, La Pallice, Nantes and Le Havre.
14 June : Paris occupied by the Axis forces
24 June : France officially surrenders to Germany
25 June-10 July : France is divided into two regions, The "Zone libre" is under French Gen Pétain, a puppet, acting on behalf of the Nazis.
3 October : Publication "Statut des Juifs", which authorizes the internement of Jews.
10,000 French join the "Forces Françaises Libres placed under the orders of General Leclerc and his 2nd Armed Division 2eme Division Blindées.
16 July : 12,884 non French Jews in Paris are sent to the concentration camps.
November : The "Zone Libre" is occupied by the Axis.
13 April, 1942 : Jean Moulin, the most important figure of the French Resistance is parachuted into France. He dies after months of touture in 1943.
5 June : Paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions attack on Sainte-Mère-Eglise
6 June : D-Day landings on the beaches Omaha Silver Utah Juno Gold
26 June : Cherbourg liberated by American troops.
9 July : Caen is liberated by the Allies.
15 August : Landing in Provence
18 August : Liberation of Paris begins and ends 25 August 1944
12 September : Liberation of Dijon
19 September : Nancy liberated by US First Army.
30 September : German garrison in Calais surrenders to Canadian troops.
24 November : Strasbourg liberated by French troops.
16 December : Battle of the Bulge
||Capitulation of Germany and the signature of the Armistice in Reims