World War II sites in Normandy

Mémorial de Caen

The Mémorial de Caen is a museum and war memorial in Caen, commemorating the Second World War and the Battle for Caen. The building and grounds are located in the northern suburbs of the city of Caen on the site of an old blockhouse. The architect was Jacques Millet and the original curator was Yves Degraine. The memorial is dedicated to the history of violence and intensive, outstanding conflict in the 20th Centu ...
Founded: 1989 | Location: Caen, France

La Cambe War Cemetery

La Cambe military war grave cemetery contains of 21,000 German military personnel of World War II. It is maintained and managed by the German War Graves Commission. La Cambe was originally the site of a battlefield cemetery, established by the United States Army Graves Registration Service during the war, where American and German soldiers, sailors and airmen were buried in two adjacent fields. After the war had ended on ...
Founded: 1944 | Location: La Cambe, France

Bayeux War Cemetery

The Bayeux War Cemetery is the largest Second World War cemetery of Commonwealth soldiers in France. The cemetery contains 4,648 burials, mostly of the Invasion of Normandy. Opposite this cemetery stands the Bayeux Memorial which commemorates 1,808 casualties of the Commonwealth forces who died in Normandy and have no known grave. The cemetery grounds were assigned to the United Kingdom in perpetuity by France in recogni ...
Founded: 1944 | Location: Bayeux, France

Utah Beach Museum

Utah Beach was the successful landing place of a number of American Divisions on 6th June 1944, and from here they pushed inland to the Carantan peninsula to meet up with US Airborne forces around St Mere Eglise. Between D Day and 1st November 1944 some 836,000 men and 220,000 vehicles came ashore here. The beach also marks the point of "Liberty Way" which runs from Normandy to Bastogne in Belgium, and is marked ...
Founded: | Location: Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France

Normandy Tank Museum

Normandy Tank Museum presents a great collection of American military vehicles from the Second World War. It is located on the historic site of the airfield A10 built from June 15th till June 18th, 1944 by the 826th Battalion of Air Engineering, to receive the first devices P47 Thunderbolt, on June 19th during the day.
Founded: | Location: Catz, France

Airborne Museum

The Airborne Museum (Musée Airborne) is dedicated to the memory of the troops of 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division who landed in Normandy, by parachute or glider, on the night of 5–6 June 1944 hours before the Allied landings in Normandy. Its collections have been donated by the townspeople and thanks to gifts from the veterans of 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.It was founded in 1962 and o ...
Founded: 1962 | Location: Sainte-Mère-Église, France

American Cemetery and Memorial

On June 8, 1944, the U.S. First Army established the temporary cemetery, the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. After the war, the present-day cemetery was established a short distance to the east of the original site. Like all other overseas American cemeteries in France for World War I and II, France has granted the United States a special, perpetual concession to the land occupied by the cemetery ...
Founded: 1944 | Location: Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, France

Juno Beach Centre

The Juno Beach Centre or is a museum situated immediately behind the beach codenamed Juno, the section of the Allied beachhead on which 14,000 Canadian troops landed on D-Day 6 June 1944. The Centre was conceived in the 1990s by a group of Canadian veterans who felt that the contributions and sacrifices of Canadian soldiers during the liberation of Europe were not properly commemorated and represented in the Normandy reg ...
Founded: | Location: Courseulles-sur-Mer, France

Pegasus Bridge

Pegasus Bridge is a bascule bridge (a type of movable bridge), built in 1934, that crossed the Caen Canal, between Caen and Ouistreham. Also known as the Bénouville Bridge after the neighbouring village, it was, with the nearby Ranville Bridge over the river Orne, a major objective of Operation Deadstick, part of Operation Tonga in the opening minutes of the invasion of Normandy in the World War II. A gliderborne u ...
Founded: 1934 | Location: Bénouville, France

Omaha Beach Memorial Museum

The Omaha Beach Museum describes the history of the D-Day Landings on Omaha Beach in Normandy on 6 June 1944 during World War II. Located on Omaha Beach itself, 300m from the beach the museum showcases a large collection of uniforms, weapons, personal objects and vehicles. Dioramas, archival photographs, maps and thematic signs, as well as a film featuring veterans" testimonies, will guide you through the story of th ...
Founded: | Location: Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, France

Ranville War Cemetery

Ranville was the first village to be liberated in France when the bridge over the Caen Canal was captured intact in the early hours of 6 June, 1944 by troops of the 6th Airborne Division, who were landed nearby by parachute and glider. Many of the division"s casualties are buried in Ranville War Cemetery and the adjoining churchyard. The cemetery contains 2,235 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 97 of them ...
Founded: 1944 | Location: Ranville, France

Bény-sur-Mer War Cemetery

Bény-sur-Mer was created as a permanent resting place for Canadian soldiers who had been temporarily interred in smaller plots close to where they fell. As is usual for war cemeteries or monuments, France granted Canada a perpetual concession to the land occupied by the cemetery. The graves contain soldiers from the Canadian 3rd Division and 15 Airmen killed in the Battle of Normandy. The cemetery also includes fou ...
Founded: 1944 | Location: Reviers, France

Atlantic Wall Museum

Located at a stones throw from the beach and the Ferry terminal, the Atlantic Wall Museum (Le Grand Bunker Musee du Mur de l"Atlantique) is inside the old German headquarter which was in charge of the batteries covering the entrance of the river Orne and the canal. The 52ft high concrete tower has been fully restaured to make it look how it was on the 6th of june 1944. You will discover on the Grand Bunker"s si ...
Founded: 1944 | Location: Ouistreham, France

St. Desir-de-Lisieux War Cemetery

The British grave service buried 3697 German casualties on this tarrein in St. Desir-de-Lisieux and made it a German War Cemetery (Kriegsgräberstätte). It is known as one of the cemeteries where Germen casualties who were found nowadays can be buried.
Founded: 1944 | Location: St. Desir-de-Lisieux, France

Bretteville-sur-Laize War Cemetery

Bretteville-sur-Laize was created as a permanent resting place for Canadian soldiers who had been temporarily buried in smaller plots close to where they fell. At the time of the cemetery"s creation, France granted Canada a perpetual concession to the land occupied by the cemetery. The graves contain 2793 soldiers from the 2nd Canadian Corps, 91 of them unknown, and 79 RCAF airmen killed in the Battle of Normandy. A ...
Founded: 1944 | Location: Cintheaux, France

St. Manvieu War Cemetery

Those buried in St. Manvieu War Cemetery died for the most part in the fluctuating battles from mid June to the end of July 1944, in the region between Tilly-sur-Seulles and Caen. The cemetery contains 1,627 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 49 of them unidentified. There are also 555 German burials.The cemetery was designed by Philip Hepworth.
Founded: 1944 | Location: Cheux, France

Orglandes War Cemetery

Orglandes War Cemetery is a German World War II cemetery in Normandy, France. The 10,152 burials come from summer 1944, immediately following D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. The entrance is marked by a small house surmounted by a bell-tower. The cemetery consists of 28 rows of graves, each grave marked by a stone cross. Each cross details the name, date of birth and date of death of each of the six or more dead soldiers ...
Founded: 1944 | Location: Orglandes, France

Marigny War Cemetery

Marigny German War Cemetery (Kriegsgräberstätte) contains 11,172 graves. Most of the casualties were buried here after the World War II, when they were brought together from lonely fieldgraves and small cemeteries. Many of the soldiers buried in Marigny belonged to the Panzer-Lehr Division that was almost entirely destroyed by Allied bombardment during the Battle of St-Lô on July 25, 1944 when the Allied f ...
Founded: 1944 | Location: La Chapelle-en-Juger, France

Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial

The Brittany American Cemetery is one of fourteen permanent American World War II military cemetery memorials erected by the American Battle Monuments Commission on foreign soil. The site was liberated on 2 August 1944 by the 8th Infantry Division; a temporary military cemetery was established on it three days later. After the war, when the temporary cemeteries were being disestablished by the American Graves Registration ...
Founded: 1944 | Location: Montjoie-Saint-Martin, France

Mont-de-Huisnes War Cemetery

The German war cemetery (Kriegsgräberstätte) of Mont-de-Huisnes is different from ther cemeteries because the casualties are brought together in chambers, 180 casualties in each chamber. The chambers form a circle which is about 47 metres wide.The cemetery contains 11,956 war graves.
Founded: 1944 | Location: Huisnes-sur-Mer, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

São Jorge Castle

São Jorge Castle is a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic centre of the Portuguese city of Lisbon and Tagus River. The strongly fortified citadel dates from medieval period of Portuguese history, and is one of the main tourist sites of Lisbon.

Although the first fortifications on this hilltop date from the 2nd century BC, archaeological excavations have identified a human presence in the Tagus valley as far back as the 6th century BC. The first fortification was, presumably, erected in 48 BC, when Lisbon was classified as a Roman municipality.

The hill was first used by indigenous Celtic tribes, then by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians as a defensible outpost that was later expropriated by Roman, Suebic, Visigothic, and Moorish peoples. During the 10th century, the fortifications were rebuilt by Muslim Berber forces, these included the walls or Cerca Moura ("Moorish Encirclement").

Kingdom

In the context of the Christian Reconquista, the castle and the city of Lisbon were freed from Moorish rule in 1147 by Afonso Henriques and northern European knights in the Siege of Lisbon during the Second Crusade; this victory was the only notable success of that failed crusade. According to an oft-repeated legend, the knight Martim Moniz, noticing that one of the doors to the castle was open, prevented the Moors from closing it by throwing his own body into the breach, thus allowing Christian soldiers to enter at the cost of his own life. With the taking of the castle Christian forces were able to maintain the defense of Lisbon until the end of the 12th century.

When Lisbon became the capital of the kingdom in 1255, the castle served as the alcáçova, a fortified residence for Afonso III, in his role as governor. It was extensively renovated around 1300 by King Denis I, transforming the Moorish alcáçova into the Royal Palace of the Alcáçova. Between 1373 and 1375, King Ferdinand I ordered the building of the Cerca Nova or Cerca Fernandina, the walled compound that enclosed the entirety of the castle. The master builders João Fernandes and Vasco Brás were responsible for its construction. This wall, which partially replaced the old Moorish walls, was designed to encircle previously unprotected parts of the city. Completed in two years, it had 77 towers and a perimeter of 5,400 metres.

The castle and the city resisted the forces of Castile several times during the 14th century (notably in 1373 and in 1383–1384). It was during this period (the late 14th century) that the castle was dedicated to Saint George by King John I, who had married the English princess Philippa of Lancaster. Saint George, the warrior-saint, was normally represented slaying a dragon, and very was popular in both countries.

From this point onward many of the kingdom's records were housed in the Torre de Ulisses, also known as the Torre Albarrã, until the reign of Manuel I. The Portuguese National Archive is still referred to as the Torre do Tombo. Between 1448 and 1451, the master builder was paid several stipends for his work on the palace. These public works continued until 1452, with additional payments being made for labor and materials to convert the building from a fortified castle to a royal residence.

Around the early 16th century, following the construction of the Ribeira Palace beside the Tagus river, the Palace of Alcáçova began to lose its importance. An earthquake occurring in 1531 further damaged the old castle, contributing further to its decay and neglect. In 1569, King Sebastian ordered the rebuilding of the royal apartments in the castle, intending to use it as his official residence. As part of the rebuilding, in 1577 Filippo Terzi demolished one of the towers near the principal facade of the Church of Loreto. However, many of the works were never completed after the young king's apparent death during the Battle of Alcácer Quibir. The following Portuguese dynastic crisis opened the way for sixty years of Spanish rule and the castle was converted into military barracks and a prison. On 30 December 1642, Teodósio de Frias the Younger was appointed master builder to continue the works begun by his father, Luís de Frias, and his grandfather, Teodósio de Frias. This was part of a greater plan by the Spanish forces to recommission the fortification.

However, after Portugal regained its independence following the Portuguese Restoration War, the works were taken over by the Portuguese government. On 6 November 1648, Nicolau de Langres was called upon to take over the design, execution and construction of a new fortification that would surround the Castle of São Jorge and the city walls of Lisbon. In 1650 the military architect Mateus do Couto was named master builder of the project and reconstruction took on a new formality: although the military engineer João Gillot built new walls in 1652, construction again followed Couto's plans between 1657 and 1733. In 1673, the Soldiers' Hospital, dedicated to São João de Deus, was installed on the grounds beside the Rua do Recolhimento. At the end of the 17th century the Recolhimento do Castelo was constructed along the southeast angle of the courtyard, and in 1733, new projects were initiated by master Custódio Vieira.

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake severely damaged the castle and contributed to its continuing decay: apart from the walls of the old castle, the soldier's hospital and the Recolhimento were left in ruins. The necessity of maintaining a supporting military force within the capital city required expansion of the site's role of garrison and presidio. From 1780 to 1807, the charitable institution Casa Pia, dedicated to the education of poor children, was established in the citadel, while soldiers continued to be garrisoned on site. Inspired by the events of the earthquake and the following tsunami, the first geodetic observatory in Portugal was constructed in 1788 at the top of one of the towers of the castle, later referred to as the Torre do Observatório.

Republic

As part of the commemorative celebrations marking the foundation of nationhood and restoration of independence, the government of António de Oliveira Salazar initiated extensive renovations at the site. Most of the incongruous structures added to the castle compound in previous centuries were demolished and there was a partial restoration of the Recolhimento. In addition, on 25 October 1947, a monument dedicated to Afonso Henriques, presented by the city of Porto, of a replica created by Soares dos Reis (in 1887) was installed on the grounds.