Revisiting Normandy, where history changed forever…
On June 6, 2017, the world will mark the 73rd anniversary of
D-Day — the pivotal military campaign of World War II — which took place along the coast of Normandy, France. Guests aboard Vantage’s popular France river cruise, Normandy and the D-Day Beaches, will have a front row seat to history as we visit commemorative sites during a full-day excursion to Normandy on Normandy and the D-Day Beaches: A Living History, with one special departure: June 2, 2017.
After the surrender of northern and western France to Germany in June 1940, it became increasingly apparent that the only way to end the occupation was by an Allied invasion. In January 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt began planning the D-Day invasion. Officially code-named Operation Overlord, it was to become the largest amphibious military operation in recorded history.
Five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast were targeted for the attack, which began at 6:30 am on June 6, 1944 under the command of US General Dwight D. Eisenhower. On that morning, 156,000 Allied troops representing primarily the United States, Britain, and Canada stormed the beaches. British and Canadian troops landed on beaches code-named Gold, Juno, and Sword, while the Americans landed on beaches code-named Utah and Omaha.
Pointe du Hoc — a sheer cliff rising 328 feet up from the Channel and overlooking both Omaha and Utah beaches — was a naturally strategic site to become a German stronghold. As Allied soldiers exited their boats and waded to shore, the Nazis fired down on them. Brave US Army rangers scaled the cliff and successfully defended against German counterattack by seizing artillery pieces. On Day 6 of their France river cruise, Vantage travelers will visit Pointe du Hoc during their included full-day excursion to Normandy.
The Normandy American Cemetery
At least 4,413 Allied troops lost their lives in the D-Day invasion, and many more in the events leading up to it. Two days after the invasion — to properly honor those who were lost — the US Army established the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, overlooking Omaha Beach. It was Europe’s first American cemetery during World War II and, at 172.5 acres, it remains the largest American cemetery on the continent. In all, 9,387 Americans were laid to rest there, most of whom lost their lives on D-Day. The complex includes a Garden of the Missing, inscribed with 1,557 names, and a Visitors’ Center that tells some of the poignant personal stories behind the simple white crosses and stars of David that mark the graves. While visiting this site on Day 8 of their Seine River cruise, Vantage travelers will have the chance to participate in a touching wreath-laying ceremony.
The Caen Memorial Museum for Peace
Another important World War II site in Normandy is the Caen Memorial Museum for Peace. Built in 1988 just 15 minutes from the D-Day beaches, the museum is dedicated to preserving the memory of the invasion and to promoting peace — and is considered the finest World War II museum in France. In addition to its D-Day exhibits, the museum displays Cold War memorabilia, a gallery of Nobel Peace Prize-winners, and tranquil gardens that invite quiet contemplation. On Day 6 of their France river cruise, guests may choose either a guided tour of this affecting museum in Caen or an audio tour of the Bayeux Tapestry in nearby Bayeux.
These memorials are all designed in hopes that future generations will remember the sacrifices that were made on that historic day, and Vantage is honored to feature them during A Seine River Cruise. Although it has been more than 70 years since Allied Forces breached the coast of Normandy, their courage and heroism continue to inspire us.