Utah Beach and Batteries Tour
Check out the big gun batteries behind Utah Beach
Full day: Utah Beach Landing Museum > Azeville Batterie
> Crisbecq Batterie > Crisbecq Command Bunker
> Memorial Museum Quineville
Utah Beach and Batteries - Part 1 Utah Beach Landing Museum
LOCATION: Musee du Debarquement Utah Beach, Plage de la Madeleine, Utah Beach, 50480 Sainte-Marie-du-Mont
This tour starts at the amazing Utah Beach Landing Museum - built on the spot where the US 4th Infantry landed on D-Day June 6, 1944.
The museum, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2022, is the location for many memorials and unique artifacts, amazing vehicles, and even an aircraft!
Many of the original structures were incorporated into the construction of the Utah Beach Museum and if you look closely when walking around you'll see where. In the entrance hall there's a long concrete building which was once barracks for the site, while a Vf2a shelter and mortar Tobruk can be found in two of the internal galleries.
One of the most striking features of the site is a bespoke hangar built to display the museum's B-26 Marauder aircraft, the type which bombed this area on D-Day.
This site is also well known for its numerous memorials and some of these are sited on top of bunkers. Near to the US Navy Memorial, depicting three US sailors, is a 5cm KwK anti-tank gun still in the same position as it was when the area was liberated by US forces landing on the beach on June 6, 1944.
The Utah Beach sign, Sherman tank, and landing craft outside the museum are some of the most photographed objects in the whole of Normandy!
Loads of parking, friendly staff and guides, and a cafe nearby.
APPROX TIME: 3 HOURS
DIRECTIONS: Signposted from all major routes around the area, the museum stands at the end of the D913 road from Sainte-Marie-du-Mont on Utah Beach.
Utah Beach and Batteries - Part 2 Azeville Batterie
LOCATION: Batterie d'Azeville, La Rue, 50310 Azeville
One of the best maintained and most visited bunker sites in the whole of Normandy, the Azeville batterie is on the list of must-visits. During the Normandy landings is was a tough nut to crack for the Allies.
This position, known as Stp133 HKB Azeville to the occupying German forces, features four huge gun casemates linked by an extensive network of tunnels, with ammunition bunkers, anti-aircraft positions, and personnel shelters. You can walk through the tunnels yourself today and explore the site from both above and below ground.
Built to house huge 105mm captured French cannons, the four, multi-room H650 type casemates are packed with interesting stories and retain a lot of the original features, except for the guns themselves.
Casemates one and two were the first to be built and number two is linked to number three by an underground tunnel. The two northerly casemates - three and four - also had the addition of positions built on top for 3.7cm Flak 36 type anti-aircraft guns to help protect the site from above.
Located on farmland, the four casemates stand out a mile to any passing aircraft and the occupying forces decided to help them bland it by adding an unusual style of camouflage. Casemate three was was painted to look like a derelict French farmhouse with window frames, doors, and fake balcony, and even a tree growing up from painted-on fallen rubble.
While casemates one, two, and three remain in excellent condition, casemate four has damage attributed to battles with the Allies.
Inside casemate four you can see the what damage an unexploded naval shell can do to a bunker. A huge 356mm (14inch) shell fired from the battleship USS Nevada on D-Day+2 smashed through the gun embrasure hitting the gun room wall behind and smashing a hole through it into the crew room behind, and then out through the close combat embrasure near the rear entrance of the casemate.
Although it didn’t explode, the shockwave created was enough to kill the soldiers manning the position.
Amazingly, the dud shell was excavated from the ground near the doorway at the rear of the casemate nearly 50 years later!
APPROX. TIME: 3 HOURS
READ MORE IN OUR MUSEUMS SECTION
DIRECTIONS: From the Utah Bach Museum drive north along the D421 for 8.5km and bear left at the fork in the road and then left at the junction on to the D15 Route des Iles for 2.7km. Turn right on to the D14 and then first left, following signs for Azeville for 1.6km on the D420. Turn right to stay on the D420 for another 1.6km and then left into La Rue where you'll see the batterie after 300m. The car park is on your left.
Utah Beach and Batteries - Part 3 Crisbecq Batterie
LOCATION: Crisbecq Batterie, Route de Crisbecq, 50310 Saint-Marcouf
The Crisbecq batterie is the largest batterie behind Utah Beach and was one of the toughest sites for the allies to crack following the D-Day landings. That's not surprising when you see the size of the gun casemates and defensive positions at the complex.
The two largest casemates at Crisbecq are R683 types which were built around 210mm guns capable of reaching ships over 30km out to sea. There were two more of these casemates still under construction in 1944 which would have made this batterie even more fearsome.
Overall, the site boasts over 40 different structures including gun bunkers, defensive positions, open emplacements, personnel shelters, flak positions, all of which are accessible in a circular tour which features information boards all the way around.
Both the R683 casemates were destroyed in accidental explosions - a remarkable feat when you realize they consist of over 2,000m3 of concrete and 120 tons of steel. The roof on these casemates is 3.5m thick to prevent damage form Allied air raids.
APPROX. TIME: 2.5 HOURS
DIRECTIONS: Less than five minutes away, from the Azeville Batterie head back 300m to the D269 and turn left onto the Route de Ravenoville. Drive for 1.1km and turn right onto the D69. You'll see the batterie after 1.2km.
Utah Beach and Batteries - Part 4 Crisbecq Command Bunker
LOCATION: Musee Poste De Commandement des Batteries de Crisbecq, Route de Crisbecq, 50310 Saint-Marcouf
This is the Command bunker and fire control post for the Crisbecq batterie at Saint Marcouf, near Utah Beach - one of the largest bunkers constructed in this part of Normandy.
It’s believed that it was from this viewpoint that the first Allied ships were spotted on the morning of D-Day and there’s a lot of history surrounding this site, it’s commander, and the Allied assault by the US 4th Infantry too - including links to the Hollywood movie Saving Private Ryan.
This position was one of the most damaging batteries of D-Day and one of the last to be captured by the Allied forces.
Our good friend owns the bunker and has created an amazing museum inside with a lot of original and fascinating items from the era - guided tours are highly recommended.
APPROX. TIME: 1 HOUR
DIRECTIONS: Just across the road from the Crisbecq Batterie. Parking is to the rear of the Command Bunker.
Utah Beach and Batteries - Part 5 Quineville Museum
LOCATION: Musee de Quineville, 18 av Plage, 50310 Quineville
Built over and around a series of large German gun bunkers, the WW2 museum at Quineville is one of our favourite locations.
There are hundreds of objects packed into the building, including a reproduction of a French street during the occupation, US vehicles, weapons, personal items, and a 55-seat cinema.
The friendly owner is an outstanding model-maker and there's a whole section dedicated to 1:6 scale dioramas - a unique look a the men and vehicles of WW2 which helps visitors get a different angle on the war. A great bookshop and boutique too. Cafes and restaurants in Quineville with plenty of parking.
APPROX. TIME: 1 HOUR 30 MINS
DIRECTIONS: From the Crisbecq Command Bunker head back to the coast road until your reach the beach after 2.9km. Turn left on the D421 and head for Quineville. In the village turn right at the T junction and the museum and car park are on your right after 140m.