The Normandy Campaign: Beaches and Beyond
There is only attack and attack and attack some more.
The Normandy Campaign explores the Normandy breakout, code name Operation Cobra, the Allied plan to take Brittany and trap the remaining German army in Normandy.
By the evening of D-Day, more than 150,000 Allied troops had landed on the coast of France and had breached Adolf Hitler’s once impregnable “Atlantic Wall.” The war, however, was a long way from over. For the next 80-days the world fixated its eyes on the battles raging in Normandy. After almost five years of war, the Allies were poised to decide the fate of Adolf Hitler’s vaunted “1,000 Year Reich.”
On The Normandy Campaign: Beaches and Beyond Tour we take guests from the D-Day beaches to the inland campaigns in the heart of Normandy. We follow the American, British and Canadian armies as they fight for Caen and Cherbourg; stand with the GIs of the 30th Infantry Division as they stop the last great German offensive in Normandy in its tracks and see where Free Polish forces closed the German’s last avenue of escape at Falaise. We then follow the Allies as they race to liberate Paris.
- Operation Cobra: Learn about the Allied plan to take Brittany and trap the remaining German army in Normandy
- La Roche Guyon: Visit Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's HQ
- Avranches: Follow the U.S. First Army's drive into northwestern France
- Cotentin Peninsula: Trace the footsteps of General George S. Patton and the Third Army, some of the most intense fighting in the campaign
- Juno Beach, Caen: Explore where the Canadian forces fought their way inland after landing at Juno Beach to take the city of Caen and strategic airport at Carpiquet
- Grandcamp-Maisy: See where Virginian Frank Peregory earned the Medal of Honor in his single-handed attack on a Germany position
- Caen: Experience the actions of Operations Goodwood and Epsom in the intense fighting around Caen and the first confrontations with the formidable German King Tiger tank
- Pontaubault Bridge: Visit where the VIII Corps of the Third Army crossed into Brittany and paved the way to Paris for the Allies, also the site where Patton declared his was the only army in history to fight in all four directions at once
- Falaise Pocket: Study where the Polish and Canadian troops encircled the German army to join up with the Americans at Chambois—then visit the sites of the epic armored and infantry battles between the Poles and the Germans around the "Mace"
DAY 1 Flight to Paris
Book your overnight flight to Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG). You must arrive by 10 a.m. on Day 2. If you cannot find a flight that will arrive by 10 a.m., we can help you book an additional night pre-tour.
DAY 2 Paris, Lair of the Fox, Bayeux
After group arrival in Paris, we will begin our journey to Normandy, stopping en route to see German General Erwin Rommel’s forward headquarters at La Roche Guyon. At this site, we will have an opportunity to discuss the situation the Desert Fox faced as he sought to defend the coast of France from Allied invasion.
After leaving Rommel’s headquarters, we proceed to Bayeux.
DAY 3 Ranville to Biéville: Devil's Drop In
Our visits today will take us to places where the Sixth British Airborne Division—known as the “Red Devils”—and other British troops fought to hold the left shoulder of the invasion against some of the most determined German counterattacks in Normandy. Visits in this area will include the outstanding Airborne Museum at Ranville and the Merville Battery, where, against impossible odds, British paratroopers took out a German battery position that threatened to wreak havoc on Allied forces landing on Sword Beach.
We will then visit Bréville and the Chateau St. Come where the weary paratroopers repulsed repeated German armored attacks for almost a month. From the left flank of the landings, we will travel to the magnificently preserved Hillman Redoubt, the critical German fortification that blocked the way to the D-Day objective of Caen. Our final stop of the day will be Biéville and Perriers to discuss the attack by the 21st Panzer Division on the evening of June 6 that almost threw the Allies back into the sea.
DAY 4 Juno Beach: Canada’s Contribution
Travelers to the D-Day beaches rushing to get to Omaha Beach, St. Mere Eglise, or Pegasus Bridge often overlook the Canadian landings at Juno Beach. It should be remembered, however, that Juno beach was the second costliest of D-Day and that no other Allied contingent advanced further inland than the Canadians on June 6.
We start our day at the world-class Canadian museum at Courseulles. In addition to the artifacts and displays, we will have an opportunity for a guided tour into some of the best preserved German beach defenses in Normandy. From Courseulles, we follow the exact route the Canadian forces took as they battled toward Montgomery’s D-Day objective at Caen. Along the way, we will stop at Authie, The Abbaye Ardennes, where the SS executed 20 Canadian POWs, and Carpiquet Airport, the key to the city of Caen. This was the scene of some of the most intense fighting of the Normandy Campaign.
After finishing up with the Canadian battlefields, we will make a few stops along Gold Beach to discuss the struggles in the drive to Bayeux and the linking up of the U.S. and British forces. Our visits will include the site of Stan Hollis’ VC actions; the battlefield of Crepon, the remains of the temporary British harbor at Arromanches, the massive German gun battery at Longues-sur-Mer, and the oft-forgotten British Commando fight for the village of Port-en-Bessin.
DAY 5 Caen: Armored Crucible
Today we explore some of the desperate armored battles fought between Allied and German tank crews as the Allies attempted to get into Caen. We then see how the Germans fought for their lives in Normandy in their attempt to prevent the Allied breakout into the heart of France. We study the armored battles associated with the fighting around Caen, including Operation Goodwood and the first appearance of the dreaded King Tiger tank. Next is Operation Epsom and the battle for Hill 112—one of the bloodiest fights of the entire Normandy campaign.
We will also visit Villars Bocage, where, on June 13, 1944, Panzer ace Michael Wittman single-handedly destroyed a British armored battalion with just one tank. Credited with 138 tank kills, Wittman survived the day and stopped one of Montgomery’s best chances of getting into Caen.
DAY 6 Omaha Beach to St. Lo: 29th Infantry Division
Even though they suffered the worst casualties of any Allied unit on June 6, 1944, the fighting was not over for the men of the 29th Infantry Division. Our day will begin at the Overlord Museum just behind the American cemetery at Omaha Beach. Here, we will have an opportunity to see one of France’s most outstanding collections of rare tanks and vehicles, including rare examples of the German Mark IV and Mark V Panther tanks that were staples of German forces in Normandy.
After visiting the museum, we begin an extensive tour of Omaha Beach. We will see all five draws off the beach and fighting areas immediately inland from the coast.
We will then stop at the site of Frank Peregory’s epic single-handed attack on German positions outside Grandcamp, for which the young Virginian earned the Medal of Honor. Next, we will stop at the bridge at Isigny, where the 29th was finally able to secure a link-up between the forces landing at Utah and Omaha Beaches. The group will follow the route taken by elements of the division as they relieved the Rangers on Pointe-du-Hoc.
As the 29ers did, we will then push on toward St. Lo, stopping to visit the 29th’s battlefields along the Elle River and atop Purple Heart Hill. Our day will finish at the Major Howie Monument on the edge of St. Lo.
DAY 7 Ste-Mere-Eglise: Devils Drop In Again
Today we focus on some of the epic battles fought by U.S. Airborne forces as they sought to protect the landings of U.S. forces at Utah Beach and prepare the way for the eventual breakout from the beachhead. Our day will begin at Ste-Mere-Eglise, where we will visit the world-renowned airborne museum. From the museum, we travel to La Fiere and then St. Saveur Le Vicomte to study the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne as they fought to secure the Douve River crossings that had to be in Allied hands before the advance toward Cherbourg could proceed.
After exploring the All-American battlefields in and around Ste-Mere-Eglise, we will turn our attention to the 101st to visit some of their significant but often overlooked battlefields. Our stops will include the XYZ Complex, where Sergeant Harrison Summers knocked out a German position containing 150 German defenders, and Ravenoville’s famous Marmion Farm.
DAY 8 Cotentin Peninsula, Avranches: Following Patton
The advances of the American paratroopers and infantrymen as they battled their way across the Cotentin Peninsula to cut off and then capture the vital port of Cherbourg is our objective today.
We then shift our focus to, perhaps, America’s most famous general, George S. Patton, and his Third Army. Beginning at the Chateau of Nehou, where Patton established his first headquarters in France, we proceed to the scene of some of the most intense fighting in the struggle to cut off the peninsula, including the well-preserved and unique Luftwaffe Bunker at Hill 145 and Barneville. From there, we will follow “Old Blood and Guts” and his men to Avranches and then the bridge at Pontaubault that opened the door to the interior of France for the Americans.
DAY 9 Mortain: Operation Luttich
Battered by the relentless Allied attacks since the landings on June 6, 1944, Adolf Hitler was desperate to restore the strategic situation in Normandy. On August 8, the Germans launched Operation Luttich, intending to drive into the flank of American troops as they advanced across the Cotentin Peninsula. They aimed to stop the Allied advance across France in its tracks. On that day, all that blocked the Germans was the U.S. 30th Infantry Division in and around the town of Mortain.
Our first visit will include several vital stops where we can discuss the epic stand made by the 30th Infantry and other units as they halted Adolf Hitler’s last desperate attempt to regain the initiative in Normandy. Among the battlefields are Grimesnil Road and Le Lande des Morts (the land of the dead), St. Barthelemy, where three companies of the 117th Infantry faced the might of the German Panzer attack, the bridge at the Abbaye Blanche, and Point 317 with visiting the site of the 120th Infantry Regiment’s epic five-day stand. Their stubborn heroics saved the Allied advance and set the stage for the final battles in and around Chambois. After lunch, we push on to the Brittany American Cemetery to pay our respects to the 4,410 Americans buried there.
DAY 10 Falaise Pocket: Final Victory
The final battles of the Normandy Campaign highlight this day. We follow the route of Patton’s 3rd Army and the Canadians from the 21st Army Group as they fought to close the German’s last escape route from Normandy. Stops will include the Canadian battlefield at May-sur-Orne, Panzer Ace Michael Wittman’s final battlefield, St. Lambert-sur-Dives, and the site where Major Currie earned the Victoria Cross.
Then it is on to Moissey Ford and the “Corridor of Death.” We will follow the 2nd Polish Armored Division into its positions along the “Mace.” The Poles were preparing to seal off the final escape route out of the Normandy cauldron for the remnants of German armored and infantry formations that had been fighting since June 6. We will make several stops around the Mace to study the epic armored battles between the Poles and the Germans.
Our examination of the Normandy Campaign will end at Chambois. We will visit the American sector of the campaign’s final battle before moving into Chambois itself to see where the Allied armies finally linked up and ended the Normandy Campaign once and for all. On our way back to Paris, we will make one final stop: a small stretch of road outside Vimontiers where Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was wounded by Allied fighter planes/
DAY 11 Departure
Morning transfer to CDG - Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.