TOUR THE NORMANDY BATTLEFIELDS
UTAH BEACH

This tour brings you to Utah Beach. Along the way, you visit Carentan and Ste-Mère-Eglise. From Bayeux it's only a 30 minutes drive on the N 13. Leave the highway and head for the town of Carentan. You can stop at the monument near the townhall.

The Battle for Carentan

Only through a small corridor, from the north, the 101st Airborne Divison was able to attack Carentan. Their German counterparts were para's (Falschirmjäger) of the 6. Regiment under command of Major Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte..


Major Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte

The bloody battles that were fought on close range to gain ground were fruitless. The American artillery started their first barrage of fire on Carentan on June the 7th. For three days shell's rained on the town. June 10 saw the heaviest shelling when, whitin 24 hours, 6000 shells hit Carentan. A new attack was undertaken the next day, which resulted in more casualties. But the German para's under command of Von der Heydte kept their positions. In the afternoon the town was bombarded with fosphorgrenates. Because of the fires that broke out, several civilians came out of their cellars to flee their town. The American's thought that Carentan was evacuated. With minutes to spare, they could call of the bombers that were on their way to level Carentan. That same night the German Falschirmjäger left the town. On 12 June, 1944 Carentan was cleared of the last resistance and called liberated. The next day the German's returned with units of a Panzer Division. The attack on Carentan drove the American paratrooper's back to the center of the town. But the attack was countered when American tanks showed up from Omaha Beach. To get Carentan and get hold of this important crossroad came at a great price, almost half of the 101st Airborne was lost.

Carentan liberated, paratrooper's of the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment point at their target!

Continue the route to the north and head for St. Côme-du Mont. After a mile you see in front of you a recently opened museum, 'Dead Man's Corner'. Because you are in the sector of the 101st Airborne Division landing zone, this museum is dedicated to these paratrooper's. For more on the dropping in this area see also 101st Airborne Division and on one of the pages on the cemetery of Margraten were the attack of Colonel Robert Cole is to be found.

Saint-Côme-du-Mont

To secure the route towards Carentan from Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, it was necessary to capture the small town of Saint-Côme-du-Mont, which is located right of the D 913. At the crossroad, which is locally known ‘Dead Man's Corner’ the D 913 makes a connection towards the north, the D 270, where a couple of hundreds metres further Saint-Côme-du-Mont can be found.

The church of Saint-Côme-du-Mont and T/4 Joseph ‘Jumping Joe’ Beyrle

During the night of 6 June, para’s of the 101st Airborne Division also jumped in these area. Just as in the jump over Ste-Mère-Eglise where the 82nd para’s Steel en Russell were caught on the roof of the church, so was a paratrooper landing on the roof of the church of Saint-Côme-du-Mont. T/4 Joseph ‘Jumping Joe’ Beyrle, I-Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division jumped from just a height of 400 feet from his C-47, to low to adjust his landing in time. Beyrle landed on to the roof of the church. Machinegun fire from the church steeple tried to hit him, but luckily for Beyrle he was not hit. Some distance away a farmhouse was in flames, and the machinegun was pointed into that direction.

When Beyrle finaly was on the ground, he decided to move to the west, the route the C-47 were coming from, in the hope he would run in to some comrades of his stick. In the next hours he tried to destroy a generator which was guarded by a couple of Germans. He tossed some grenates and moved away through a hole in a hedge,… right into the hands of some German para’s of the 6. Fallschirmjäger Rgt. manning a machinegun. The German paratroopers took Beyrle prisoner. Beyrle played his part by suggesting he had an injured back, and so he was brought to the first aid post near the church. Here he was looked after by the 101st Division Battalion surgeon Stanley Morgan, who was also taken prisoner by the Germans. After Beyrle made an attempt to escape, he was brought to the German HQ, south of Saint-Côme-du-Mont.

The tower of the church was blown out by heavy navy guns

During the morning of June 6, the Germans of the headquarter of 6. Fallschirmjäger Rgt. at Periers, became aware that American paratroopers had landed in the Cotentin. The HQ was moved north, to Saint-Côme-du-Mont. In the afternoon the commander of 6 Fallschirmjäger Rgt., Major Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte, came in person to check out what was happening, still not aware that at the same moment the invasion at Utah Beach was in full swing. But when he climbed into the bell tower of the church, Von der Heydte, realised at once what was going on. He looked in awe at the enormous fleet in front of the coast. When he looked through his binoculars the guns on navy vessels shot large shells towards him. The earth was shaking and trembling by the explosions and Von der Heydte left in a hurry his post, which was hit a short while later.

Behind the church of Saint-Côme-du-Mont, Then & Now
American soldiers with a German 'Panzerschreck'

'Dead Man's Corner'

The main target for the 101st Airborne Division was Carentan. The German defence was strong and the paratrooper's waited for support from tanks. According to the book 'Currahee' of Donald R. Burgett, who witness the whole affair; the first one that rumbled in for help came by the D 913, the only secure road from Exit 2, Utah Beach. It was an M5 Stuart. It hid behind the bocage and strolled up and down to give the impression that there was more than one tank. When it ran out of ammo it returned to the road to get back for new. Here it was hit by a shell from an 88mm. The crew died instantly and for days the commander hung out of the turret. To the American troops, this divided road became known as 'Dead Man's Corner'.

The stricken Stuart tank near 'Dead Man's Corner'

The paratrooper-museum. is an ongoing project and will be, according the owners, completed in 2007. The museum is located in a historic building. The German's used it as a headquarter and later as a first aid station. The interior is a very dramatic setting and feels if you are wandering through a giant plane. The 'sets' are of great workmanship. The items on show are neatly arranged and labeled in French and English. There are some original things that belonged to Major Dick Winters of 'Band of Brothers' TV-series fame. In the back of the museum is a large room with authentic wartime memorabilia.

Original items of Major Dick Winters are to be found at 'Dead Man's Corner'

Angoville-au-Plain

Leaving Carentan and heading for St-Marie du-Mont, you pass the village of Angoville-au-Plain. It’s located between St-Côme-du-Mont and Vierville on the D 913. Central in this small village is the little church. It was smack-dab in the middle of DZ-D, the most southern drop-zone of the 1st and 2nd Battalion, 501st PIR. Of the 101st Airbornes Division. The first 48 hours after the jump there was heavy fighting between the paratroopers and the German Fallshirmjäger.

The church of Angoville-au-Plain on the edge of Place Toccoa,
(in front is the memorial for Wright and Moore)

In the 2nd Battalion were two medics active, Robert E. Wright en Kenneth J. Moore who used this church as first aid post. Days on end they had their own battle to save the lives of countless troopers and civilians. Three paratroopers died in the church. On a bench at the back of the church the blood of one of these unfortunate ones can still be found,… a grim reminder of a precious life that was lost here. The battle raged around the church and at one point Germans entered the church. But after a fast check they left it again. Wright en Moore welcomed everyone, as long they left their weapons outside. The church, one of the eldest in the surroundings was damaged during the battle and all the medieval windows were broken. Only in 2004 the restoration was commenced when enough money was collected. Two glass-in-lead windows are dedicated to the paratroopers, among one especially for the medics Wright en Moore.

Robert E. Wright en Kenneth J. Moore
flanking one of the two glass-in-lead windows

To Ste-Marie-du-Mont

Head for St. Côme-du-Mont on the D 270 and go straight for Houesville, turn right towards La Croix-Pan (go underneath the N 13). Take the D 129. After a kilometer you find on a divided crossing the memorial for General Pratt, the first killed General on D-Day. More details on 101st Airborne Division. On this crossing, take the right lane and head for Hiesville and Vierville. Just as you leave Hiesville, you come across a large farm on the lefthand side. This is the place where the succesor of General Pratt, General Taylor, stayed for a week. To remember this a plaque is to be found on the right entrancecolumn.
After Vierville, make a left turn towards Ste-Marie-du-Mont, on the D 913.

The first headquarters of Major-General Maxwell Taylor near Hiesville

The 101st consisted of 8451 men, but they were scattered during the jump over a large area. In the first hours there was coherend consilidation. Small groups fought with German's. In this sector fought the 506th PIR of the 101st Airborne Division (later made famous in the TV-series 'Band of Brothers').

Ste-Marie-du-Mont, Then and Now

The church in St-Marie-du-Mont had new glas installed after the war and the tower was restored. The town has little changed in 60 years. Many buildings and houses have a plaque with information to tell their history during the occupation and D-Day. Near the church is a surplusshop, ´La Boutique du Holdy´, with authentic wartime material from June 1944, opening hours vary, but at the end of the afternoon it is mostely open. Leave Ste-Marie-du-Mont eastwards to the coast on the D 913. This road is known as ´Exit 2´ (Exit 1 was at Pouppeville)

On the next page the tour continous to Utah Beach and the north, to the Batterie of Crisbecq and Azeville and further to Ste-Mère-Eglise. Click on the picture below with Richard Winters that commemorates the landing of the first Allied troops in Normandy.

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