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.

When you approach Carentan from the east on the D974 (you will pass through Saint-Hilaire-Petitville), Then go over the roundabout, first exit right onto Rue de Pont. After one hundred meters you will reach a  narrow bridge. In June 1944 this bridge, over the river Taute, was blown up by the retreating German  troops. This was at the time the only bridge running to the east (plus 200 meters to the south a railway bridge).

The Bailey Bridge across the river Taute, Then and Now

A Bailey bridge over the Taute was constructed so that traffic could go to the east. To get to the Bailey bridge, vehicles had to enter sharply via a curve. It was a life-threatening place, there were daily shelling by Germans towards this bridge. On June 20, Company B, 300th Engineer Combat Battalion, started building another. During the construction several victims fell through German artillery. The men were more hiding then building. On June 27, the commander Major John E. Tucker arrived at the bridge, when a German barrage of shelling started. Men were looking for a good place to hide again, but Major Tucker walked up the bridge to encourage his men to continue working. Tucker's gung-ho behavior became fatal for him. While he threatened with a court martial for those who did not go work, a grenade hit Tucker and took his head clean off.

The wooden bridge built by B Comp. 300th Engineer Batt.
                  

In addition to the killed Tucker, fifteen more were wounded, four of them seriously enough to be evacuated. On June 28, the so-called 'wooden yokes bridge' was ready. Next to the bridge a sign was placed with the text: 'Tucker Bridge, in honor of Major John Tucker killed while supervising construction of this bridge. The bridge would remain in use for over 30 years before a new permanent bridge was constructed.

On 5 June 2017 a new monument was unveiled at the Tucker bridge

                  

Detour to a Bailey bridge
 and the story about the 'Filthy 13'

An interesting remnant from the war and still in use in the Carentan area  is a Bailey bridge. This is located over the river Taute at Saint-Hilaire-Petitville.  Also on this page the action around two bridges where the so-called 'Filthy 13' operated.

To find it all:
CLICK HERE
(after reading, return here)

If you have visited the Bailey bridge and the monument of the 'Filthy 13', return to Carentan. When you approach the harbor, you will see an LCVP in the water right in front of you. This type of landing craft, the Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel was used during the D-Day landings, especially by the Americans. This LCVP is an original restored one. Originally this LCVP carried the number n° 586, but in 1951 received the NATO designation # 9386. In December 1997, the wreck was salvaged at the river Laïta, 20 km northwest of Lorient.

                  

                  

The restored LCVP 'PA30-4' in the harbour of Carentan                   

In 2004 the restoration of the LCVP was completed and could be admired in all its glory  during the La Barge de la Liberté exhibition at Saint Germain-en-Laye. And now the LCVP, with  the designation PA30-4 can be found in the harbour of Carentan and annually participates in the many D-Day commemoration in Normandy.

The 2nd Armored Division drives into Carentan, Then and Now

Follow the route north towards St.Côme-du-Mont via the D974. You leave Carentan via a large roundabout. this is laid out at the point where the famous bayonet attack was fought with  the men under the command of Lt.Col. Robert Cole and successfully took the bridge. In memory there is a high monument in the northwest corner of the roundabout (see photo at the bottom of this page) On one of the pages on Margraten you can read more about the heroic story of Lt.Col. Robert Cole  and his men. After two kilometers on the D974 you will see it right in front of you tht museum, 'Dead Man's Corner'. Because you are now in the area where the 101st Airborne Division landed, this museum is entirely dedicated to the paratrooper.

More on the liberation of Carentan, see the outbreak pages

'Dead Man's Corner' with at the rear the 'D-Day Experience'

'Dead Man's Corner'

Carentan was one of the main goals for the 101st Airborne Division. Because the defense was optimal  in Carentan by the Germans, the paratroopers waited for support from tanks. The D 913 was the only road from Exit 2, via St.-Marie-du-Mont towards Carentan which was firmly in the hands of the Americans. On 7 June the first tank arrived, an M5 Stuart , of the 70th Armored Battalion (D Company, tank 12) tot help the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division near the Y-junction of the D 913 with the D 270 to St.Côme-du-Mont. According to the eyewitness Donald R. Burgett in his book 'Currahee' broke the tank through the bocage and drove up and down behind a hedge to give the impression that more than one tank was present. When the tank had fired all its ammunition, he turned up the road. A German 88mm hit the tank after which the entire crew died.  The commander, 1st Lieutenant Walter T. Anderson from Minnesota, would have been hanging out of the tank turret for days afterwards. For the Americans this place would be called 'Dead Man's Corner' during the fighting.

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

The paratrooper-museum is an ongoing project. In 2015, in a large hall behind the museum, a simulator (the 'D-Day Experience') with an original hull of a C-47 opened where the visitors can experience the 'feeling' that the paratrooper must have felt during the jump in the dark above Normandy. Since 2016 there is an M5 Stuart tank as an eye-catcher at the door. The museum is housed in a historic house, and is very tastefully conceived.

The Germans used this house first as a headquarters and later as a first aid post. Downstairs in the museum it is decorated as it would have looked during the first fights in June 1944. Once you are upstairs, you get an idea that you are in a sort of C-47 transport plane. The decoration is of aa high quality. The exhibited items are also very worthwhile. A lot of original pieces, donated by veterans, are in the showcases (until 2016 there were also objects from Major Dick Winters, famous for TV-series 'Band of Brothers', but these are removed by the owner).  In the rear of the museum you can buy authentic souvenirs.

The souvenirs shop of 'Dead Man's Corner'
(Picture: Menno Sietses)

On the next page the tour continues towards Utah Beach and the north.  First stop is the church of Saint-Côme-du-Mont and then to Angoville-au-Plain where two American medics carried out their life-saving work under harsh  conditions.   Click on the picture below of the memorial commemorating the bayonet attack under the command of Lt.Col. Robert Cole.

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