June 6, 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the pivotal military campaign of World War II, and guests aboard Vantage’s The Seine: Highlights of Paris & Normandy French river cruise will have a front row seat to history as they cruise the Seine to commemorative sites in Normandy.
Planning Operation Overlord
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 codenamed Operation Overlord, it was to become the largest amphibious military operation in recorded history.
Five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of Normandy coast were targeted for the attack, which began at 6:30 a.m. 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, the UK, and Canada stormed the beaches. British and Canadian troops landed on beaches codenamed Gold, Juno, and Sword, while the Americans landed on Utah and Omaha.
June 6, 1944: The Landing
In 2014, Vantage travelers will visit Pointe du Hoc, a sheer cliff rising 328 feet up from the Channel and overlooking both Omaha and Utah beaches. This naturally strategic site had become a German stronghold, and 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 the artillery pieces. But casualties were high, with at least 4,413 Allied troops losing their lives in the D-Day invasion, and many more in the events leading up to it.
Two days after the invasion, the U.S. Army established the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, overlooking Omaha Beach. It was the first American cemetery in Europe in 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. During their French river cruise Vantage travelers will have the opportunity to participate in a moving wreath-laying ceremony. The complex includes a Garden of the Missing, inscribed with 1,557 names, and a Visitors Center, opened in 2007, which tells some of the personal stories behind the poignant white crosses that mark
Another important World War II site in Normandy is the D-Day Museum in Arromanches. It was built in 1954 on a site overlooking one of the original Mulberry Harbours, which were floating piers and roadways built by the Allies to enable the landings.
Vantage is honored to bring guests to these hallowed sites on this French river cruise, to remember the sacrifices made on that day. Though 70 years have passed since Allied Forces breached the coast of Normandy, their legacy continues to inspire us.